From the Director 4/2014

April message to the community from Luren E. Dickinson:

The public library is an institution of education and has been from its beginnings. The great benefactor Andrew Carnegie, who donated millions toward the construction of such facilities around the world, felt that public libraries provided free education, fostered growing communities, and gave people the tools they needed to succeed.

The public library is often called “the people’s university” because it is available to everyone, regardless of age, skill level or ability to pay.  Over the years with the advent of more entertainment material, especially in audiovisual and digital format, however, the educational impact of public libraries has become undervalued.

Howard County Library in Maryland, Library Journal’s “Library of the Year for 2013,” is one library is particular that has been begun re-emphasizing the educational importance of public libraries through its “A+ Partnership in Education” with the Howard County Public School System.

This “A+” collaboration between the public library and the public schools formalized many of the cooperative efforts that often exist in similar communities, such as assignment alerts from school teachers to librarians, homework help being made available in the library after school hours, and collections geared to recommended school reading lists.

The Howard County model goes a step further than most school-library partnerships because it includes regular meetings of key staff from each institution to monitor progress and make improvements.  In addition, the Library has rebranded its services by using educational language.

They offer “preschool” and “K-5 classes” rather than using the “storytime” label. They provide “research assistance and instruction” rather than “reference question” answers.  The library offers “self-directed education” instead of “lifelong learning” and “instructive and enlightening experiences” that might previously have been described as “programs” and “exhibits” and the like.

It is a proactive approach that places a higher profile on the library’s product by using higher valued educational language.  Just as in most other parts of the country, Ohio’s public libraries are pillars in our state’s educational system.  Our librarians are educators providing equal access to quality education, regardless of age, background or means.

As our local Shaker Schools move forward with their strategic planning process under the leadership of a new Superintendent, and as they redefine their administrative organization, now is the perfect time for us to solidify that School-Library relationship through an “A+ Partnership.”  It would be a perfect complement to what we have already been doing community-wide with out-of-school-time activities through our MyCOM grants in cooperation with the Shaker Heights Youth Center and many other groups.

Check out the education being offered by the Shaker Library on our new website by going to the “Events and Classes” tab at and see things as varied as Play and Learn, Read to a Dog, Homework Help, GED, English in Action, SAT Boot Camp, Knitting, Genealogical research, “Understanding Devices,” Results-oriented resumes, Poetry in the Woods, Low maintenance gardening, Shaker High’s annual art exhibit (“Art Exposed V” on Friday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m.), and much, much more!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director