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 July 2015

The recent community survey conducted by Shaker Library through the TRIAD Research Group, had some interesting, as well as unexpected, results. 500 registered voters in the Shaker Heights School District were interviewed by the marketing research firm. The purpose of the survey was to measure the perceived need and support for replacing or renovating existing facilities, per the strategic plan approved in 2012. As a means of staying fiscally strong in a time of diminishing tax dollars, the plan has directed the Library to explore the possibility of a single new facility to replace two aging structures.

Earlier action steps as part of this process included the Facilities Assessment, conducted by HBM Architects in early 2014. That study showed it would cost $5 million over the next 10 years just to bring the 89-year-old Main Library and 55-year-old Bertram Woods Branch up to an acceptable maintenance level—with no regard for modernizing them for 21st century library service.

Later, a Feasibility Study by HBM Architects looked at ways of putting funds into renovation and/or new construction rather than maintenance. It culminated in the World Café last September. These public forums presented a variety of concepts and solicited input from concerned citizens as to modern library design, location possibilities, and cost factors.

Survey respondents skewed slightly female, as does the overall population of Shaker Heights, with family and racial representation similar to the census. The group leaned more heavily to those aged 50 and older, since most voters tend to be in that group, and just over half had lived here more than 20 years.

Positive results were that 85% felt satisfied or very satisfied to live in the community and 93% shared similar feelings about the Library with 71% agreeing a good job was done with available funding. 79% had used the Library in the last year and just over half visited weekly or monthly. 94% said a good public library is important to the quality of life in Shaker Heights.
The real disconnect in public perceptions related to facilities. In general, a clear majority of up to 59% think the library buildings are in adequate or good condition. Only a quarter of the respondents thought that minor repairs might be necessary. A similar majority opposed closing Bertram Woods Branch in favor of a renovated Main Library and/or a new single facility.

Losses in both state funding and local property tax collections did not seem to influence the opinions given with 60% saying that lower income did not make a difference in whether a new facility was needed. 54% said the age of the current structures also was not a factor with 74% wishing to preserve the Main Library as an “historic” building even though it was originally a school.

Some shift of opinion was detected as 42% agreed they might support closing Bertram Woods if it saved $1 million in annual operating costs. Likewise, over one third supported a new Main facility if it could be built while the current library remained open. The most-desired services—in the 80 to 90% range—were accessibility, up-to-date technology, and adequate parking. Space for children/families, meetings, and teens fell in the 55 to 75% range. When asked about more innovative services, such as a drive-up window, reading garden, or café, only “creative learning spaces” reached the 40% level.

According to TRIAD, organizations needing support must convince the public of:

  1. Performance;
  2. Need;
  3.  Importance; and
  4.  Cost.

Shaker Library has done a good job with performance, but it has to show the public the need for facility improvements, devise a plan that is seen as important, and justify the cost that would be necessary to complete the work. Now is the time to continue this dialog with various stakeholders and the community in general!

Luren E. Dickinson, Director


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 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!