By AIMEE FIFAREK
Director and CEO, PLYMC
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – If there was one word that illustrated the Youngstown and Mahoning County Public Library in 2021, it would be “connect.”
From supporting the community through the second full year of the pandemic, to improving the services the community expects and deserves, PLYMC has grown and strengthened its connections throughout the community over the past year.
The library connected Valley residents to the latest public health information on COVID-19, including providing testing and vaccinations. Through a partnership with the Ohio Department of Health, PLYMC provided more than 17,000 free rapid test kits in 2021. Throughout the fall, PLYMC partnered with Youngstown City Health District to provide vaccines, boosters and free flu shots to 680 customers.
The library system also continued its long-standing partnership with the Red Cross by organizing regular blood drives. From January to September, collections represented more than 1,600 units of blood, or 28% of blood donations in the region.
PLYMC has partnered with the Youngstown State University Workforce Center Virtual Career Fair to connect workers with employers. As part of the planning for this partnership, PLYMC has updated and replaced outdated laptops in its branches so that customers are ready to connect easily. The library also continued to offer personalized services through its Career and Job Center.
Connections – both literal and figurative – have become even more important to us all in 2021, which is why PLYMC has continued to advocate for bridging the digital divide.
At the height of the pandemic, when PLYMC closed its branches, Wi-Fi signals to parking lots were boosted so those learning and working from home could secure a connection. PLYMC continued this service in 2021.
The library wanted to do even more to ensure it could connect patrons to the resources they wanted and needed. As its mobile Wi-Fi hotspot rental program proved popular with patrons before the pandemic, the library expanded the program. He received $171,122 from the Emergency Connectivity Fund to buy 50 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots and 150 iPads with internet connections that customers can use for free at home.
Finally, 2021 brought a lot of progress for the renovation of PLYMC’s main library. In August, the much-anticipated Family Engagement Zone opened, giving kids and teens a place to create, learn, explore and connect.
After a brief and temporary closure to move into the final phase of construction, the Main Library reopened to the public on January 3. The project will be completed this summer.
Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.