Message to the community from Luren E. Dickinson:
The times they are a-changing! That’s what Bob Dylan said in a song more than 40 years and it still applies as we approach the halfway point of the first decade of the 21st century.
When this new millennium and the year 2000 reached the horizon back in the late 1990s, there was a lot of talk about computers and the “Y2K” problem. The early computers were just not manufactured to handle yearly dates with more than two digits. It was feared that computers would mistake the year 2000 for 1900 and that all sorts of other problems would result. The hype turned out to be much bigger than the actual problem, but it didn’t stop millions of dollars from being spent to prevent what had been anticipated.
We are now nearing the end of 2005, and there is still a “Y2K” problem at the Shaker Heights Public Library. Our Y2K “problem” is that a large number of our computers, both for staff and public, were put into service before the year 2000. That doesn’t mean that they are not “Y2K-compliant,” but it does mean that they are old enough that they lack the capacity to store and handle the latest programs and operations. This situation will be resolved soon. Our “Y2K fix” is to order replacements by the end of 2005 for every PC installed before the year 2000 and to have them all up and running by early next year. Approximately three dozen workstations will be affected.
Another change, or paradigm shift, that the Shaker Library is experiencing at the present time is the predominance of the DVD over the older VHS-format video. For the first time since they were added to the collection, DVDs are circulating in greater numbers than videos in VHS. In terms of turnover per item, DVDs have outpaced the VHS format since they were introduced a few years ago. Even now, we have three times as many videotapes as we do DVDs, but we are rapidly withdrawing older tapes and shifting the majority of our new purchases to DVD. This great change has happened in just one year. Only one of every three videos checked out in September 2004 was a DVD; by August 2005, half of all circulating videos were DVDs. The dramatic pace is continuing with DVDs representing 55% of the videos used in September 2005.
The “next new thing” the Shaker Library will be trying is downloadable audiobooks. Many libraries already have this type of service available. In fact, we already have access to OverDrive audiobooks through our CLEVNET membership. We are also seriously considering an additional source, only for Shaker patrons, through Recorded Books (www.recordedbooks.com), which is more flexible and offers greater access to titles.
The beauty of downloadable audiobooks is that they will free up all sorts of shelf space while allowing the Library to offer a desirable service to the public. More and more people have access to devices that can play downloaded audiobooks without the cumbersomeness and clutter of multiple audiocassettes or compact discs. Some new cars come equipped to play downloaded audio, and more and more people own portable iPod-type devices or other kinds of MP3 players.
When copyright issues get sorted out, the Shaker Library, probably in consortium with other libraries, will begin looking at downloadable music and video. Libraries have been offering various samples of music or music videos in addition to clips and trailers from feature films for some time, much like commercial entities like amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. Some public libraries in Canada are banding together in an effort to provide more downloadable formats and the same thing will probably happen in Ohio.
The only constant is change, but don't think that the Shaker Library has forgotten about real books! Actually, we will be doing something new in that area, too. Sunday, November 20, we will host the 2005 Local Author & Book Fair. This new event is designed to celebrate books, highlight our local authors and benefit the Library's Endowment Fund. I hope to see many of you there!
Luren E. Dickinson, Director