Message to the community from Luren E. Dickinson:
During this year's annual conference of the American Library Association, I introduced a program entitled "The Future of Public Libraries: How Fragile Is It?" The panel discussion featured the author of an article, who talked about our future being "fragile" if we were not "agile" in adopting new ways of doing things. Much of his emphasis was on eliminating "traditional" ways of doing cataloging, collection development, and reference in favor of customer-centered services, based upon public demand.
The counterpoint of the discussion emphasized the need for well-rounded collections and the role of public libraries in providing for information and research. It was noted, that some subject matter, despite the popular conception, is still not available on the Internet. Other critics of the "give the people what they want" philosophy have also noted that smaller libraries may be able to get by with more "popular" materials, but larger institutions have a greater need to stock important, though lesser used, items.
In conversation with the Director of a large west coast library system, I was struck by the fact that even he emphasized that public libraries should be doing more "up front" than "behind the scenes." His library was actively pursuing new hires who had strengths in working with the public and providing excellent customer service, regardless of what level of work they might perform or whether they had a certain type of diploma or certification.
One of the strengths of the Shaker Library that I have discovered is not only the competency of our staff members, but their willingness to help each other and the public. These are characteristics we need to accentuate and to continue to develop as we face the future. As long as our service is good, any transition to non-traditional ways of operating will take care of itself.
Services to children seem to be one area that everyone agrees public libraries should emphasize. We have had a very good beginning to our annual Summer Reading Program, with the theme "Dragons, Dreams, and Daring Deeds," and the number of participants continues to climb. Likewise, the annual Ice Cream Social at the Bertram Woods Branch seemed to be quite a success and was a good kickoff to other summer programs, including our "Meet the Authors in the Garden" series and the second annual "Juneteenth" festival.
In terms of working with our traditional partners, I have had multiple meetings with representatives from the Shaker Family Center, CAMLS, and the Shaker Heights City Schools. We are seeking ways to strengthen and perhaps expand our relationships with both the Shaker Family Center and CAMLS. With the Schools, we have taken the initial step of putting to work the library portion of last fall's bond issue. We are requesting bids for roof repair at the Main Library, which could begin in September. Once that project gets underway, we will address other priorities, such as carpeting, library materials security systems, updating our computer equipment, etc., with the remaining funds.
I attended the annual meeting of the Cleveland Foundation on June 15. It has given away over $1 billion in grants since its inception and continues to look for new ways to help the Cleveland area. Its new emphasis is on education and economic development-two areas that fit naturally with public libraries. This may open up opportunities for us to work with the Foundation in the months ahead.
By continuing to work with our current partners, by aligning ourselves with groups with whom we have a common interest, and even pursuing cooperative efforts with groups like the Cleveland Public Schools and the Cuyahoga County Public Library, we will be much better able to serve community needs.
Luren E. Dickinson, Director