“Adieu! I have too grieved a heart to take a tedious leave.” Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene VII
After 11 years at Shaker Library, this is my last Director’s message. I will retire at the end of the month to take a position with the Beaumont Library District in California in June. It will be a homecoming of sorts because I spent a decade and a half in the “Golden State” during my younger years. It is where I met my “Buckeye” wife, had some early library jobs, completed a two-year MLS program at UCLA, and where both of our children were born.
When I arrived in Shaker Heights in 2005, I dug out the last report written by my predecessor. The challenges she identified for the library were: “1) filtering of the Internet; 2) the Library and Local Government Support Fund (LLGSF); 3) the charge to save money; and 4) regionalism as a threat to the independence of the Shaker Heights Public Library.”
As it turned out, Internet filtering has not been a huge issue. The LLGSF, on the other hand, became the PLF (Public Library Fund) in 2008 and was severely cut in 2009. As a result, the ability to “save money” became difficult because overall operations had to be reduced to deal with both the loss of state funds and the decline in property tax valuations. “Regionalism” died away, but the issue of an “independent” Shaker Library is still raised.
Within weeks of taking the helm, my analysis of the library’s situation was that: “First and foremost, there are building and infrastructure needs, especially at the Main Library. Roofing and carpeting need immediate attention. Other large components to be addressed are the updating of technology and the improvement of security systems to protect our collections. In addition, we need to continue to find better ways to serve the youth of the community; to improve internal communications; to standardize policies and procedures and to establish organizational goals, objectives, and action steps.”
The roofing and carpeting work was accomplished in short order and somewhat overshadowed by the eventual renovation of the unfinished Main Library areas in 2011, which resulted in the expanded Computer Center, Training Lab, and staff spaces, as well as the Community Entrepreneurial Office. Technological capabilities have been greatly standardized and upgraded over the past 11 years, especially during the renovation.
Likewise, security systems were improved for both collections and public safety. We made significant strides in reaching out to youth with a major component being the MyCom program, which has brought more than $1.5 million in funding to the community for out-of-school-time activities, including more than a third of that amount for summer jobs.
Communication both externally and internally has been improved with the new website that was unveiled in 2014 and the staff intranet in 2015. Major strategic planning efforts have resulted in many other enhancements, such as the development of comprehensive policies and procedures.
I cannot leave without thanking everyone for their support, including partners like Friends of the Shaker Library, and I hope you will provide the same to Deputy Director Amy Switzer who will become Interim Director later this month while the Library Board conducts a national search for a new Director!
Luren E. Dickinson, Director