“The Madge Youtz Branch is an undiscovered treasure, helping people in more ways than you can imagine!”
-Madge Youtz Branch Manager, Susan Jacobs
60-plus years of friendship center around the Madge Youtz Branch in Northeast Canton for a group of women who grew up in the neighborhood of Crystal Park. The “ringleader,” Auldine Tovissi, refused to tolerate her friends complaining of boredom as they grew older. Her solution? The 80-somethings had to get a new lease on life by joining a library book club. Auldine, Pat, Sue, and Rosemary enjoyed it so much that they joined a popular painting class. There, they made new friends – Delores, Clarice, Aretha, and Sheila.
“They are the tried-and-true patrons over there,” says library specialist Patti Wollenberg. “They are always here.”
For today’s project, the women create their own versions of a landscape painting, chatting and laughing all the while.
“When I started, everything I painted turned out green or brown,” says Pat.
Pat was frustrated, but Patti kept doing what the staff here do best – encouraging and helping. Now Pat proudly hangs her art at home – and family members are fighting over who can have her version of The Scream.
“They have no idea what they are missing,” says Rosemary, when considering those who don’t come into the branch. “There is so much to do here, and the people are so welcoming.”
More Than Books
For these and many other patrons, Madge Youtz is so much more than art and books. This is HOME. The inviting, cheerful space is reinforced by the friendly people who work here. They go far beyond book recommendations and research. Branch manager Susan Jacobs says, “We frequently make free copies, help new computer users, and help patrons to access legal forms for healthcare, real estate, or even to set up a new business. We do whatever we can to help. I even found options for an inexpensive, pay-as-you-go cell phone for a man who needed one.”
Over the years, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the area has taken a toll on this tight-knit community. Library assistant Ashley Lewis created a large binder with resources like food pantries, clothing giveaways, and unemployment assistance. “This way they can maintain privacy while finding the help they need.”
Helping Kids & Families
On a Saturday morning, a group of boys finds a comfortable place to play video games together. Sun streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows, as a boy around five laughs at a Lego bee on his screen. When branch manager Susan asks him a question, he smiles but does not answer. His fourth-grade brother Roberto explains that only Spanish is spoken at home. Susan quickly brings a stack of Spanish audio picture books. With the push of a button, Juan hears the story narrated in Spanish. The Library has many books, DVDs, and other materials in Spanish to accommodate a growing number of Spanish-speaking households in the Crystal Park community.
The brothers walked to the Library with 14-year-old Paul and seventh-grader Tom, who live near them. Roberto is grateful that the neighborhood Library is a short walk away.
For Tom’s part, besides having a safe place to game, he enjoys reading his two favorite book series – Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Meanwhile, Paul likes having his independence to play Fortnite and check out anime books and movies.
Roberto’s family moved here from Honduras when he was a toddler. In perfect English, learned at his neighborhood school, he proudly mentions how hard his parents work to care for him, his brother, and his baby sister, Maria. Sometimes his mom brings all three kids to the library, where Maria is delighted to wander around playing with toys in the children’s section.
“My Mom only speaks Spanish,” he says.
“But she always says MY NAME in English,” says Tom, proudly.
Thinking of home, Roberto wonders if there are any dinosaur movies - his little brother’s favorite! Library assistant Ashley brings over a stack of DVDs, and Juan’s face lights up with a grin. Madge Youtz has a huge selection of movies and TV shows on DVDs to borrow. Tonight will be family movie night. Then tomorrow - and for decades to come (if they follow the path of the “Tried & True Ladies”) - they can always find more of what they need at the Library.
*Some names and details are changed to protect the identity of minors.
Watch the Re|imagine Video!
In the winter of 2022, Madge Youtz was renovated to better serve you, as part of our Re|Imagine project. Watch the video to see all of the wonderful improvements. Then stop by to see for yourself why the Madge Youtz Branch is like a second home for many people.