Library Facilities

Library Board Votes to Accept Facility Options Study and Recommendations

At its December 14 meeting, the Library Board accepted the amended Facility Options Study and Recommendation to renovate upgrade both facilities as its Final Document.  A summary of community comments entitled, Appendix M: Community Feedback on Shaker Library’s Facility Options Study, was added to the executive summary of the document. The facility study information is available here.

Library Trustees agreed that the facility study showed a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the library’s options. The Board believes that it is obligated to the community to fully explore Option 3, UPGRADE and to give the community a chance to weigh in on its support.

The next step is to determine the final budget and to propose funding for community review. Preliminary financial projections were prepared as part of the study and we now must develop the final budget for the project. The earliest we would be on the ballot is November 2017. This is not only because of the work we need to do for our project, but also because we have great respect for the schools’ process and want voters to have the opportunity to address each issue separately.

In response to the suggestion that the Library Board seek inclusion with Cuyahoga County Public Library, the Board noted that seeking inclusion curtails the opportunity to explore other options and that it is important to give voters a voice before irrevocably giving away an asset Shaker residents have spent the last 80 years building and supporting.


Shaker Heights Public Library Facility Options Study October 10, 2016

The Library Board presented its Draft Facilities Options Study at its October 10, 2016 Meeting and presented its Executive Summary as follows. The complete report and all the appendices are included as links at the end of this Executive Summary. If you have comments, please contact the Director or members of the Library Board.



A 2014 study identified approximately $5 million in capital repairs and maintenance for Shaker Heights Public Library facilities. Of these repairs, approximately $4 million is required for the Shaker Main Library and $1 million for the Bertram Woods Branch. Completing these repairs, however, will not update or modernize the library for 21st-Century needs; it merely maintains the status quo. The Bertram Woods Branch was last renovated in 2003. An updated computer center was created at the Main Library in 2011, but prior to this addition, the last significant renovation to the Main Library was in 2001.

This study was initiated to help guide the Shaker Heights Public Library Board of Trustees to the best solution for meeting the Library’s facilities needs.

Options Studied

With the advice of Library staff, the Library Board of Trustees identified seven options for addressing its facilities needs. These options are analyzed as part of this study:

Option Name Description
1 Maintain Keep both buildings as they are; make the required repairs noted in the 2014 facility assessment; do not undertake service or facility improvements.
2 Replace Replace two aging facilities with one new, up-to-date facility.
3 Upgrade Keep and update both facilities to make them more modern and flexible.
4 Limit Keep both buildings but significantly reduce service at the Main Library in an effort to reduce costs.
5 Joint/Co-Locate Partner with the Shaker Schools on a joint or co-located facility at the Bertram Woods branch location while upgrading the Main Library.
6 Contract Operate within current revenue and avoid going on the ballot.
7 Combine Join the Cuyahoga County Public Library system.


At their March 3, 2016 retreat the Library Board of Trustees agreed upon the following criteria to assess each option:

Is the option Forward-Thinking and Differentiated?
Will the option be Uniquely Shaker?
Will the option be Less Expensive?
Will the option encourage Community Partnerships?
Will the option Grow Usage and usefulness to the community?
Will the option make Shaker Library a Destination?


The Shaker Heights Public Library Board of Trustees accepts the analysis of the facility options in this report. Based on community feedback and the results of this facility study, the Board has determined that maintaining two full-service branches is important for the Shaker Heights community. Therefore, the Board recommends pursuing Option 3: Upgrade.

Option 3: Upgrade received the highest score based on the criteria. It provides the most value to the community and is responsive to the clear preference expressed by residents for Shaker Heights Public Library to maintain both the Main Library with its traditional architecture in the Moreland neighborhood and the Bertram Woods Branch.

Another viable option the Board considered was Option 2: Replace, the second-highest scoring option. It provides substantially lower costs over the long-term; however, it is not responsive to community preferences in regard to historic architecture and branch count. Other options that were less expensive do not provide the value to the community that maintaining and updating the current locations provides.

As a contingency option, the Library is open to exploring Option 5: Joint/Co-Locate at the Shaker Heights Middle School location, if it offers both an upgraded Main Library equivalent to that in Option 3: Upgrade and provides a branch facility designed to be equivalent to an upgraded Bertram Woods with respect to parking, access, grade level, and approximately 12,000 square feet for public library services at typical public library hours. Option 5: Joint/Co-Locate was evaluated based on these specifications.

Next Steps

To allow time to solicit community comment, the Library Board of Trustees introduced this study at its October 10, 2016 meeting and intends to vote on the recommendations it contains at the December 14, 2016 Board Meeting, which will be held at the Main Library.

Decisions about the precise funding method to be proposed (e.g., operating levy v. bond issue) will be made after further research and discussion.

Community Feedback Summary

The library held community feedback forums on November 12, November 13, and November 17. The library presented the facility recommendation to city council on December 5 and to the school board on December 13. The library also participated in a League of Women Voters Forum with the city and schools on December 8.

Most respondents from the community indicated support for the library’s recommendation or requested more information about the options. A minority expressed a strong preference for the library to pursue inclusion with Cuyahoga County Public Library.

Mayor Leiken has reiterated his position that the Shaker Library should pursue the option of inclusion in the County library system.  Members of City Council have expressed concern about taxes and Shaker’s long-term sustainability, and have emphasized the need to find less expensive ways to provide services.

There is consensus among the library, the schools, and the city that collaboration and partnerships to address tax issues in Shaker are important.

See Appendix M for more information about the community feedback the library received about the facility options study and recommendation to pursue Option 3: UPGRADE.

Report: Facility Options Study


Appendix A: Auditor’s Review  Appendix B: Facilities Assessment and Maintenance Master Plan (April 2014)  Appendix C : Community and Staff Visioning Sessions (World Cafe Summary (September 2014 )
Appendix D: Criteria Research with Sources Appendix  E: Usage Driver Assessment Appendix F: Research on Joint Facilities
Appendix G: Questions on the Proposed Analysis of the Possibility of the Cuyahoga County Public Library Providing Service to the Shaker Heights Public Library District Appendix H: Summary of Responses from Cuyahoga County Public Library to Shaker Libray’s May 2016 Questions Appendix I: Assessment of Likely Operating Profile for the County Inclusion Option
Appendix J: Source Documents for Assessment of Likely Operating Profile for County Inclusion Option Appendix K: Financials Appendix L: 2014 Return on Investment
Appendix M: Community Feedback Fall 2016


Board to Select a Facility Option Based on Six Criteria

The Library Board of Trustees continues its study of facility options and plans to decide which option to pursue at its October 10, 2016 Board Meeting.

As part of the decision-making process the Board has developed six criteria to assess each of the facility options.

The facility options are:

  • 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.
  • Partner with the Shaker Schools on a joint facility at the Bertram Woods location
  • Never go on the ballot again and operate within current funding levels
  • Join the Cuyahoga County Public Library system.

The criteria by which the board will judge each option are:

  • Is the option forward-thinking and differentiated?
  • Will the option be uniquely Shaker?
  • Will the option be financially responsible?
  • Will the option encourage community partnerships?
  • Will the option grow usage?
  • Will the option make Shaker Library a destination?

See the options evaluation matrix and criteria summary for more information on each.

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


Library Board President’s Statement to the Mayor’s Financial Task Force

August 18, 2016

Mayor Leiken, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Task Force:

I would like to start by saying that the other members of the Shaker Heights Public Library Board of Trustees and I understand the importance of the charge Mayor Leiken has given to this Task Force. We share with the Task Force a commitment to preserving Shaker’s quality of life while minimizing the tax burden on residents.

And we applaud the time and effort Task Force members have committed to this challenge. As members of the Board that has statutory responsibility for Shaker Library, we understand what this kind of volunteer service entails.

The report the Task Force is considering tonight raises the question of the most cost effective way to provide library services to Shaker residents and recommends that the Board of Trustees of the Shaker Heights Public Library begin the process of merging in to the Cuyahoga County Public Library system. This process is called “inclusion” and when a Library Board votes for inclusion in a county system, they are saying, “Here, please take this off our hands.” It amounts to giving away your independent library and its assets.

As members of the Task Force already know, inclusion is also a question Shaker Library has chosen to explore. We are facing $5 million in much-needed repairs to our facilities – $4 million for the Main Library in the old Moreland School building and $1 million for the Bertram Woods branch – and we have an obligation to Shaker residents to examine all viable options for solving this problem.

We have been developing an analysis of our options and have identified seven possible solutions. One of these options is seeking inclusion within the County system. As we previously informed the Task Force, we are carefully doing our diligence on each option and we anticipate reporting on our findings in September.

Despite our shared interest in this topic, however, I will be voting NO tonight on the question of accepting this report and its recommendations.

My NO vote tonight should not be seen as negative commentary on the Cuyahoga County Library system. Like Shaker Library, the Cuyahoga County Public Library is considered one of the best library systems of its type in the country.

My NO vote also should not be interpreted as a statement against merger with the Cuyahoga County system. 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.

Presenting a recommendation on inclusion as this report does, however, communicates both to the Library Board and to Shaker residents that the Task Force now considers inclusion a closed question, a question for which it has an answer.

The reason I will vote NO on accepting this report is that it does not, in fact, close the question. It takes a position on the disposition of Shaker Library, while leaving many critical concerns unanswered or only partially addressed.

I have expressed to the Task Force on multiple occasions my belief that due diligence on the possibility of inclusion requires a rigorous examination of a host of issues. As a part of Shaker Library’s analysis of its policy options, we developed a ten-page memo outlining questions about the impact on inclusion that we felt were necessary to reach an informed conclusion. I provided this memo to the Task Force in the hope that it would consider them.

The Task Force report, however, looks at very little beyond the effect that merging Shaker Library into the county system would have on property taxes.

This report provides limited data about Shaker Library and omits important information about its operations. It was developed with minimal requests for information from Shaker Library’s staff and board and it was discussed at meetings that were scheduled at times when Shaker Library’s representatives had informed the Task Force that they were unable to attend.

The report speaks only in the broadest terms about the impact that inclusion would have on services and on the partnerships with local organizations that Shaker Library has built over the years. It is silent on the differences between having our library governed by local residents and having governed by a county system, and the effects that changing our library’s governance will have on decisions that affect Shaker residents. And it doesn’t examine how the county system determines the locations from which it will provide services and the impact that may or may not have on our two current library branches.

I understand that some may think that answering these questions is beyond the Task Force’s purview, but our charge isn’t just minimizing the tax burden alone. It’s doing so while preserving Shaker’s quality of life, which, in my view, makes them relevant to the Task Force.

But even if you believe this Task Force should look at fiscal issues with minimal context, this report leaves important questions about the fiscal issues it raises unanswered.

Using effective millage numbers – the percentages that determine what homeowners actually pay – inclusion in the county library system would result in a reduction of millage of 1.3 mills, which around 1% of Shaker’s total property tax millage. This difference amounts to a reduction in annual property taxes of a little more than a dime per day – $40.97 per year – for every $100,000 in home value.

Shaker Library has operated independently as a Shaker civic institution for almost 80 years. Unlike many of Shaker’s other institutions, it was not part of the Van Sweringen’s master plan – it was conceived and built through the effort of generations of Shaker residents. Its assets and operations have been paid for by taxpayer dollars, state funding and contributions from the community.

The MFTF’s report recommends that in return for savings of a little more than a dime a day, Shaker should give all of this away.

And it does so without a complete picture of the costs and benefits involved.

The looming question about cost is that there is no guarantee that the County system will continue to operate the Main Library in the old Moreland School. There are strong reasons for them not to. The City owns Moreland School and the Library is its tenant. The building needs $4 million of repairs. Instead of paying for these repairs, the simplest solution for the County Library would be to move out of Moreland School and serve Shaker residents through the Woods branch and their other nearby County Library branches. It would immediately reduce their capital needs by $4 million. And the City of Shaker Heights would be left with the responsibility for another empty school building – one that needs $4 million of repairs.

The pressing question about the benefits of inclusion is how long the County library millage will remain at its current level. There is no guarantee that Cuyahoga County Public Library will not seek a property tax increase. Right now, Shaker voters alone control the Library’s tax millage; after inclusion, Shaker voters will have only a limited impact on the decision. If the County system pursues a tax increase, Shaker residents could find in the near future that they gave away their library, saddled the city with an empty school building that needs $4 million in repairs and no longer have any property tax reduction to show for it.

Because of these unanswered questions, I view inclusion in the County library system as an open question and see the recommendation in this report as being premature. It lacks the evidence necessary to provide much guidance to the Shaker Library Board about how to proceed. We can and will, however, take it under advisement as a matter of opinion.

Mr. Chairman, I will provide these comments to you in writing and would respectfully ask that they be included as a dissenting opinion with this report, should it be adopted by the Task Force. It is my hope that you will agree to do so. Our meetings are conduced in private, without minutes, and Shaker residents should have access to the full scope of our discussion on this issue.

Thank you for allowing me to comment.

Chad Anderson, President Library Board of Trustees
Shaker Heights Public Library

From the Director June 2015

Shaker Library recently hired the TRIAD Research Group to conduct a community survey of 500 registered voters in the Shaker Heights School District via landlines and cell phones. It will be a random sample with interviews stratified across the district in proportion to the distribution of voters and by gender. The survey was tentatively scheduled to begin May 27 and to be completed in early June.

The purpose of the survey is to measure the perceived need and support for replacing or renovating existing facilities, per the strategic plan approved in 2012. As a means of remaining fiscally strong in a time of diminishing tax dollars, the plan directed the Library to explore the possibility of a single new facility to replace two aging structures.

As part of this process earlier action steps included a Facilities Assessment, conducted by HBM Architects in early 2014. That study showed it would cost approximately $5 million over the next 10 years to maintain both library buildings. Just to bring the Library’s structures up to an acceptable level of maintenance, with no regard for modernizing them to provide 21st century library service, it would take $4 million for the 89-year-old Main Library and $1 million for the 55-year-old Bertram Woods Branch.

Following the assessment, a Feasibility Study by HBM Architects looked at ways of allocating future maintenance dollars to renovation and/or new construction. It culminated in two World Café information sessions last September. These public forums presented a variety of concepts and solicited input from citizens as to modern library design, location possibilities, and cost factors.

A comprehensive, professional survey is being conducted now because the Library needs to hear more about what members of the community think and feel about our facilities.

The survey will attempt to:

• Assess basic attitudes toward Shaker Library as a community institution
• Examine public perceptions about the conditions of the library’s buildings and the need to update them
• Measure the level of support and opposition for a possible bond issue to pay for replacing or renovating the library buildings
• Test specific arguments and themes both for and against a bond issue to replace or renovate library buildings.

It is expected that an initial summary of the survey results will be presented to the Library Board of Trustees at its regular meeting on June 8. A final written report should be submitted by the end of the month.

At this time, no decisions have been made about library facilities or whether the Library would be going on the ballot in the near future. Community feedback from the survey will guide that decision-making. The survey results will also help the Library to shape the key messages that would resonate with residents and be effective in gaining and reinforcing public support for facility improvements as well as potential ballot initiatives.

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


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

Shaker Library World Cafe

World Cafe Table Talks at Main Library

The library is wWorld Cafe 4orking with HBM Architects to study the feasibility of  renovation and/or new construction at both Main Library and Bertram Woods Branch.

On Saturday September 6, 2014 community members learned about Shaker Library’s Facilities Assessment and Feasibility Study and offered feedback on concepts for renovation and/or new construction at both Main Library and Bertram Woods Branch.

HBM presented information on trends in library design and services and asked participants to share their likes and dislikes for a variety of spaces throughout libraries. Couldn’t make it to the World Cafe? It’s not too late to share your thoughts on design trends.



Watch the presentation

(Click start and then click the forward and back arrows to move through the presentation.)

Share your thoughts

Now tell us about your preferences on library interiors. We’d also love to hear what you think the most appropriate architectural style for Shaker Library is.

If you have other thoughts you would like to share, please email the Director, Luren Dickinson.

About HBM Architects

HBM is a nationally recognized architectural firm focused on library planning and design throughout the country. Their growth nationally and history of success with libraries is built on a collaborative approach to design and community involvement. They have worked with more than 250 libraries since the firm was established in 1976. HBM explores and helps shape library trends and are known for a broad range of design solutions and architectural styles creating buildings that resonate with the unique character of each community.