Message to the Community from Luren E. Dickinson:
For the past decade and more, Ohio’s public libraries have been challenged by continued economic cutbacks. Shaker Library has adapted to these challenges by reducing expenses, seeking grants, and streamlining services.
Public libraries in Ohio bore the brunt of budget cuts under the Strickland administration with a reduction of state funding in the range of 20%. The Kasich administration further reduced the Public Library Fund and other sources of revenues by about 7.5% so that Shaker Library received state income in 2012 equal to what was received in 1992 without adjusting for inflation. The news seems brighter for the next two fiscal years with proposed increases in the 2-4% range, but that only brings the Library to the 1994 and 1995 levels of funding!
Since 2009, Shaker Library has taken steps to “live within its means” by reducing staff 14% through attrition and retirement incentives and by scaling back services with temporary furloughs and permanently reduced Sunday hours. We continue to seek ways to operate more effectively and efficiently without compromising our services to our customers.
One of the most recent and visible changes is the realignment of the nonfiction collection at Main Library to make the area more intuitive and easier to use. This month, we will move movies and other audiovisual material to the central part of the main floor to make it more user friendly, and create a Quiet Study Room in its former space. Thanks to the Friends of the Shaker Library, we have purchased a new Information desk, much like the one Friends funded for the Main Library children’s area. This April, we will introduce self-service checkout and self-pickup of holds.
As part of its strategic plan, the Library is looking closely at its operating expenses and will conduct a feasibility study of the library’s buildings, including the aging Main Library structure, which is leased from the City. One idea for consideration is to build a new consolidated structure with a satellite operation. This option, which was included in a recent Library Board presentation to City Council, has received a flurry of media attention. I want to stress that no decisions have been made as we are just beginning the feasibility study.
Despite the ebb and flow of state dollars and the recent decline in local property tax dollars, Shaker Library is appreciative of the tremendous support it receives from its local community as evidenced by high usage and many positive comments. Our children’s “All You Need for a Snowman” program was rated “a 10 out of 10!” by one fourth grader. A grandparent of an MLK writing contest winner said, “My granddaughter was thrilled!” And we sometimes hear of a family moving to another part of the county but bringing their young children back to shaker Library because, “You guys do the best programs!”
A woman recently wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper recounting her unsuccessful attempts to find information on a variety of topics at different library locations in the county. When she turned to a CLEVNET library in a neighboring suburb, she found what she wanted and gave them an A+. After reading the article, we checked to see if Shaker Library would have fared as well, and it did! Another “A+” as the Library strives to provide the excellence Shaker residents deserve even as the funding fights continue!