The administration of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County is hard at work this week to make plans to keep a promise made to voters.
“We are very thankful for the support of the people,” said Library Director Carlton Sears. “We are going to carry on now and do what we told the people we would.”
With the passage of the 1.8 mill additional levy last week, voters sent the message that they support their library system and want to see it return the hours that were cut in September. During the cutback, Poland was closed on Mondays, Canfield on Fridays, and Boardman and Austintown branches were shut down on Sundays and Fridays.
The promise was to get those hours back for the branches, but it won’t happen this month. Sears said first of all, the library won’t see the new tax money until next year, but he said even if they had it today, there are still things that will have to be in place before the branches can get the hours returned. He said when the cutbacks took place, 30 library employees were laid off. He believes many may have gotten other jobs or simply don’t want to return. That will mean hiring new staff members and training them.
“Right now we are trying to figure out whether to go full time or part time,” Sears said.
He did say the expectations are that all the branches will be brought up to the full schedule they once operated under by March or April.
Long-term plans are also still being examined. A merger between Lake Milton and North Jackson could still take place.
Another item being looked at is technology upgrades. Sears said there is a system that could save the library time and effort and the price tag recently came way down to make it affordable and do-able.
The system involves radio identification tags that allow for multiple scanning. Without getting into the high-tech terminology, a new system would allow a stack of books to be scanned at once, eliminating the need to scan each and every title.
“We check in and check out 2 million books per year,” Sears said. “This system could make it much faster and easier. It’s like a bar code on steroids.”
Sears said the reason the price came down is the fact that WalMart has switched to the system and is requiring all of its suppliers to convert to the new tags. With the huge demand and high volume, the new system has dropped drastically.
“It has become affordable for libraries now,” Sears said. “It is certainly something to consider.”