Vindicator Logo

Community members offer input to consultants studying library merger

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By Sarah Lehr


Wayne Lewis of Struthers recognizes that he’s biased when it comes to his preferences for a new library branch location.

“I’m here to lobby for Struthers because that’s where I’m from,” he said. “Wherever you put the location at, you’re going to irritate a lot of people.”

About 25 people, including school and municipal officials, attended a community input meeting hosted by architects Dan Meehan and Brett Hendricks on Monday afternoon at the East Youngstown library branch. The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County hired the team of consultants from HBM Architects of Cleveland and BSHM Architects Inc. of Youngstown in July to study a merger of the Struthers, Campbell and Brownlee Woods branches.

A six-year MyLibrary2020 Plan cites efficiency issues and a need to invest in more expensive technology and resources at fewer locations. Two strategic plans approved by the library’s board of trustees raise the possibility of closing two of those three branches.

Meehan presented slides with pictures of designs implemented at other libraries throughout the country. Ideas included a cafe, padded booths for meetings and 24-hour book dispensers.

“Some of these things are purposely a little out there,” Meehan said. “It’s meant to make you think a little differently.”

Afterward, attendees had the opportunity to complete a three-page survey and post their thoughts on poster boards throughout the room. The activity, Meehan said, is intended to ensure that louder voices do not dominate.

“We want to hear everybody’s opinions,” he said. “Part of it’s passion. Part of it’s emotion. Part of it’s real patterns and real-use patterns. It’s looking at all of it. ... We’re coming here without any preconceived notions.”

Several in attendance said they believed the library system has invested disproportionately in technology at branches such as Austintown and Canfield. Others raised concerns about sidewalks near the library and accessibility to people with disabilities.

Mary Gonzalez of Campbell asked about the availability of materials for Spanish speakers.

The architects hosted another community input session Monday evening at the Newport branch. They are expected to make a recommendation, regarding the location and design of a new library branch, by the end of the year.