Warren Public Library planning $1.3M project

Warren Public Library

The Warren Public Library is thinking ahead.

In other words — much like the name of its next major project — meeting the needs of tomorrow.

With the rise of technology, information has never been easier to access. However, believe it or not, the library still has a plethora of resources open to people. Over the years, the library has realized that there needs to be some changes in order to properly accommodate the community. Plans for a new project started three years ago and are finally coming to fruition, including some additional upgrades that weren’t in the plans before.

When talking about the additional upgrades, new doors seemed to be a big one.

“It just aligns with the philosophy of a public library — access for everyone,” said Jen Franklin, teen and adult services manager. “We can’t say that we service the entire population if they can’t even get into the door.”

Project plans

The library moved into its current building in 1916, and there have been updates since then, but Kelli Knapp, director of the Warren Library Association, said “it’s time to start forward thinking.”

The major project includes network infrastructure updates, ADA (American with Disabilities Act) upgrades and an interior refresh, along with a new-and-improved space just for the teens in the community.

They are leaving nothing untouched when it comes to upgrading the building. And they are planning to give the community everything they have been asking for. Julie Miller, interlibrary loan manager said, “We are a building that serves everybody, we want everybody in here.”

Miller said they were asking themselves, “where are we going, and how can we fit the needs of what’s coming?”

The project started small with intentions to create a better space for the teens and make an area that serves them specifically. However, the project has turned into so much more thanks to community outreach. The library asked, and the community answered — giving a lot of direct feedback on their needs.

Up-to-date internet with faster, safer, and more reliable access, push-button entry doors, elevator renovations, restroom updates, and new signage are just some of the updates coming to the entire building, and will make the library more accessible, and accommodating for everyone.

Furniture and new LED lighting are also among the updates to refresh and brighten the space.

“It all started with a desire to bring more teens into the library,” said Knapp.

A lot of research has been done to ensure the plans were what the teens in Warren County would want, she said.

A teen advisory group was founded to help the library put this project together. A small group of local teens have been working to provide feedback via surveys, and by visiting various libraries including the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Raymond M. Blasco, M.D. Memorial Library in Erie. A total of 10 libraries were visited, giving the teens a realistic idea of what would be possible for their very own space.

The teen section will be moved to the basement and given a whole new atmosphere. There will be gaming and lounge areas, along with an exciting makers section. Franklin said that they are working to create a more inclusive and engaging culture at the library.

The feedback received from the teen advisory group was that the teens don’t value the area as much because they do not feel the area values them. This teen space is dedicated just for the youth in the area, so that they have a special place that is just for them, filled with the things they need. A safe place filled with resources and connections where they can relax, be themselves, and can feel like they are given a voice.

“The community we have is a fantastic community, and this is a great space but we want to make it an amazing space for everyone,” said Knapp.

The library will be embarking on a capital campaign to help fund the $1.3 million dollar project.

The Warren Public Library has qualified for a grant in which any donation made before the end of March will be matched. If the library raises half of the project funds, the grant will match the amount, leaving a funding goal of $660,000. With about $300,000 left to raise for the project, the library is asking for donations.

“We are just trying to inspire the young minds of the community and educate them on the resources available to them at the library and the connections they are able to make,” Knapp said. “How can you pass up an opportunity where your funds will be matched?”

Anyone can donate by visiting the Warren Public Library or visiting its website at www.warrenlibrary.org.

The renovation is planned to begin in October and expected to finish in the fall of 2022.

Project plans and details can be viewed at wplrenovation.weebly.com.


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