Library Facilities

From the Director November 2017

Shaker Library Facility and Funding Update

Shaker Library belongs to the residents of Shaker Heights. It was conceived and built through the efforts of generations of Shaker residents. Shaker Library is one of Shaker Heights’ most valuable civic assets and the Shaker Library Board is charged with protecting it and ensuring it provides benefits and services to current and future generations of Shaker residents.

As its Director, one of my most important jobs is to regularly update our community about the health of their Library.

I’m happy to report that Shaker Library is one of the best library systems in America. We are fiscally sound and in 2016, Shaker Library was ranked in the the top 2% of libraries its size nationally. Four out of five residents use Shaker Library annually, and more than half use it at least once a month. In 2016, Shaker Library users borrowed nearly one million items and visited our Library nearly half a million times.

Shaker Library is serving Shaker well and we are working hard to ensure it can continue to do so.

In 2014, Shaker Library completed a comprehensive building assessment that concluded that its facilities need $5.1 million in repairs and maintenance. These needs may not seem obvious at first, but they have significantly affected library services. Problems with the Main Library’s HVAC system regularly make the library either too hot or too cold for visitors. At times, the Main Library has been forced to close because of its HVAC challenges. Leaks in the roof threaten to damage the library’s collection, and last year a problem with a sewer line created a stench in the library’s lowest level.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, we worked to find the right answer to our facilities challenges. We held a series of public meetings, gathered feedback from residents, worked with architects and engineers, and conducted an extensive study of seven possible solutions. The options we studied varied dramatically and included drastically curtailing library operations, consolidating library services into a single, new facility, and investigating whether Shaker Library should become part of the Cuyahoga County Public Library system – a process that Ohio law calls “inclusion.”

We learned a lot during this process. Initially, the Library Board and staff preferred the idea of building a single, new library to replace the existing Main Library and Bertram Woods Branch. Shaker residents, however, thought differently, preferring that we upgrade and continue operating our two current locations. We listened and shifted our thinking.

In December 2016, the Library Board unanimously decided to repair and renovate both library facilities, which will create important opportunities and benefits for Shaker residents, including:

  • Improved meeting and community gathering spaces.
  • Greater convenience and accessibility throughout the Library.
  • Adaptable rooms that can be reconfigured to meet group learning and collaboration needs.
  • Up-to-date technology and trained staff to help residents use it.
  • Tools to ensure that all residents can connect with the digital world.

Throughout 2017, we have worked on refining our plans and finding ways to minimize our costs, while ensuring Shaker residents receive the Library services they want and deserve.

Throughout its 80-year history, Shaker Library’s goal has been to maximize Shaker’s return on investment and deliver the best-possible library services at the lowest possible cost. As thoughtful stewards of taxpayer dollars, we have worked hard to minimize what Shaker Library asks of taxpayers. Shaker Library receives a tiny portion of Shaker Heights property tax revenue. Shaker Library’s 4.0 voted mills is just 2% of Shaker’s total property tax millage and is below the average tax millage of the nine public libraries in Cuyahoga County that have property tax levies.

Since 2008, the revenue Shaker Library receives from the State of Ohio has decreased by 19% and revenue from local property taxes has declined by 18%. As a result, Shaker Library’s revenue is now the lowest it has been in 10 years. Instead of asking voters for more money to make up for these decreases, Shaker Library cut costs, including reducing its staff by 16%.

 We can’t upgrade our facilities, however, just by cutting costs. So, in the coming weeks the Shaker Library Board will vote on placing a small millage increase on the May 2018 ballot.

The small increase our Board will vote to approve will be the first millage increase for Shaker Library in over 20 years. The last time the Library asked for an increase in millage was in 1997.

The cost of this increase to Shaker Heights property owners would be $67 per $100,000 of home value—a little more than 18¢ per day. Two-thirds of the funds this levy would generate would be allocated to repairing and upgrading the Library’s facilities. The remaining one-third of the funds would pay for library operating expenses, including adding year-round Sunday hours.

In the coming weeks, Shaker Library will make presentations to Shaker Heights City Council and the Shaker Heights Board of Education to discuss its intentions for the future. We will keep you updated regularly on our progress and look forward to talking with you more about the benefits of an upgraded, independent Shaker Library.

Amy L. Switzer
Director, Shaker Heights Public Library

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 Library’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.

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

(this presentation is no longer available)

(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.