Message to the community from Luren E. Dickinson:
Will Shaker Heights Public Library be indispensable in 20 years? Van Dyke Architects asked this as they began their presentation to the Library review team as one of four finalists in our search for an architectural firm to complete the renovation of Main Library. They had focused on the key word from our strategic plan—that we want to be “indispensable” to the community—and they flipped it entirely! In planning for the future, it is difficult to see beyond the next eighteen months, much less five years or a decade, but 20 years got us thinking.
Because of the thoughtfulness, creativity, and new ideas put forth by the Van Dyke group, and the discussion generated among staff and Board reviewers, they were the consensus choice to help us carry out our Library Renovation & Redesign Project. As with any effort of this type, there may be more plans than accomplishments, but we feel that we can take a fresh approach to our current situations with an eye twenty years down the road.
Public libraries have garnered regional and national attention lately because they have been so busy in the midst of an economic slowdown. Theoretically, the Internet was to have made libraries and books obsolete; however, people continue to come to libraries, not just to use the Internet, but also to read books and to use other free library material and services.
Many have likened this trend of increased library use to the period of the Great Depression when libraries were swamped with people looking for jobs, trying to educate themselves, or seeking free entertainment. People are doing the same things today, but in different ways. Instead of looking for jobs only in newspapers, folks are going to the Internet to search and to apply for jobs online. Instead of using just books to educate themselves, they are using a variety of media, as well as learning how to use computers. Instead of just reading books, people are checking out music CDs, audiobooks, DVDs, etc.
Shaker Library is certainly no exception to this phenomenon. We have had all-time record usage during the past two years, and 2008 is on pace to set another new standard. The number of items checked out in July was 7% higher than the same month last year, and we are more than 3% ahead of 2007 year-to-date.
Another national trend is the use of video game systems in public libraries. Shaker Library recently received a $16,433 grant from Cuyahoga County to expand our Teen Center programming during the summer and to fund out-of-school-time activities. Some of the activities funded will involve the Nintendo Wii, the SONY PlayStation, and the Microsoft Xbox 360 gaming systems. Because so many libraries are venturing into computer games, the Verizon Foundation granted $1,000,000 to the American Library Association to study how video games affect literacy and problem-solving skills.
This fall, Shaker Library will be part of a community-wide planning study, funded through a $175,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation through its Youth Development Initiative. South Shaker (which includes Ludlow, Moreland, Lomond, and Sussex) is the focal point of the study that seeks to provide out-of-school-time activities for school-age youth and Main Library is located in the center of this target area. If our planning efforts are successful, our community may be in line to receive operational support grants for activities over the next several school years.
Luren E. Dickinson, Director