Full disclosure: I love libraries. Always have. When I was about 8, the public library was one of the first places I was allowed to go alone, by bicycle. I was one of those kids whose mom had to write a note to the librarian to grant me permission to check out books from the adult section (as in Jane Eyre, not pornography). In college, I spent most evenings at the library, dividing my time between studying and wandering the literature aisles and picking out random books of poetry. I’m a library geek.
So I’m partial to the work that this week’s guest, Anne Liller, is doing. As Director of Urban Libraries for the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County, her job is not just to oversee the urban branches in Youngstown, Struthers, and Campbell, but also to promote these urban libraries as community centers. As Anne explains in our conversation, libraries offer much more than books and magazines. Indeed, even in today’s internet age, libraries do more than provide information. They are meeting places, social service agencies, educational outlets, and much more. They provide tools for developing literacy, and Anne hopes that they will become sites for art exhibits, medical information kiosks, and more. Heck, they even sell coffee these days.
The most exciting part of Anne’s job these days is opening new libraries. A new East Branch opened a few weeks ago, and the Newport Library, built in the shell of an old grocery store on Midlothian and Market, are worth a visit just for the pleasure of walking around these airy, bright, welcoming spaces. As someone who is not just a library fan but a fan of old libraries, I was skeptical. But these are cool places. Check them out.