YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Donna Jenkins was a regular patron of the main branch of the Youngstown Public Library and Mahoning County when she was in elementary school about 70 years ago.
She remembers going to the Main Library regularly with her friends after finishing classes in the old St. Columba Elementary School downtown. “I remember bringing home a big stack of books,” she said.
On Saturday afternoon, Jenkins, with his daughter, Susan Beede, took a look at the newly reopened Main Library.
“It’s great. Isn’t it beautiful?” she said.
Jenkins and Beede were among hundreds of visitors from all over Mahoning Valley – and in some cases considerably further afield – who attended the celebration of the recently completed $ 27 million renovation of the Main Library.
The library initiated the long-contemplated project in August 2020, which involved the construction of a 6,000-square-foot addition, a new landscaping and the refurbishment of the entire existing building, including the restoration of the entrance to the grand staircase. overlooking Fifth Avenue.
That restored entrance features what Aimee Fifarek, executive director and CEO of PLYMC, told those in attendance at the reopening ceremony is her favorite part of the project: the new street lamps, “symbolizing the light of knowledge” and the words “For the People “, above the newly installed bronze doors.
“That’s why we’re all here. That’s why the library exists, for the people, ”she said.
Another historical aspect of the project was the return of the artistic glass ceiling of the Great Reading Room and the Parthenon frieze “to their former glory,” he noted.
“We have brought the historic parts of the library back to life, many of which, over the years, have been altered or removed altogether,” he said in brief remarks before the ribbon cutting ceremony which reopens the space to the public.
“But this new chapter of the Main Library is not just about the honor of the past. It’s also about imagining the possibilities of the future, “he said. The new addition includes a meeting space with state-of-the-art technology and the new Culinary Literacy Center that” will allow us to honor and do our part to pass on all the wonderful Mahoning Valley food traditions, “Fifarek said.
Rick Ortmeyer, principal of the Bostwick Design Partnership, the architectural firm involved in the project, said the extension and restoration project was unusual. There are many historical renovation and expansion projects, he said.
“And there are others that create great open spaces. But it’s a rare opportunity that all three of these things can happen at the same time, ”she said.
“It’s an absolutely magnificent renovation,” Carole Weimer, chairman of the library’s board of directors, said after the ceremony.
As a child, Weimer often frequented the old North Side branch on Belmont Avenue, but used the Main Library in high school because it had more resources for research projects, she said.
“There were always naysayers who thought that maybe we should have moved the Main Library out of town to one of the suburbs,” he said. “We serve a great need here. If you come here during the week, you will see many people living in this neighborhood who don’t have internet and use computers. It is a safe haven for so many people and a place where they can calmly learn and enrich their lives ”.
By mid-afternoon, at least 500 people and families attended, excluding staff and administrators, officials said.
Pictured above: Aimee Fifarek, Executive Director and CEO of PLYMC, speaks at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday.
MOREOVER: June 9, 2022
Renovation, expansion transforms the library into a cornerstone of the community
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.