From the Director

From the Director: October 2015

The Pew Research Center report, “Libraries at the Crossroads,” was released last month with some interesting findings that are important to Shaker Library. The study found that 89% of those surveyed nationally think that libraries “impact” their communities positively, which is similar to the 94% of residents surveyed locally who said “a good public library is important to the quality of life in Shaker Heights” per the recent TRIAD survey.

infographicOverall, the Pew Research Center’s findings indicate that Americans want their public libraries to: a) support local education; b) serve special groups, such as immigrants; c) help local businesses and job seekers; and d) embrace new technologies, such as 3-D printers and other high-tech gadgetry.

Shaker Library is “on track” in these areas: a) aligning itself with the Shaker Schools, using the “A+ Partnership in Education” model, with some success in recent years; b) offering longtime programs like “English in Action” ESL; c) establishing the Community Entrepreneurial Office/Career Transition Center (CEO/CTC) cooperative while reaching out to the LaunchHouse business incubator; and d) introducing digital devices to the public and investigating the concept of maker spaces. But there is more work to do.

Proponents of the “Libraries = Education” movement argue that this approach will help public libraries to reclaim their purpose in the twenty-first century as we see traditional models of physical collections and physical checkouts giving way to the virtual world of e-media collections and electronic access.

There is no doubt that library circulation and attendance have been declining on a national basis because of this changing landscape which has occurred since the start of the Great Recession. But now things seem to be in a holding pattern. A recent New York Times headline says, “Print is far from dead” with “signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print” and e-book sales falling by 10 percent during the first half of 2015. In the meantime, libraries continue to balance traditional and technological resources.

Out of these changes have come a few of new library philosophies. One is that the purpose of libraries is to provide a place for people to learn, to create, and to share. Shaker Library’s mission, “to build community and enrich lives by bringing together people, information, and ideas,” is somewhat similar, but the next step is to offer spaces that make it all possible. That leads to the second trend, which is to start thinking about designing library services and buildings around people and the way they use libraries instead of constructing facilities around stacks, equipment, and collections. Shaker Library has conducted two surveys of what people do when they are in the library, but it is also important to consider why they came to the library, what they saw when they arrived, and whether they got what they wanted!

Of course, Shaker Library still faces maintenance costs of $5 million over ten years that are beyond its budget. That adds up to about 60% more per year than is spent on regular, old fashioned books—that are still being used by the public. Additional funding is needed to get Shaker Library in 21st century shape!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director

From the Director September 2015

mortarboardRecently, the website NerdWallet named Shaker Heights as one of the most educated communities in America. This is old news to Shaker Library as we were aware of this fact back in 2011, when we worked with the OrangeBoy consulting firm during our strategic planning effort.  Shaker Library has been one of the best funded and most highly used libraries in the nation and that is likely because a highly educated populace demands great library service and a depth of resources not typically found in a district of this size.

The survey included those with high school degrees, some college, and further education from associate to advanced degrees. Interestingly, every one of the places that finished ahead of Shaker Heights was located within an hour’s drive or less of its state capital and/or Washington, DC, and was even closer to a very large university or multiple large universities.

Shaker Heights on the other hand is more than two hours from the state capital and nowhere near Washington, DC. In terms of nearby universities, the two biggest, Case and Cleveland State, have a combined enrollment significantly less than the University of Michigan alone. And the enrollments of just two universities in major metro areas, such as Harvard and Boston University or Stanford and UC Berkeley, dwarf the college population locally.

Certainly, the vast majority of the most educated people who reside in Shaker Heights work in education, the biomedical field, the legal profession, the banking industry, or corporate administration. But what draws them to the community is the housing stock, quality of schools, and, certainly, a quality public library system with excellent facilities and services, as well as an extremely deep collection made available through membership in the CLEVNET consortium.

Shaker Heights residents possess more than double the percentage of bachelor degrees as do all Cuyahoga County residents, and more than three times the proportion of master’s degrees. That is why it is important to note that through the CLEVNET consortium, Shaker Library provides direct access to more than 2.3 million unique titles, compared to just a half million offered by the county library system.

In reviewing the educational attainment data, Shaker Heights also stands out because of the sheer number of residents that possess master’s degrees, professional degrees, and doctoral degrees.  Shaker Heights is 16th in the nation in advanced degrees without the benefit of a more geographically populous or educationally prime location. In addition, Shaker Heights is number one in Ohio by a significant margin with 39.9% of residents possessing advanced degrees versus Upper Arlington, the next highest, where just 34.5% have earned such diplomas. No other Ohio community comes close, which makes Shaker Heights the most “highly educated” place in the state!

Therefore, we urge our highly educated audience to take advantage of all the resources, programs, and services made available through both the Main Library and the Bertram Woods Branch. Whether you are part of the “Brainy Bunch” just getting started with introducing your children to the world of reading, whether you are a “Regular” customer helping your older children with homework or pursuing your own education, or whether you are a “Heavyweight” user of the library in all its aspects, we have much to offer, from traditional books to streaming video and eBooks. Check us out!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director



From the Director August 2015

During this summer’s American Library Association annual conference in San Francisco, I attended a session by a generational expert about so-called “Millennials” (those born beginning in 1980).  She reported that the Millennial generation is becoming a growing part of the workforce.  In fact, according to this Pew Research Center chart, Millennials became the largest generational cohort in the U.S. workforce just this year:


Currently, about a third of American workers were born since 1980, and by the year 2020, that number will increase to 50%.  Even more surprisingly, by the year 2025, 75% of the world’s workforce will be made up of Millennials!  Because of higher birthrates elsewhere, some countries like India and China already have more Millennials than the entire U.S. population!  Many are very well educated and skilled, some of them making their way to America to fill key positions than have gone unfilled domestically.

With all the talk about Millennials, people are forgetting about the latest population cohort—Generation Z.  Those in this group are sometimes called the “Homeland” Generation because they are not old enough to remember the events of September 11, 2001 even though they have grown up in an era that is very much concerned about terrorism.

Like Millennials, members of Generation Z have lived in a world that is full of technology and can be considered “digital natives” because they have not known life without the Internet, cell phones, and tablets.  With that in mind, Shaker Heights Public Library became the first library in Cuyahoga County, and the first among 45 CLEVNET member libraries in 12 counties across northern Ohio to offer the new Playaway “Launchpads” for checkout.

These easy-to-use tablets are pre-loaded with a variety of interactive learning apps for children from preschool age to grade 5 and up. They are grouped as learning packs under subjects such as reading, math, science, creativity, and critical thinking; or themed learning packs, with topics like princesses, animals, transportation, dinosaurs, space, fantasy, etc.  Shaker Library has Launchpads for ages 3 to 5 (Pre-K to Kindergarten) and ages 5 to 7 (Kindergarten to 2nd Grade)—see the illustration below.  Depending upon demand, ages 8 to 10 (3rd Grade to 5th Grade) and ages 10+ (5th Grade and up) may be added.

The tablets do not have cameras or wifi capability, which means kids cannot be accidentally exposed to undesirable content.  Housed in Youth Services, they are available at both Main Library and Bertram Woods. Only two devices may be checked out to a parent at one time.  The length of checkout is seven days.

launchpad-heroShaker Library hosted a Launchpad kickoff party July 7 with representatives from Playaway, a Solon-based business.  Of the original 30 purchased, all but 3 of the devices had checked out within the first few hours.

madison dogThe joint countywide “Make Your Summer Count—Read!” Summer Reading Program ends August 7 and has certainly been a success thanks to our many library and institutional partners.  Of note is our PR partner, WKYC-TV3, which has televised regular features during the course of the summer that have helped promote registration.  A big thank you also goes out to our countywide summer reading “spokeschild” Madison Reid.  This precocious 8-year-old has charmed everyone and she absolutely loved her “Read to a Dog” experience at Shaker Library last month.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director

From the Director July 2015

The recent community survey conducted by Shaker Library through the TRIAD Research Group, had some interesting, as well as unexpected, results. 500 registered voters in the Shaker Heights School District were interviewed by the marketing research firm. The purpose of the survey was to measure the perceived need and support for replacing or renovating existing facilities, per the strategic plan approved in 2012. As a means of staying fiscally strong in a time of diminishing tax dollars, the plan has directed the Library to explore the possibility of a single new facility to replace two aging structures.

Earlier action steps as part of this process included the Facilities Assessment, conducted by HBM Architects in early 2014. That study showed it would cost $5 million over the next 10 years just to bring the 89-year-old Main Library and 55-year-old Bertram Woods Branch up to an acceptable maintenance level—with no regard for modernizing them for 21st century library service.

Later, a Feasibility Study by HBM Architects looked at ways of putting funds into renovation and/or new construction rather than maintenance. It culminated in the World Café last September. These public forums presented a variety of concepts and solicited input from concerned citizens as to modern library design, location possibilities, and cost factors.

Survey respondents skewed slightly female, as does the overall population of Shaker Heights, with family and racial representation similar to the census. The group leaned more heavily to those aged 50 and older, since most voters tend to be in that group, and just over half had lived here more than 20 years.

Positive results were that 85% felt satisfied or very satisfied to live in the community and 93% shared similar feelings about the Library with 71% agreeing a good job was done with available funding. 79% had used the Library in the last year and just over half visited weekly or monthly. 94% said a good public library is important to the quality of life in Shaker Heights.
The real disconnect in public perceptions related to facilities. In general, a clear majority of up to 59% think the library buildings are in adequate or good condition. Only a quarter of the respondents thought that minor repairs might be necessary. A similar majority opposed closing Bertram Woods Branch in favor of a renovated Main Library and/or a new single facility.

Losses in both state funding and local property tax collections did not seem to influence the opinions given with 60% saying that lower income did not make a difference in whether a new facility was needed. 54% said the age of the current structures also was not a factor with 74% wishing to preserve the Main Library as an “historic” building even though it was originally a school.

Some shift of opinion was detected as 42% agreed they might support closing Bertram Woods if it saved $1 million in annual operating costs. Likewise, over one third supported a new Main facility if it could be built while the current library remained open. The most-desired services—in the 80 to 90% range—were accessibility, up-to-date technology, and adequate parking. Space for children/families, meetings, and teens fell in the 55 to 75% range. When asked about more innovative services, such as a drive-up window, reading garden, or café, only “creative learning spaces” reached the 40% level.

According to TRIAD, organizations needing support must convince the public of:

  1. Performance;
  2. Need;
  3.  Importance; and
  4.  Cost.

Shaker Library has done a good job with performance, but it has to show the public the need for facility improvements, devise a plan that is seen as important, and justify the cost that would be necessary to complete the work. Now is the time to continue this dialog with various stakeholders and the community in general!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


From the Director June 2015

Shaker Library recently hired the TRIAD Research Group to conduct a community survey of 500 registered voters in the Shaker Heights School District via landlines and cell phones. It will be a random sample with interviews stratified across the district in proportion to the distribution of voters and by gender. The survey was tentatively scheduled to begin May 27 and to be completed in early June.

The purpose of the survey is to measure the perceived need and support for replacing or renovating existing facilities, per the strategic plan approved in 2012. As a means of remaining fiscally strong in a time of diminishing tax dollars, the plan directed the Library to explore the possibility of a single new facility to replace two aging structures.

As part of this process earlier action steps included a Facilities Assessment, conducted by HBM Architects in early 2014. That study showed it would cost approximately $5 million over the next 10 years to maintain both library buildings. Just to bring the Library’s structures up to an acceptable level of maintenance, with no regard for modernizing them to provide 21st century library service, it would take $4 million for the 89-year-old Main Library and $1 million for the 55-year-old Bertram Woods Branch.

Following the assessment, a Feasibility Study by HBM Architects looked at ways of allocating future maintenance dollars to renovation and/or new construction. It culminated in two World Café information sessions last September. These public forums presented a variety of concepts and solicited input from citizens as to modern library design, location possibilities, and cost factors.

A comprehensive, professional survey is being conducted now because the Library needs to hear more about what members of the community think and feel about our facilities.

The survey will attempt to:

• Assess basic attitudes toward Shaker Library as a community institution
• Examine public perceptions about the conditions of the library’s buildings and the need to update them
• Measure the level of support and opposition for a possible bond issue to pay for replacing or renovating the library buildings
• Test specific arguments and themes both for and against a bond issue to replace or renovate library buildings.

It is expected that an initial summary of the survey results will be presented to the Library Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on June 8. A final written report should be submitted by the end of the month.

At this time, no decisions have been made about library facilities or whether the Library would be going on the ballot in the near future. Community feedback from the survey will guide that decision-making. The survey results will also help the Library to shape the key messages that would resonate with residents and be effective in gaining and reinforcing public support for facility improvements as well as potential ballot initiatives.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


From the Director May 2015

LOGO WITHOUT CIRCLEWhile it seems we are barely into spring, it’s time to begin thinking about summer. At the Library when we think about summer, we think about summer reading. This year, Shaker Library will collaborate with six other library systems within the county including Cleveland, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Cuyahoga County, East Cleveland, Euclid, and Westlake.

This summer’s program, “Make Your Summer Count,” will go beyond promoting reading, it will also encourage children to participate in a variety of math and volunteer activities. Joining our seven library systems are some of the area’s finest cultural institutions including, the Children’s Museum of ClevelandCleveland Metroparks Zoo, Cleveland Museum of Natural HistoryGreat Lakes Science Center, Greater Cleveland Aquarium, NASA, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Be sure to watch the library for details about the program, which begins June 8 and continues through August 7, and make your summer count!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director



From the Director April 2015

mel and troyWe welcome two new Library trustees this month—Melissa Garrett and Troy Meinhard. Ms. Garrett will complete the five years remaining in her predecessor’s term while Mr. Meinhard will begin a full 7-year term on the Board. Each will be sworn in at the regular meeting on April 13 by School Board Vice President Reuben Harris.


This month finds libraries across the state in the midst of Ohio’s every-two-year budget process. Governor Kasich announced his 719-page proposal, entitled “Blueprint for a New Ohio,” in late January. Also known as HB 64, it covers the period from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017.

The major changes called for in the budget proposal are those involving tax cuts and tax increases. The Governor proposes to cut the personal income tax by 23% over the next two fiscal years—15% in FY2016 and 8% in FY2017. He also wants to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack and the state sales tax by 0.5%. In addition, he is looking at a 6.5% severance tax on oil and gas production.

Public libraries are concerned about any changes in taxes because the source of the statewide Public Library Fund is Ohio’s general tax revenue. While tax cuts would likely reduce that revenue, tax increases could offset those losses; however, with the complexity involved, it creates a great deal of uncertainty.

It is estimated that the proposed budget would see an increase in the PLF of 5.7% in FY2016 and an increase of 3.9% in FY2017, but no one really knows how accurate these numbers are. When the current biennial budget, HB 59, was proposed two years ago, public libraries were told to expect similar increases. However, when the bill eventually passed it included numerous amendments, most of which eliminated certain tax increases.

The results have been disappointing. Each of the first six months of FY2014 (July through December 2013) saw a decrease in actual receipts from the PLF compared to the state’s estimates. And the funding received in 2014 was 2% below what had been received in 2013. This has continued the overall downward trend in Ohio’s state funding for public libraries. The sad fact is that the PLF has declined by 24% since 2007 and by 30% since 2001 and funding in 2014 was the lowest since 1996.

For years the Ohio Library Council has been trying to “stop the bleeding,” but without success. An amendment to increase the PLF was put forward two years ago, but was left out of the final budget that was passed. More recently, OLC has been touting a “Restore the PLF” campaign with the intent of returning the current 1.66% of the state’s general revenue to the original 2.22%. It seems clear now that no such thing will happen.

A recent missive from OLC has asked for support for an amendment from Representative Marlene Anielski (R-Walton Hills) to reset the percentage for the PLF from 1.66% to 1.75%. That would amount to an increase of just under 5.5%. Combined with the estimated 5.7% and assuming no unexpected decline in state revenues, the PLF would still barely be above the 1997 level!

Any increase is better than a decrease, but none of this accounts for the dollars lost through inflation. Library Legislative Day in Columbus is April 28. It should be an interesting event!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


From the Director March 2015

Two longtime members will be leaving the Shaker Heights Public Library Board at the end of the month. We are sorry to see both Jeanne Shatten and Kurt Miller depart. They may be the first Trustees in the history of the library to serve for nine straight years during the exact same time period. Their terms each began in 2006, which brings up the question of how things have changed since that time.

In 2005, the last full year before they began their service on the Board, the annual circulation of library items was 1,138,903 with print material accounting for 50.2% of the total. In 2014, Shaker Library circulated 1,104,774 items with non-print accounting for 50.6% of the total. And last year’s stats included an additional 4.0% for downloadable material which was at such a low level as to be almost non-existent in 2005!

With the reduction in hours at the Bertram Woods Branch, due to budget cuts, the share of total system circulation at that location dropped to 29.1% in 2014 compared to 38.1% in 2005. The share of circulation at the branch, however, had been declining for years and was in the 31% range for the previous three years before scheduled hours were cut by 23%.

Because of the emergence of the Internet and digital material, foot traffic in our buildings has declined significantly in nine years. Nonetheless, the use of public computers has continued to grow. There were only 26,245 computer sessions counted in 2005 compared to 202,357 in 2014, a 771% increase. About half of the increase was due to the availability of more computers, and the rest due to the expanded and attractive new Computer Center and Training Lab facilities that were added during the 2011 renovations.

Funding has played a part in this transition with overall dollars received by the library falling from $5.2 million in 2005 to $4.7 million in 2014. Perhaps more significant than the 10% drop in revenue was the 36% decline in dollars spent on material for the collections. And neither takes into account the loss of buying power due to inflation.

Another interesting shift between 2005 and 2014 is that the share of revenue from property taxes rose from 58% to 67% while the share from state funding fell from 35% to 29%. 1% of revenue was lost in fines and fees, as well as in investment income due to near-zero interest rates.

Our collections have also morphed over the years. Our movie collection, now predominantly in DVD format versus the older VHS, has grown from 24,308 to 34,559 (including 2,335 e-movies). Likewise, the number of Music and Audiobook items (again, mostly in newer formats) has grown from 27,562 to 61,875 (including 36,714 e-recordings).

Print magazine subscriptions, on the other hand, have dropped from 747 to 565 and the number of print books has been reduced from 217,324 to 180,318. 124,395 e-books, however, have been added. The result of all the ups and downs is that our overall collection has grown from 269,194 to 401,147 items, of which 163,444 items are in electronic format or 40.7% of the total.

2015 will bring us two new Board members and there may be more surprises in store when it comes to our statistics. If the January trends continue, we may actually see attendance on the upswing this year even with the declining circulation of physical material as growing numbers use our public computers and meeting room facilities. Although it will continue to grow, it is likely that the rate of increase for the circulation of eBooks and other electronic material will continue to decline until more people begin using eReading devices.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


From the Director 2/2015

People sometimes ask, “What sets Shaker Library apart from other local libraries?” It goes without saying that as an independent public library serving Shaker Heights and a portion of Cleveland at Shaker Square, we pride ourselves on being community-based and community-responsive.

Community-Based. That means we are locally “owned and operated” with a Board of Trustees that is made up of men and women who live here. And about 40% of our employees live right here in our district, too. We have an award-winning Friends of the Shaker Library group raising funds to support our operations, award-winning volunteers, and award-winning staff members, all of whom live here in Shaker Heights.

Community-Responsive. That means that everything we do is geared toward serving the people who live here. We are always looking for ways to deliver programs, provide services, or make new offerings that keep up with the latest trends or have a special orientation to Shaker Heights.

Our community-centric approach, working together with local and regional partners, helps us make unique contributions in the following areas: Youth & Education, Arts & Culture, Community Engagement, and Economic Impact.

Youth & Education. Play & Learn Station, a developmental learning space for young children and their parents or caregivers, has been open for 16 years through our partnership with Family Connections. Similar offerings are few and far between at other libraries. Our Teen Center evolved from a group effort with the City and Schools. Shaker Heights is one of only a few suburbs involved in the countywide MyCOM youth program that provides out-of-school-time activities because of the library’s work with Shaker Heights Youth Center and other organizations. Shaker Library continues to work with Shaker Schools to address early learning and achievement gap issues.

Arts & Culture. The annual Barbara Luton Art Competition and our regular art wall exhibits set Shaker Library apart from most other public libraries. The Moreland Room for local history was created in cooperation with the Shaker Historical Society and work with the City in recent years has resulted in online access to important information on residential homes and buildings. “Poetry in the Woods,” one of Ohio’s longest running library-sponsored poetry programs, has brought in regional and local poets for more than 17 years.

Community Engagement. Bringing people together on important topics has been a key role of the library. Shaker Library has worked with neighborhood and church groups on community gardening projects. “Not Your Mother’s Politics” was a popular event co-sponsored with the League of Women Voters. The “Abraham Salon” series helped people from three faiths discuss important issues. The “Constitution Read Aloud,” with support from the Daughters of the American Revolution, brings local leaders together annually.

Economic Impact. Shaker Library is the 10th biggest employer in the city with 125 full-time and part-time staff, including over 20 property owners. More than 400 individuals have learned how to start a business through the library’s SCORE program. Hundreds of displaced workers have learned new resume, interviewing, and networking skills with a large proportion getting new jobs through the Career Transition Center, the library’s Community Entrepreneurial Office partner. MyCOM grants alone have brought more than $1.4 million to the community, including more than $500,000 for youth summer jobs alone.

Is it any wonder that Shaker Library has been honored nationally with Top 10 rankings and 5-Star award ratings over the past several years?

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


From the Director – January 2015

Looking back and taking stock of what has happened in the previous months is something we all do at the beginning of a new year. But I’d like to go back a bit further because 2015 marks a number of personal milestones. I began my first job in a library 40 years ago this month! This year marks my 30th anniversary as a public library director, and my 10th anniversary at Shaker Library!

Yes, libraries were much different back in 1975. One of my first jobs was to file new author, title, and subject cards in the card catalog. As a newbie, I had to leave the cards “above the rod” to be inspected by the librarian to make sure that they were in proper order. Apparently, I impressed her as I was soon allowed to “drop” the cards myself.

In those “olden” days, there was little if no automation. People signed out books by writing their names (and sometimes their addresses) on the book card and a due date was rubber stamped on another card that went into the book pocket. Ohio was one of the first places in the nation to offer shared cataloging of new material via dedicated terminals. The result was that most catalog cards came from Columbus instead of from the Library of Congress.

By the time I earned my library master’s degree, I was required to take a class in computer programming that involved the production of IBM “key punch” cards to complete the process. Years later when I first became a public library director in 1985, my library had no stand-alone staff computer. They were, however, using the new plastic library cards that had customer address information in raised letters that could be stamped onto the book cards like they used to do with the old multi-part credit card slips!

It was 1989 before that library became the first non-metropolitan library to create its own automated circulation system, and that was the year that saw the end to the card catalog. Complaints about the loss of that catalog continued for many years, but computers relieved library staff of much drudgery and allowed quick retrieval in ways that had been impossible.

Shaker Library was ahead of its time when it added Sunday hours in 1975, but still only 480,000 items were circulated that year. Cassette tapes for music and audiobooks became very popular in the 1980s along with videocassettes, which transformed library services across the country. Almost overnight, people who had never used libraries streamed in to check out movies. Shaker’s video collection did not grow until the late 1980s and early 1990s. 1 million items were checked out for the first time in 1996.

Compact discs eventually replaced cassette tapes as DVDs replaced videocassettes, and early in the decade I have spent at Shaker Library we stopped ordering cassettes of all types. The dominance of the Internet has led to little use of CDs and a decline in DVD use as more and more resources are available via downloading or streaming. Public computers were not introduced until 1994 at Shaker Library, but usage has grown every year since.

Teens have always used Shaker Library, and I am sure there was concern about those young “Baby Boomers” in the 1960s. During my career, we have worried about Generation X but more recently it has been the “Millennial” generation. And now we are beginning to talk about “Generation Z” (those born since 2001)!

Digital databases and mobile devices were a thing out of Dick Tracy comic strips and Star Trek TV programs, but they have become a reality at today’s Shaker Library. Check out Hoopla, Zinio, OverDrive, and many of the other resources readily available through our website!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director