Library Celebrates Reuben’s Birthday

Library Celebrates a Founding Father and Namesake on the 200th Anniversary of His Birth

Reuben-McMillan-Main-Library-History-posterYOUNGSTOWN (October 7, 2020 / For Release 1:30 p.m.) — The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County (PLYMC) celebrated the life and legacy of Reuben McMillan with a live-streamed event on Facebook at 1:30 p.m. on Reuben’s birth date, Wed., Oct. 7. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the McMillan’s birth, Oct. 7, 1820, in the Canfield area. He was a Youngstown school superintendent and one of the Library’s founding fathers. Additionally, the Library announced a Main Library Renovation Capital Campaign and the opening of a public service space inside Main Library during the renovation.

October is a significant month for the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County (PLYMC), which was officially incorporated as the Youngstown Library Association on October 27, 1880. That association name was changed to the Reuben McMillan Free Library Association on March 5, 1898, to honor McMillan, who passed away on June 23 of that year. His name is etched in limestone on the face of the Main Library, 305 Wick Ave.

Reuben McMillan’s vision was to make books and library materials available to all people in the community, not just to students in the schools. With this, he helped lay the foundation for the Mahoning County library system still in existence today.

The event focused on Reuben McMillan’s history and legacy, how the Main Renovation follows in his footsteps in ways he could not have imagined 200 years ago, a capital campaign for the Main Library Renovation Project, and an upcoming public service area within the Main Library to serve patrons while construction is underway.

Dr. David Ritchie, President of the Library Board of Trustees, opened the event with a welcome and said of Reuben McMillan, “He wanted to put books into the hands of all people in our community. He pursued this vision until he and a group of co-founders established the Youngstown Library Association, which later was named for Reuben McMillan. Reuben McMillan would certainly not recognize some of the changes that have occurred in library materials and technologies.  He never saw an e-Book, a computer, an iPad or a music CD. But we are sure he would endorse the way our libraries have adapted over the years to be relevant in the year 2020.”

Ms. Fifarek, featured in a video about Reuben’s life, noted, “Mr. McMillan devoted his life to educating the children of Youngstown and the surrounding community, eventually becoming the school superintendent.  But he, and the other members of the School Board he led, wanted to make sure that education was available for everyone in the community, not limited to the young.  So, in 1880 they led the effort to form the Youngstown Library Association, which would be a center of learning open to everyone in the community regardless of status.”

“Thanks to the strong foundation he and our library’s co-founders created, the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County is thriving 140 years later.  I am sure Mr. McMillian could not have predicted the intellectual advances or the changes in libraries that the intervening decades have seen.  But I think he would be proud to know that the organization he worked to create played a role in delivering those advances to his community,” she said in the video.

Ms. Fifarek mentions librarian Anna L. Morse, librarian from 1902 to 1914, who approached Andrew Carnegie for the funds to build this Main Library. Miss Morse references a painting of Reuben McMillan, with the corresponding tribute describing him as “a man who sought neither wealth nor honor save as these were to be found in the faithful doing of his duty.”  Ms Fifarek notes, “In that description, I believe that we who have been part of the Reuben McMillan Free Library Association find our best role model.  If I were to add one thing to that tribute, it would be to also be to credit Mr. McMillan for creating something whose benefits would not be reaped in his lifetime. His true legacy is not the organization or the building, but rather the generations of people who have found their purpose through the library.  I can think of no greater contribution an individual could make.”

Announcing $1 Million Capital Campaign

Library Trustee Timothy Bresnahan, chair of the Trustee Development Committee, said, “In that tradition of

Celebrating Reuben McMillan’s 200th birthday!

philanthropy combined with ongoing community support, I am proud to announce the launch of the Main Library Renovation Capital Campaign.  Our goal is to raise at least one million dollars toward the renovation of Youngstown and Mahoning County’s first purpose-built library.”

Deborah Liptak, Library Development Director, invited the community to, “Join us on this new journey and fulfill another chapter of Reuben’s legacy by being a part of the Main Library Renovation Capital Campaign.” She noted, “Philanthropists have donated in the past and present, making our Library system rich in services and programs, and now we are going to give people that same opportunity with this new project. When community members become a part of our campaigns, they become long-standing supporters of all that the Library can provide. There will be opportunities for donor recognition.  So I encourage folks to become engaged, be a part of this campaign, and make a difference in your community, just like Reuben. Let’s keep his legacy alive and well,” Mrs. Liptak noted that patrons should watch the Library’s website,, in the coming weeks for opportunities to get involved.

A video detailing the life of Reuben McMillan is available Oct. 7 on the Library’s website,, and YouTube at Aimee Fifarek, Library Executive Director, opens the video and Tim Seman, Genealogy and Local History Librarian, walks us through Reuben’s life, up to his monument in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Main Library Public Service Space Will Open October 12

Aimee Fifarek, Library Executive Director, announced that the Main Library would be opening a temporary space on the first floor for public service during the renovation construction on Monday, October 12. Hours will be: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fri.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Makerspace Re-Opens October 12

The Makerspace inside the Michael Kusalaba Branch Library on Mahoning Ave. will reopen Monday, October 12. Using reasonable safety precautions, most Makerspace equipment will be available at that time, but 3D printing and the sound studio will not be available.

NOTE: The Library recognizes the date of Oct. 7, 1820, for the birth of Reuben McMillan. This date is published in the Vindicator obituary for Prof. Reuben McMillan on June 24, 1898, and in other sources, such as the “History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley Volume III” by Jos. G. Butler Jr. (Publishers American Historical Society, Chicago and New York) and The National Education Association 1899 annual meeting journal. The McMillan monument in Oak Hill Cemetery shows Oct. 20, 1820, as date of birth. We have not discovered the reason for this discrepancy.

Reuben McMillan Bio

Reuben M. McMillan was born on October 7, 1820, in the Canfield, Ohio, area. He was the son of John McMillan and Mary (McKinney) McMillan. Reuben McMillan, for whom our library was named, was apprenticed to a saddle maker as a boy, but independently pursued his education through books. He began teaching at the age of 20 and organized and taught in schools in Columbiana and Mahoning counties. He served as a member of the National Education Association, president of Ohio State Teachers Association, Superintendent of Public Schools of Youngstown and led the effort to create a free public library in Youngstown.

While libraries had been part of Youngstown schools since the 1840’s, McMillan, joined by two teachers and two physicians, formed the Youngstown Library Association on October 27, 1880. The library began with 168 volumes and the two teachers, Sarah Pearson and Julia A. Hitchcock were the first librarians, working out of a building on West Federal Street.

From its original home on West Federal, the library moved to the Richard A. Brown home in 1891 (now the site of the Mahoning County Courthouse). In 1907, a $50,000 gift from Andrew Carnegie made possible construction of a library at the corner of Wick and Rayen avenues. When the library opened on December 3, 1910, with a capacity of 225,000 volumes, it was named the Reuben McMillan Free Library. Usually, the library is named after the major donor and there are many Carnegie libraries around the country. This was a case of a leader whose contribution was more important than money — an idea — a free library open to all residents of the city.

Treudly, Superintendent of Public Schools of Youngstown,  a colleague of Reuben’s, said; “He was a noble man, lofty in character as he was in stature. Rarely is to be found a finer type of trust distinguished, courtly bearing which we associate with generations gone by.”

John H. Clarke, library board president who became an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court under President Wilson, described why Reuben McMillan was so highly esteemed: “Blessed with great ability, he was also one of the kindliest of men, tender, considerate, devoted to his work and caring little for personal gain. The poorer children of the schools were the object of his special solicitude.  He was a tutor by example as well as precept, living the God fearing life that he encouraged in the youth of Youngstown.”

Reuben passed away on June 23, 1898, and was interred at Oakhill Cemetery in Youngstown. He was survived by his wife, Susan. Upon Reuben’s passing Superintendent  Treudly  penned, “Life’s race well run, life’s work well done.”


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Dr. David Ritchie, Library Trustee President, talks about Reuben McMillan.

Library Executive Director Aimee Fifarek displays artifacts of Reuben McMillan’s.

Timothy Bresnahan, chair of the Development Committee for the Library Board of Trustees

Deborah Liptak, Library Development Director, talks about Capital Campaign for Main Library Renovation

Deborah Liptak talks with Tim Seman, genealogy and local history librarian, about Reuben’s accomplishments