Shaker Library’s ever-evolving methods of access to information reflect strategic moves into a range of services beyond book lending.
The traditional image of a library likely includes a library card, stacks of books, and a librarian at the circulation desk. But the world has changed dramatically in the 83 years since Shaker Library was founded. The card catalog is digitized, self-check computers sit on the circulation desks, and those stacks of books have been moved to make more space for studying, independently and collaboratively, and for meetings, programs, and other events.
Libraries are aggressively moving into a range of services beyond book lending. Today’s libraries provide comprehensive services to help their communities grow and thrive. Today, people come to the library to find a new job, learn a skill, take a GED test, or an ESL class – to find information to improve their lives.
Since its founding, Shaker Library has focused on creating readers, providing facts and information, and teaching all ages how to find, evaluate, and use the Library’s vast resources. The Library, like our schools, is dedicated to helping shape the minds and characters of caring, contributing citizens.
Shaker Library began its institutional life in 1922 at Boulevard School with a small collection primarily for children. By 1937, the demand for more extensive service and evening and weekend hours prompted the Board of Education to create a School District library.
In 1955, the first Shaker Library building opened on Lee Road, complete with card catalogs on all floors to help readers and researchers find the material they needed. In 1983, the Library automated its catalog and joined the CLEVNET system to provide access to more material. New electronic ways of finding material replaced the hard-copy card catalog; electronic advances continue to change how the Library serves its patrons.
As the demand for service increased, the Library renovated the former Moreland School on Van Aken Boulevard and moved into the spacious quarters in 1993. Public computers were introduced in 1994; every year since, the Library has set new records for computer usage. The Library staff subsequently added computer classes to its public programs, and created a website.
The Library’s self-checkout service and self-pickup of holds debuted in 2013. With the introduction of eReaders and tablets, Shaker Library added more services designed for these devices, including digital magazines and movies, music, audiobooks, and TV programs through Hoopla! and OverDrive. For children, the Library keeps current with purchases of Wonderbooks and VOX books for children. These new devices transform an ordinary book into an all-in-one read-along with no need for computers, tablets, or CDs; children simply push a button to listen and read.
The Library’s original website was created by Sofia Wu and Margaret Simon. By 2014, as the public was firmly familiar with using websites, the Library established a website task force and, with the help of Epstein Design Partners, created shakerlibrary.org, a more accessible platform for its patrons.
To ensure that customers have access to 21st-century technology, the Library created a Digital Services Department in 2015, and promoted Adult Services Librarian and Technology Specialist Susie Brown as its manager. Brown develops, coordinates, and directs the Library’s digital services, supervises Support Specialist Drew Perkins, and IT oversees the Computer Center, technology classes, and the Library’s social media and web presence.
“Susie was the perfect choice to manage our digital presence,” says Library Director Amy Switzer. “Not only is she knowledgeable, but she is comfortable with uncertainty and can act with agility. She and Drew Perkins are responsive to both the staff and the public, and during the pandemic, they have been critical to our many successes, shepherding staff in the use of YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Zoom.”
The Library has become both a real and virtual community hub where staff deliver programs and engage visitors in lifelong learning. Virtual programs include how-to programs for adults and creative storytimes for children broadcast on the Library’s YouTube channel where people can tune in anytime, and the Library’s wi-fi is accessible from its parking lot, so even when the Library is closed, people can sit outside and connect.
There is no doubt that the way people use the Library has changed. While the public may borrow as many print items as years ago, the demand for the circulation of physical items will likely decline as new electronic formats are introduced.
In 2020, as the Library continues to adapt and grow to provide the most up-to-date services for the public, staff has not lost sight of the importance of connecting with its community. Says Switzer, “Serving the people of Shaker is at the heart of the library’s mission to provide an essential place for learning and gathering.