MEDINA, Ohio - The hustle and bustle of a bookstore isn't always the best place to study or work with a tutor. And three staff members sharing one back-room office isn't ideal.
So when Karla Robinson, executive director of Project:LEARN of Medina County, learned that space was opening up on the floor above her headquarters at the Medina BookShelf, 105 W. Liberty Street, she jumped at the chance to expand.
With the support of community donors, Project:LEARN was able to move its offices and tutoring space to a quieter setting upstairs, add 20 percent more floor space to its used book store downstairs, and create an airy children's reading room out of the former office space.
Robinson and BookShelf volunteers celebrated with a grand reopening and ribbon cutting with city, county and state officials last Friday.
They are also offering a sale on all used books at all three Medina County BookShelf locations through Saturday in honor of Banned Books Week. All books will be buy one, get one free.
They also saluted Eagle Scout candidate Devon Fisher of Medina's Boy Scout Troop 501 for building two mobile Little Free Libraries, which he has donated to Project:LEARN.
The wooden bookshelves are set on wheels, so that they can easily be moved from one location to another.
"Devon's project is very unique. We are not aware of other mobile Little Free Libraries in the area. His beautiful craftsmanship will enable us to bring books to many locations around the county," Robinson said.
Their first stops will be at Cups Cafe and Chill Ice Cream in Medina.
Devon said he likes the idea of Little Free Libraries, because they allow readers of any ability to browse the shelves for a book to enjoy without having to go to the public library and seek out books in sections designated for certain reading levels.
"In school, I struggled with reading. I sometimes felt uncomfortable going into the library to choose books, because I thought people were judging me for picking out books in a lower reading level," he said.
The books in the Little Free Libraries are mingled together, so no one knows what level the reader is at, he said.
"It makes it easier for people," he said.
That idea - of helping people learn from the level they are at - is what Project:LEARN's literacy and tutoring programs are all about, Robinson said.
The non-profit organization helps adults improve fundamental skills in reading, problem solving and the English language through one-on-one tutoring. Volunteers also help adults prepare to take the GED test.
Project:LEARN's bookstores in Medina, Brunswick and Wadsworth provide about 50 percent of the funding for these programs.
So being able to expand the Medina BookShelf and add a dedicated area for children's books has been a bonus for the group.
"We are so excited about our children's reading room," said BookShelf stores manager Diane Shreve.
"We know that kids improve their reading skills if they can choose the books they read, so we created a very welcoming space for kids and their families to explore our children's book offerings," she said.
Volunteer Joanne Johnson designed the room, hired the carpenter to build the bookshelves and created the cheerful curtains.
One parent looking forward to exploring the new children's area is Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-22, who visits the BookShelf at least once a week with his three daughters, ages 10, 7 and 5.
"I spend a disproportionate amount of my time in this room," he said of the bookstore.
"Or maybe it's proportionate. It's a place you can come and enjoy with your family," he said.
Robinson said the staff is settling into its new digs upstairs, which includes several offices, tutoring space, a small lobby and a storage room for the bookstore.
"It's nice to not be tripping over each other, and to have a more private space for tutoring," she said.
And she is happy that the headquarters and bookstore can remain under one roof and close to the community action on Medina's square.
"We love being on the square, being part of the community in this way," Robinson said.
Funding for the project came from several donors, most notably longtime supporter David Arbogast - Medina Township's police chief. - His wife, Marilyn Stano, is a longtime Project:LEARN volunteer.
Other donors include Project:LEARN Board of Trustees President Rich Bidinger, board members William Ward and Brad Proudfoot, and volunteer Elaine Fernwood.
Also contributing was Louise Hanko Brown, a board member and past president, who passed away last fall.
"Louise was a big loss for our community. We miss her," Robinson said.
Article Project:LEARN of Medina County expands bookstore, offices compiled by www.cleveland.com