From the 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 Dickinson


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 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

From the Director – 12/2014

In preparation for the New Year, we have completed another observational study and will revise our Balanced Scorecard strategic plan accordingly. Spanning a two-week period in November, we studied what customers were doing during every hour of operation at both the Main Library and Bertram Woods Branch.

We identified individuals as children, teens, adults, or seniors, and then made a determination as to what each was doing at the observational time. Were they reading, browsing the shelves, meeting with others, or using a computer or digital device? While all the numbers have not been analyzed, what is apparent is that many more people are using personal technology—laptops, tablets, and smartphones—than we observed in our original 2011 study.

Interestingly, the number of people using library computers appears to be the same, or higher, than in 2011. Even with fewer hours at Bertram Woods, there was only a small drop in the use of public computers at the Branch and usage was up about 14% at Main, for a 12% increase overall. After 20 years of providing computer access to the public, 2014 will be another all-time record year, exceeding 200,000 sessions for the first time!

A recent technology survey has shown that people use our computers to access a variety of information. Responses were almost equally divided among Education, Health & Wellness, eGovernment, Civic Engagement, eCommerce, and Social Inclusion, with Employment being slightly higher than the others and Entrepreneurship slightly lower. Even though 79% say that they have regular Internet access elsewhere, they continue to see the Library as an important service location for access.

As we move into 2015 we plan to keep the same strategic themes that were laid out with our mission, vision, and values statements as part of the current strategic plan:

• Innovative, customer-driven services in vibrant, welcoming spaces
• Improvements through efficient, cost-effective processes
• Knowledgeable, passionate, tech-savvy, service oriented staff
• Fiscal strength through strategic budgeting

We will recognize accomplishments, re-examining some of our earlier assumptions, and develop actions steps into the year 2016.

In the coming year, our strategic focus will be on three key areas of emphasis Finances, Facilities, and Families.

Finances: Because of the stringent measures adopted in 2014, we have been able to balance the library’s budget and even add slightly to our reserves. We will implement staff health insurance contributions in 2015, but we will also be able to give the first salary increases since 2013.
Facilities: We will continue to address facility concerns as we look to complete the concept development phase with HBM Architects and to set a direction for facility design and funding with our community partners—the City and the Schools— as well as with our residents.
Families: We will expand our outreach to new parents, with programs like our Community Baby Shower held in late October; begin early childhood initiatives with other public libraries across the county; and launch joint efforts—such as addressing the achievement gap—with the Shaker Schools.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director

From the Director 11/2014

Recently the Aspen Institute released a study entitled, Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries. It is the result of a variety of collaborative discussions among library administrators, government officials, academics, publishers, foundations, and business leaders seeking a “new vision” for “the public library in the digital age.” The report is built around “people, place, and platform,” the key ingredients of excellent library service. A good library brings the people of the community together, it provides an open and welcoming environment for all age groups, and it offers both physical and virtual access to “tools and resources with which to discover and create knowledge.”

It is interesting to note that our Mission Statement reads, “Shaker Heights Public Library builds community and enriches lives by bringing together people, information, and ideas.” Sounds very similar!

The long-term “strategies for success” presented in the report are as follow:

  1. Aligning library services in support of community goals
  2. Providing access to content in all formats
  3. Ensuring the long-term sustainability of public libraries
  4. Cultivating leadership

Again, Shaker Library’s Balanced Scorecard strategic plan seems on target. For example, our four major strategic initiatives mirror the above:

  1. Integrate the library into all aspects of community life (Customers)
  2. Improve delivery, use, and application of technology (Internal Processes)
  3. Explore and reduce costs; explore feasibility of new facility (Financial)
  4. Foster employee skills and development (Organizational Readiness)

How are we becoming a bigger part of the community? To begin with, over 40% of our staff lives in the community and about 10% are involved in various groups around town. As an institution, we continue to work with the MyCOM out-of-school-time program and we are pursuing educational initiatives with the schools and other organizations. We are also creating common ground with efforts like our first-ever Community Baby Shower.

We have been doing more to provide better access to new formats, such as with the new Hoopla streaming service for movies, music, TV, and audiobooks, while promoting the longtime availability of ebooks with the addition of an OverDrive Media Station.  As a member library, we are also pleased that the CLEVNET consortium circulated its 1,000,00th eBook last month and the growth rate at Shaker Library is approximately 30% year-to-date.

Long-term sustainability issues are being addressed with reduced hours and FTE, staff contributions toward health insurance, and the ongoing follow-up to our facility studies, which have identified and prioritized maintenance needs and have begun the examination of alternative solutions through an open and public process epitomized by the recent World Café community sessions.

We are cultivating “knowledgeable, passionate, and tech-savvy staff” through required training levels and core competencies that have been established and included as part of our performance review process. All of this is done with the intent to provide employees with the “tools they need to provide excellent customer service” as we strive to become a “re-envisioned” 21st century Shaker Library!

From the Director 10/2014

The library hosted a successful “World Café” on September 6 with community sessions in the morning and afternoon gaining valuable feedback from local residents and public officials as to the direction of our facilities studies. We now know that there is interest in a more modern library structure with lots of glass and light, as long as it is tastefully done and has something of a traditional feel.

The other input received is that participants were not averse to a single library facility and a majority felt that the current Main Library location would be the best site for renovation/expansion or new construction. In order to gauge the public’s views further, we have offered residents a chance to fill out our website survey on technology at the library, as well as to follow the same process as the World Cafe by choosing preferred library designs online.

We have also allowed library customers to share their other thoughts. Here are some of the comments received:

  • The library must remain welcoming to a diverse population of patrons—age, socioeconomic status, literacy, culture, etc.
  • The library needs to continue adventurous community programming, such as music, theater, readings, crafts, book discussions, etc.
  • Layout of the facility should be intuitive, with periodic orientation opportunities, and have accessible shelving for all ages.
  • There should be a central location if the facilities must be merged.

A school teacher opined that there is too much emphasis on DVDs and electronics in general. She would like to see students check out books instead of movies. She sees the library as a “quiet space to work” disappearing. She is less interested in the furnishings of the building or “being able to eat in the library” than in maintaining an educational atmosphere. In short, she believes the library “should be a place of learning.”

The challenge, then, is to find the right mix of facility design and library offerings to reach the widest audience and to satisfy the extremes of public tastes. People use libraries for a variety of reasons. After a long day in school, many students need time to unwind and enjoy a snack. More studying is the last thing on their minds. Many people come to the library to get books to read, or music to enjoy, or movies to watch just for the fun of it. Others come here for purposes as different as to study in our quiet areas, to search for jobs, to buy or pay for things online, or just to attend a meeting.

Our mission statement says it well: “Shaker Heights Public Library builds community and enriches lives by bringing together people, information, and ideas.” We cannot be all things to all people, but we can bring the best things to as many people as possible, whether the purpose is educational, cultural, informational, or recreational!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director

From the Director 9/2014

Community engagement has become a buzzword in recent years, but public libraries like Shaker Library have been focused on their communities from their beginnings. Our first library director, Ellen Ewing, created a building “designed to have an inviting atmosphere.” The new 1938 library was to be a “living room” away from home with “a fireplace flanked by couches, tables with lamps, a rug, draperies at the long windows, and easy chairs.”

Twenty-one years ago, Shaker Library renovated and moved into the former Moreland School building to provide a larger library for the community. Two subsequent renovations to the second floor yielded a Teen Center, a Computer Center, Art Gallery and community meeting rooms. A collaboration with Family Connections created a home for the Play and Learn Station, a place where families can play and learn together.  Our mission statement proclaims the library “builds community and enriches lives by bringing together people, information, and ideas.” Our vision is to be “an indispensable part of our community” with “innovative, customer-driven services” provided in “vibrant and welcoming spaces.”

We invite you – our public –  to engage with us as we consider the future of our aging facilities: the 88-year-old Main Library, which is leased from the City of Shaker Heights and occupies the old Moreland School structure; and our 54-year-old Bertram Woods Branch. An assessment by HBM Architects has shown that the cost to bring these buildings to a basic standard is more than $5 million over a ten-year period.

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

world cafeShaker Library must do more than just keep pace with the past, it needs space and the vision to meet present and future needs. That is why we are hosting two special World Café Table Talks at Main Library on Saturday, September 6, from 10 am to Noon, and from 1 to 3 pm.  Click on the links to register for the morning or afternoon session.  At that time residents will have the chance to review concepts provided by the architects for maintaining existing buildings and services, maintaining existing buildings but reducing operating costs, or modernizing facilities and services while reducing the costs of operations. During both the morning and afternoon sessions, community members will participate in a number of table talks, each devoted to a specific concept, such as a renovation or a single new facility at either location. The opinions expressed will provide input to the Library Board.

As our Feasibility Study process moves forward, Library trustees and library administrative staff have met and will continue to meet with key stakeholders throughout Shaker Heights. The City and Schools will play a critical role in the outcome, and the involvement of many other organizations in the local area is crucial to the success of this effort.

When the Library Board of Trustees meets on September 17, it will have the chance to fully digest not only the concepts being presented by the architects, but also feedback from the public and stakeholders. We hope to be able to establish a direction by the October 20 board meeting for the architects to move forward with the schematic-design phase that will bring the chosen concept to life.

In the midst of the decision making, Shaker Library will report to the community as part of a presentation at a regular meeting of the League of Women Voters at 9:30 a.m. Friday, September 26 in Room E at the Main Library!


From the Director 8/2014

Funding for Shaker Library continues to be a concern even as we begin a new fiscal year with the State of Ohio and the promise of slightly higher amounts from the Public Library Fund. The difficulty is that the cuts and freezes that began in 2001 and got worse beginning in 2009 have stripped the “buying power” of those receipts by more than 50% in less than a decade and a half.

Library funding from the state reached its high water mark in the year 2000. Shaker Library will receive $700,000 less in 2014 than we did back then. That is a one-third cut in actual dollars. When cost-of-living is factored in, however, the dollars received in 2000 were worth nearly $2.9 million in 2014 dollars, whereas we expect only $1.4 million from the state this year. The overall decline has been continuous as shown in the chart below:

funding from state 2000 2014


Looking further back, we can see that the 2014 funding from the state is virtually equal to the amount received in 1992—22 years ago! Again, with no adjustment for inflation. If the Library actually does receive the estimated 5% increase next year, it would only equal the state receipts of 1994. Put another way, we would have gained two years, but still be 21 years behind!

The “double whammy” of Shaker Library’s funding situation includes the “mortgage meltdown” during the so called “Great Recession” which has seen property values drop, and thus property taxes plummet, concurrent with the decline in state funding. Shaker Library’s property tax revenues reached a peak in 2009 but have fallen each year since. The loss of actual dollars per year has amounted to nearly $700,000 in a five-year period. When considering inflation, the loss in 2014 dollars is $1.1 million per year. Combined with the recent state cuts, Shaker Library has $1.2 million less in 2014 buying power than it did five years ago!

property tax






From the Director 7/2014

Bold predictions are often wrong, but they do tell us where people “think” things are going. Recently, we have read and heard much about eBooks and their use on digital devices, such as tablets and smartphones. This has led to discussion about the impact of technology on the use of public libraries.

According to a BBC report, eBooks will outsell print books by the year 2018. Others, however, feel that the growth in eBook sales will soon begin to decline worldwide as it already has begun to do in the United States.

It is interesting to note that the number of eBooks borrowed from the Shaker Library grew annually by 38% in 2009 (the first year we included the statistics with our traditional figures), 43% in 2010, 66% in 2011, and reached a peak of 71% in 2012. The growth rate fell to 41% in 2013 and we are at a 33% pace year-to-date through June 2014.

The bottom line is that even double-digit growth in eBook circulation from such small beginnings—we did not exceed 10,000 checkouts until 2011—has not really made an impact upon our overall numbers. So far in 2014, eBooks make up less than 4% of all items checked out. A random survey of some similar-sized public libraries in Ohio show no more than a 4% to 8% share of total circulation for downloadable material.

Part of the problem is the limitation on eBook access placed upon libraries by the publishing industry. Some materials are either not available to public libraries or have been priced out of the library market. And even the eBooks that libraries offer can be difficult to download because of copyright restrictions and vendor imposed “hoops” (as with Amazon Kindle material).

In our community, we have some who can afford their devices of choice and find it faster and more convenient to buy whatever they want rather than to struggle borrowing from the library or putting their names on a waiting list. At the other end of the spectrum, we have those who might not be able to purchase devices and who might be more interested in audio/visual entertainment they can access via cable TV or Redbox machine.

Another prediction says that by the year 2018 the viewing of TV programs and videos will account for 84 percent of Internet traffic with a volume that is two to three times higher than in 2013. Internet video already accounts for 78% of online use (and includes such things as on-demand movies via cable).

A third prediction says that online access via PC will drop from the 86% level of 2013 to 50% in 2018. 21% of the traffic will be through smartphones and 18% from tablets, up from 5% and 3%, respectively, last year! Is it any wonder, then, that overall circulation at public libraries continues to drop? Among libraries of similar size in Ohio, virtually all are seeing circulation decline in the range of 6% to 12% over last year. A few libraries may have modest increases, but that is due to an old building being reopened or a new location coming online this year.

In most cases, door counts have gone hand-in-hand with circulation loss, but at Shaker Library we continue to see increased computer use. Main Library is 14% ahead of 2013 YTD and Bertram Woods, even with 23% less hours available, is almost 1% ahead, for a combined 12% increase. We are living in a changing world and it will be interesting to track the progression of that change over the next several months and years!

From the Director 6/2014

The problem with the weather, as the saying goes, is that everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it! The same could be said about the so-called “achievement gap” in the schools. Politicians want to pour more money into “education” to “level the playing field” for certain groups of students defined by socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity and gender. In Ohio, we now have the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee.”

What is it that causes some to do better in school than others? Almost everyone agrees that the key is to start early—very early! Children need to be talked and read to from the very beginning. Give them plastic books they can chew on and then board books with pages they can turn—and take them to the Shaker Library!

The Library and Family Connections operate the “Play and Learn Station,” for preschool children, their parents and caregivers, where children learn by playing in a variety of interactive settings with other children. We offer regular story times including, “Nestlings” for babies from birth to 15 months, “Fledglings” for 15 to 24 month-old toddlers, “Terrific Twos” for two-year-olds, and “Stories for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.” From June 16 through July 22, we offer a “Baby Summer Sampler” for babies from birth through 23 months.

Once children reach school age, there are many more opportunities for educational enrichment. We host a variety of book parties for different grade levels and other book-related activities, such as the American Girl Doll series (for grades 1 to 5) and a Writer’s Club (for grades 2 to 4). In addition, we have provided free Homework Help after school through MyCOM grants (for grades 2 to 8) for a number of years during the school year. Our popular “Read to a Dog” events provide school-age children the opportunity to practice their reading skills with a furry, friendly certified Therapy Dog that loves listening to stories!

One of the most important things a child can do to improve educational achievement is to participate in the Summer Reading Program. Educators agree that to be successful, children must be exposed early to language and reading. Just as important, however, is that they must not fall behind during the summer when they are out of school. The sure cure for “Summer Reading Loss” is our “Summer Reading Program,” which is designed to encourage young readers by offering prizes as reading incentives. This year’s summer reading theme is “Get Creative—Read!” Beginning June 11 through August 6, children can earn prizes by listening to someone read to them and by reading or listening to books themselves. Prizes include colorful stickers, modeling dough, watercolor paint sets, design-your-own paint smocks, books, and medals thanks to our Friends of the Library which underwrites the programs and prizes.

Teens have their own summer reading program with weekly prize drawings for $10 gift cards and a grand prize drawing at the end of the summer for a Kindle Fire HDX! The number of hours read or listened to must be logged each week by 9 pm Wednesdays to qualify for the weekly drawings and reading for each ten hours earns a teen a ticket for the grand prize drawing.

Adults can model good reading behavior by participating in the Adult Summer Reading Program. Register at the Reference desks at either library or online at and log your reading time to be eligible to win a Kindle Fire.

We can help close the “achievement gap” and help children meet the “Third Grade Reading Guarantee” by getting them involved early in reading and other learning at the Library, and by helping them maintain and improve their skills through the Summer Reading Program! Get Creative—READ!