An expansion at the Westland Area Library will allow it to provide services to thousands of the West Side's most important people: its children.

Crews from Linford Construction and Development are expected to start work on the $756,948 project in July on a 3,600-square-foot expansion at the Southwest Public Library branch, 4740 W. Broad St., in Prairie Township.

The result will be more space in the youth services department for the hundreds of programs it offers every year.

"Our service to kids is the flagship of what we do," Southwest Public Libraries Director Mark Shaw said. "It discourages people when you don't have an adequate programming space."

The addition to the northeast side of the building is expected to take about four months to complete, Shaw said.

It will also provide a teen area and new audio/visual equipment, including a large screen that retracts into the ceiling.

A recent Friends of the Library fundraiser earned $1,400 that will be used to pay for an interactive wall that helps develop fine motor skills.

"We hold three to four storytimes a day," said Mary Allen, youth services librarian. "We're busy and we're helping to keep kids reading over the summer. For children going into school, our main goal is that they be ready to read."

The Westland expansion follows the 2016 opening of a new library building in Grove City. That location, a two-story, 48,000-square-foot building at 3959 Broadway, serves as the SWPL headquarters.

The Westland branch grew from a "sardine can" of 6,000 square feet to what will be more than 27,000 square feet, Shaw said.

The library has seen a handful of expansions over the years, the most recent in 2012 with the addition of a community education center. That area of the library will now connect to the youth area, Shaw said.

The Westland branch serves a diverse community, including large Latino, Somali and Ukrainian populations, he said.

It offers more than two dozen computers and a Summer Reading Club, and last year offered more than 460 programs and community events that were attended by more than 15,000 people, library officials said.

Last year, more than 5,100 new library users registered at the Westland branch.

About 50 "volunteens" -- teenage volunteers -- help the library staff each summer, Allen said.

She has worked at Southwest Public Libraries for 24 years, more than 20 of them at Westland.

"What was a magazine room is now a technology room. I love seeing the growth of this library and serving the families," Allen said. "It's rewarding to see families grow up, and volunteens return to the library as adults. The people on this side of town deserve it."

SWPL is funded in part through a 1-mill property tax levy.

"We want people to keep coming to libraries," Shaw said. "We want this to be a place where kids really feel welcome to hang out.

"It's going to be noisy. But I know (the staff) is willing to put up with it. The staff and the service it provides are our greatest assets."

For more information about the library and its programs, visit www.swpl.org.

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