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 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!