From the Director

From the Director October 2016

amyswitzerforbooklettersAs the newly appointed Director of Shaker Library, I would like to say that it is an honor to serve a community with a national reputation for excellence.  I am excited to assume my duties as Library Director and I look forward to engaging in conversations across the community about the future of library spaces, services, and resources. Shaker Library has a long tradition of excellence and I look forward to working with the Board, the staff, and the community to continue to deliver high quality library services and programs. I appreciate the Board’s vote of confidence as we work together to strengthen and grow our library.

The Library Board and staff have been busy studying the options for our library facilities and we plan to outline them at the Board Meeting at 6:30 PM October 10 at Main Library. Board Meetings are open to the public and we welcome participation from the community. Our Board welcomes community feedback. Contact Library Trustees.

The Library has been in the news lately, and I would just like to clarify that Shaker Library is a separate political entity from the city and the schools. While we all work together to make Shaker a great place to call home, the city answers to its elected officials on city council; the schools answer to its school board, and Shaker Library answers to its Library Board of Trustees. The Library Board has complete authority and responsibility to make policy decisions regarding library programs and services, property, staff and budget.

Our September “A Card for Every Kid” amnesty program was a success and we are pleased to report that  340 children and teens now have library cards they can use. Thanks to our Children’s staff and Circulation staff for their work on this very worthwhile project.

Shaker Library staff members are busy in the community leading book discussions at Academy Tavern and Library Court Apartments; creating story walks and art projects on October weekends for the Shaker Heights Arts Council’s Pop-Ups at The Dealership; engaging in Moreland Rising Neighbor Nights; holding story times in area preschools, leading art talks at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and hosting information tables and activities at the Nature Center and for the City’s Health Fair Expo.

Upcoming October events at the Library include a lovely display of book and paper art in celebration of Octavofest. Jennifer Souers Chevraux from ICA- Art Conservation will teach children and adults how to preserve special pictures and mementos at an intergenerational program Sunday afternoon, October 16 at Main Library.

October 13 at Main Library, we will host award-winning journalist Joanna Connors, author of I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her, which Kirkus Review has described as, “A courageous and unsettlingly forthright memoir of overcoming trauma.”

Books are our business and we continue to offer a healthy assortment of book discussions. We have added a Cook the Book cookbook discussion and an award-winners book discussion at Woods Branch, which we hope you will enjoy.

Again, I am pleased to serve as Shaker Library’s eighth director.

Amy Switzer, Director

From the Director September 2016

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month. Shaker Library is proud to join with other libraries in Cuyahoga County on A Card for Every Kid campaign, which aims to put a library card into the hands of every child under 18 in Cuyahoga County. Celebrate with us two ways:

1.) Get your child a library card. It’s easy: just visit the library and sign up.

2.) If your child already has a card but it’s blocked by fines, bring your child to the library to have fines forgiven. (This is a one-time benefit.)

Plus, parents and guardians can get $5 off their fines by taking our brief survey.

Now that you have your card, we encourage you to use it to read what you like, when you like, and in whatever format you choose. Shaker Library has something for everyone, including a large selection of emedia. A recent Pew Research Center survey, “Book Reading 2016,” found that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last 12 months. Print books remain more popular than ebooks: 65% have read a print book in the past 12 months, while only 28% read an ebook. Just 6% read only ebooks. Younger people are even more likely than their elders to have read a print book in the past year. As we plan for the library’s future, it’s clear that print books and ebooks will co-exist for some time to come.

Part of planning for the future is to ensure that we offer spaces to fulfill our mission to build community and to enrich lives by bringing together people, information, and ideas. To that end, the Library Board of Trustees has been studying several facility options to address community needs as well as the projected $5 million in maintenance costs over ten years. A thorough study of the options listed below should be completed by September 2016.

  • Keep both buildings as they are, which entails making the required repairs noted in the 2014 facility assessment but not undertaking service or facility improvements.
  • Replace two aging facilities with one new, up-to-date facility.
  • Keep and update both facilities to be more modern and flexible.
  • Keep both buildings but significantly reduce service at Main in an effort to reduce costs.
  • Never go on the ballot again.
  • Join the Cuyahoga County Public Library system.

Recently, the Mayor’s volunteer task force issued an opinion recommending that Shaker Library join Cuyahoga County Public Library; however, the report leaves many important questions unanswered. Shaker Library customers should expect nothing to change with their library and its services as a result of this report. The Shaker Library Board has not taken a position for or against inclusion. Until our analysis of our policy options is completed and our Board has acted on it, we consider inclusion to be an open question. Library Board President Chad Anderson’s response to the task force is posted on our website.

As we move forward and evaluate the library’s options for the future, please know that we value our independent library―a legacy left to us by previous generations who envisioned it and grew it to what it is today.

Amy Switzer
Interim Director


From the Director: August 2016

Our big news for August is that we have hired a new Business Manager/Fiscal Officer. Susan K. Beaver joined the Library staff in July. She is a graduate of the University of Akron with a B.S. degree in accounting. Susan has more than 18 years’ experience in governmental accounting where she has worked with receivables, payables, budgets, grants, state reporting, procurements, and audits. Additionally, she has managed multiple software conversions and upgrades including a new payables system. We are glad to welcome her to our staff.

As our Summer Reading programs come to an end August 6, we give thanks to our Friends of the Shaker Library for its continued support. We also extend our thanks to OverDrive, which challenged our adult summer readers with the generous incentive of a donation of $1 for every book read up to $500. Our community of readers rose to the challenge by reading more than 840 books, and we received a generous check from Overdrive to purchase more books. We are most fortunate to serve a community that supports its library.

Thanks also to Cleveland Public Library and Great Lakes Theater for their August workshops in support of the First Folio in Cleveland. We enjoyed David Hansen’s adaptation of Twelfth Night and learned how to boogie like the Bard at a Shakespearean dance workshop.  The Folio has moved on, but Cleveland can be proud to have been one of the sites for its display.

End-of-summer fun continues when we celebrate a summer of reading with an Xtreme Magic Show Thursday evening, August 4 at Main Library. Our adult readers are invited to The Academy Tavern on Larchmere Boulevard from 7-9 pm Tuesday, August 16, when we raise the bar on reading, and “The Academy” donates a portion of the proceeds to the Library.

With no time to bask in the success of summer reading, we are busy planning school-time activities and programs. We have arranged for a yellow Shaker School bus to visit the libraries on August 9 and August 11 when preschoolers can board the bus to hear back-to-school stories.  Thursday evening, August 18 the Library and the League of Women Voters will present its third community forum on Regionalism and Shaker Heights: What Are the Options? What’s in it for Shaker? Judy Rawson, former Mayor of Shaker Heights, will moderate a discussion with panelists: Armond Budish, Edward Kraus, Mayor Earl M. Leiken, and Hunter Morrison. It’s your community! Join in the discussion. We have also provided a 4-day session, August 22-25, FREE SAT Boot Camp with College Now Greater Cleveland for our teens.  Not only will they learn the tricks of the test, but they will also take home a test prep book. And it’s all FREE.

As we struggled with the implications of recent violent events, Shaker Library and libraries throughout Cuyahoga County worked together to gather resources that can help lead to a better understanding of civil rights, justice, and race. Talking about race is incredibly complicated and even the experts struggle with it.  Our staff created a booklist, Reading about Race, that includes titles available at our library that address civil rights, justice, and race.

cpuBeyond programming, we have also improved our service to seniors and installed new computers at Bertram Woods Branch. To make it easier for our seniors to apply for a Golden Buckeye card, we verify their applications and fax them to the State, saving them time, trouble, and money. All Ohioans age 60 or older and adults age 18-59 who have disabilities are eligible for a free Golden Buckeye card that offers many discounts. If you know someone who qualifies but doesn’t have a card, please let them know they can apply at the Library.

If you want to become more involved with your home library, consider applying for a two-year term on the Library Board of Trustees.  Applications are available online and must be submitted by August 12, 2016.

Amy Switzer
Interim Director


From the Director: July 2016

Summertime may be the time of year when many folks relax and reassess; however, for libraries summertime is another busy season when we work to support our community in many different ways. The most obvious way, of course, is through our summer reading programs. Our staff has created appealing programs for children, teens, and adults. While we encourage reading throughout the year, in summer, we stress the importance of reading for children and families to prevent the summer slide. We foster reading for fun in all forms and formats and in all kinds of places. Whether at the beach or at camp, Shaker Library is a virtual click away to connect you to your home community and your local reading resource.

This summer we were the first library in Cuyahoga County to pilot the exciting new project of lending HotSpots. You can borrow the device to access the internet free at home, in the car, or anywhere else!  HotSpots provide FREE internet access to smartphones, tablets, and other wireless-enabled devices through the T-Mobile cellular network.

We continue to collect and preserve information important to our community’s history in our Local History Collection, and we continue to share that information with our community and beyond. Recently, Shaker Library contributed items to an exhibit at the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Governor Kasich has appointed Local History librarian Meghan Hays to the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board, which focuses on the preservation of and access to Ohio’s historical records.

We believe access to our material is important for everyone. To that end, we implemented a Three-for-Me card for children ages 12 and under, which allows them to borrow up to three children’s books from our library without a parent’s signature.  We also offer a number of Reading-Pays-Off-for-Teens programs throughout the summer, so teens ages 12 – 18 can read down their Shaker Library card fines to be eligible to use their cards.

Perhaps you call it reference or maybe research, either way, we call it help, and our librarians are ready to make sure that every person finds the information he or she seeks. Whether it’s an individual or a group, our librarians are here to help – summer fall, winter, and spring!

This summer, our Board of Trustees is also busy seeking a qualified applicant to fill the two-year unexpired term of Peter Anagnostos, who will resign August 1 due to a move outside our library district. Applications are available online and should be submitted by August 12, 2016.

Shaker Library is a busy, vibrant place that should be included in your summer plans.

Amy Switzer
Interim Director


From the Director: June 2016

In May we bid farewell to our longtime director Luren Dickinson. We wish him the best of luck in his new position in California.

June means school is out and it’s time for summer reading. This summer, our theme is Shaker Reads and our staff has planned exciting programs for children, teens, and adults. In addition to our regular summer offerings, we will offer Snacks and Stories every afternoon at 2:00 p.m. at Main Library.

Also new this year is our Adult Reading Challenge. OverDrive has generously pledged $1 (up to $500) for every book read and rated and we invite you to rise to our challenge and read this summer. Want to learn what’s hot this summer? Join us in the Woods Reading Garden Wednesday evening June 8 when our librarians will offer the scoop on new, not-to-be-missed books.

Summer reading prizes and incentives make reading fun for all. Thanks to the sustained support of our Friends of the Shaker Library which has underwritten our summer reading programs for the past 36 years. Want to learn more about the Friends? Attend their Annual Meeting at 7 pm Monday, June 27 at Main Library when they recap their year, elect officers, and welcome author Gail Ghetia Bellamy, who will speak about Cleveland Food Memories.

Our collaboration with the League of Women Voters continues with an informative discussion on internet bandwidth at 7 pm Thursday, June 9 at Main Library. PubReads at the Larchmere Tavern and staff visits to the First Baptist Church Farmer’s Market find our staff busy in the community as well as in the library.

We have reinstated Play and Learn Babies – a special room on the Main Library second floor just for parents and babies from birth to 12 months –  every Thursday morning.

Finally, we look forward to The Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio tour at Cleveland Public Library from June 20 to July 20.

This summer, Shaker Reads. Please join us.

Amy Switzer
Interim Director

From the Director: May 1, 2016

thumbnail_cupolaAdieu!  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


From the Director: April 1, 2016

“Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!” – William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene V

A public library has many roles and one of them has been described as being an incubator for the arts.  This is the time of year when many of the arts are promoted.  March 19 was National Quilting Day. April is National Poetry Month and Jazz Appreciation Month, and April 21 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Traditionally, the Arts are divided into architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry, dance and theater/cinema, but have more broadly included textile arts, photography, graphic arts, crafts, etc. Shaker Library promotes all of the arts through its many art-related exhibits and programs. The Cavani String Quartet performance at Main Library in late January and the African-American Quilt exhibit in February are just two recent examples.

Perhaps the premiere Shaker Library art event is the Barbara Luton Art Competition, now in its 17th year.  Submissions are juried and the best pieces receive awards with the Best of Show being purchased by the library and displayed for the community to enjoy for years to come.  The 2016 gallery-opening reception and awards ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 3, at Main Library. This year’s exhibit of local art will be available for viewing on the Main Library second floor through May 1.

The library’s art programs are not limited to adults either.  For youth ages 8 to 11, we will offer 2D Video Game Design Classes from 4:15-6:15 p.m. every Wednesday, April 6 through May 11 and 3D Video Game Design classes for youth ages 12 – 15 in the Main Library’s second floor Training Lab from 4- 6 p.m. every Thursday, April 7 through May 12. Participants will be taught skills by experts from Funutation Tech Camps so that they can create their own 3D video games.  The Teen Center will sponsor “5-Minute Poetry for Teens!” this month.  This drop-in program will take place from 3:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, through Thursday, April 28, and will include a unique experience each day.

Saturday afternoon, April 9 we will collaborate with Literary Cleveland when to offer Vital Signs, a poetry workshop with Susan Grimm. Friday, April 29, school-aged prize winners will be announced at the Poster and PoeTree Contest Awards Ceremony, co-sponsored with the City’s Advisory Board, at 4 p.m. at Main Library.  And early next month, at 6:30 p.m. Friday evening, May 6, Shaker Library will host Art Exposed VII with the Shaker Heights High School Art Department.

Of course, we also offer our ongoing Knit Night and Knit Morning programs, the new Coloring Club for Adults, and Poetry in the Woods,the longest running public library series of its type in Ohio!  Even the Library Board is getting into one of the arts—architecture—as it continues working with HBM Architects to refine the renovation possibilities for both the Main Library and Bertram Woods Branch.

Check the Shaker Library website regularly for the dates and times of all our programs and events. While you are there, check out Billy the Bard on the Shakespeare Cam as he promotes the upcoming First Folio exhibit in June and July at Cleveland Public Library.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


From the Director: March 1, 2016

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”
―William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene V

What is the measure of quality library service today? This question is being asked around the country as libraries wrestle with meeting expectations in today’s technological world. People are still using libraries, but differently. How do we meet the changing needs of the public, and are there ways to track our success?

The traditional statistic used by libraries has been to count the number of items checked out to customers. Those numbers ballooned beginning in the 1980s as libraries became a magnet for new users who were interested in music cassettes, books on tape, and the new videocassettes. Over the years, formats changed to CDs and DVDs, but the numbers continued to grow. With the growth of Internet and online access to music, audiobooks, and movies, however, the “video bubble” burst about five years ago and we are now experiencing a dramatic decline in the checkout of audiovisual items as reflected in the chart below.

video bubble

At the same time, the number of books borrowed by the public is declining but at a much lower rate than AV items, while the use of eBooks continues to grow significantly. In fact, for the months of January and February, the circulation of eBooks purchased and restricted to use by Shaker Library cardholders only (and not available to other CLEVNET users) has doubled over the same time last year. If trends continue, the number of physical books and the number of eBooks borrowed should be about equal by the year 2026 with overall “book” circulation about the same as it has been over the past 40 years!

For the future, best practices include providing group study and meeting room space, which Shaker Library has offered for decades; experimenting with new things like hotspots, makerspaces, etc.; removing barriers to access (such as restrictive policies, excessive fines and fees, etc.), and giving the public what it wants whether it might be as non-traditional as cake pans and gardening tools! The latest in strategic planning for libraries is to gear their objectives not just to community needs, but also to solving community problems. New job titles like  Community Engagement Librarian reflect this approach, but good librarians, including Shaker Library staff, have always been involved in their communities and have looked for ways to help their citizens advance.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director

From the Director: February 1, 2016

“Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

The aging infrastructure of Shaker Library’s Main facility was quite noticeable to staff and public alike Tuesday, January 19, when the building was opened  following the MLK Day holiday.  The trouble?  No fire burn, and cauldron bubble! The 23-year-old, dual-boiler system had stopped working sometime between closing on Sunday and opening on Tuesday.  Interior temperatures had fallen below 50 degrees, as it was quite frigid outside that day. While the boilers were eventually restarted, it was taking  too long to heat the building so it was necessary to close for the health and comfort of all.

Despite that setback, excellent progress was made during the month with the installation of new HVAC controls throughout the building.  The expected completion date for the entire project is early February.  The new system is web accessible, providing staff the ability to  monitor and adjust temperatures on a room-by-room or area-by-area basis.

No matter how great the controls, however, they are only as good as the boilers and air conditioning system units to which they are connected!  The actual replacement of the controls system was recommended in the Facilities Assessment and Maintenance Master Plan prepared by HBM Architects and presented to the library in April 2014. We are on schedule with the maintenance timeline in terms of installing the new “building automation system” slated for 2016.  In fact, we are actually ahead of schedule because the current project also includes replacement of VAV boxes—Variable Air Volume devices—that  keep each thermostatically controlled room or area at the desired level of heating or cooling, which were listed to be done in 2017.

Another bit of good news is that the cost of the current controls project will be well under $120,000, which compares quite favorably to the scheduled estimate of more than $300,000!  Nonetheless, Shaker Library still faces facility and maintenance costs approaching $4 million at the Main Library and $1 million at the Bertram Woods Branch over the next 10 years, including nearly a half million dollars to replace the boilers and the chiller at their end of life in 2019!

In light of the survey last summer that measured the attitudes of residents about Shaker Library, the Library Board will continue its strategic planning efforts to provide the best service for the community. The Library hired the R Strategy Group to assist in its efforts to inform the public of the need for long-term improvements.  Secondly, the Board will look at a variety of options for enhancing facilities and services with the bottom line of maximizing the use of tax dollars.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director

From the Director: January 2016

“If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.” Macbeth, Act I, Scene III

As we enter a new year, it is wise to take stock of how we fared in the past year.  2015 was a good year for Shaker Library. More than a million items were checked out for the 15th consecutive year! That is quite an accomplishment considering the competition from Amazon, Redbox, Netflix, cable providers, and the Internet in general!

Considering that the 1,000,000 milestone was first achieved in 1996 and that this level has only been accomplished 17 times in the library’s history, it is even more amazing that the streak has continued uninterrupted for a decade and a half.  It is certainly remarkable that our figures this past year were so good considering the construction projects in and around both library locations, including work on Fayette, Chagrin, Warrensville and Van Aken, as well as construction of the new Lee Road RTA stop, which is nearing completion.

It is not difficult to understand why the circulation of physical library materials has plateaued in recent years with the advent of more digital devices and the availability of content via downloading and streaming. Shaker Library marked its record number of checkouts in 2008. That year was also a record for the most print and non-print items checked out in the history of the library.

The year 2015 still holds up well when compared to past years. The use of electronic material continues to climb with an all-time record of nearly 60,000 uses, a 30% increase over 2014.  That figure represents nearly 6% of the overall total annual circulation, a 50% share increase compared to the just under 4% of total circulation the previous year.  Perhaps in tandem with the increased use of eMedia, use of the library website was up more than 25% over the past twelve months.

The number of people visiting the library also seems to be stabilizing on a year-to-year basis. Attendance at programs climbed slightly, even though fewer programs were offered!  Public use of meeting rooms continues to be steady as does the use of public computer workstations.  The latter may be leveling off, but due to a switch in the computer time-management software, a valid statistical comparison cannot be made until later in 2016.

One of 2015’s notable accomplishments was the first joint countywide summer reading program, “Make Your Summer Count,” in collaboration with several other library systems and cultural institutions. While the program was successful, the joint effort in 2016 will focus on a program during September’s Library Card Sign-Up Month to put library cards in the hands of all school children in Cuyahoga County.

In 2016, Shaker Library will offer more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) programs for youth, and will provide additional support to Family Connections to enable the “Play & Learn Babies” program to be brought back to the schedule in April. Cooperative efforts continue with the Shaker Schools in terms of the achievement gap, art exhibits, early childhood education, and reading improvement.  The Library will also participate with the Schools in its planning process for facilities.

Using endowment funds, the Library has engaged the services of R Strategy Group to begin an education program to make the public more aware of the library’s financial obligations due to costly maintenance and facility needs.

happy new year2Cleveland Public Library and Shaker Library collaborated on a grant to display Shakespeare and His First Folio. Offered by the American Library Association Public Programs Office, in collaboration with the Folger Shakespeare Library and Cincinnati Museum Center, the tour is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. Because we were selected to display the exhibit at Cleveland Public Library from June 20 -July 30, we have declared 2016 “The Year of the Bard.”

In a lighter vein, the library’s bobblehead mascot, “Billy the Bard,” will represent Shaker Library all year—even on holidays!  Follow him on the library’s “Shakespeare Cam,” to see what he’s up to throughout the year!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director