The main branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County has been on Wick Avenue just up the hill from downtown Youngstown since 1910. It’s a Carnegie Library, meaning it was funded by Pittsburgh steel baron Andrew Carnegie.
But libraries are changing, so there are now plans to change the main library.
Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek walked us into the main room in the old section of the main library, where a replica of the Parthenon Frieze encircles the wall above the pillars.
Her plan, part of the $21 million in renovations to the 108-year-old building, is to relocate the books on each wing, changing the room.
“And making it available for meeting rooms, event space, gallery space, and making that space very flexible, with moveable walls,” she said.
Also planned — redoing the front entrance, changed in the 1950s, and restoring the entrance to what it looked like originally with stone stairs leading to the main level.
“You actually came up the stairs from outside and then right into the first floor,” Fifarek said.
She’d also like to add the original plaque above the door that read “For The People.”
“Which is the mission of any public library,” she said.
There are also plans to renovate the computer corridor and make laptops available, an addition is planned for a larger children’s area, there will be a lab to digitize local history, along with a cafe.
Outdoors — the parking lot next to the library would be eliminated, the parking and side door moved to the back and the area where parking is now will be turned into green space.
“So a nice reading garden, a footpath to get you back through the rest of smokey hollow would be lovely, hopefully, an outdoor children’s area,” Fifarek said. “We have a proud tradition here at the library of doing projects debt free. We never finance anything. We don’t do it until we have the money in the bank. So we think the $21 million is a reasonable estimate for the project.”
There are two public hearings planned at the main library, one on October 25 at 6 p.m. and a second October 30 at 8 a.m.
The library’s board of trustees will then make a final decision in December.
The design phase will take place next year and the work will take place for three years after that with the entire project not expected to be complete until 2023.