Felton Thomas, Jr.
Director, Cleveland Public Library

A Critical Resource in a Changing Environment

Are libraries a dying breed? It’s a somewhat legitimate question given the increased use of the Internet, Kindles and other non-traditional information sources, in addition to the loss of such bookstore giants as Border’s. To that question I would respond with a resounding “no.” They are not dying; however, they are evolving. Such changes are necessary to keep our Library relevant and responsive in a radically different environment.

In 2011 we focused hard on identifying what resources were needed most in today’s economy and culture. When we look at our current base of patrons, we see that a large percentage of our library card holders are those who struggle the most with the current economy. That means we must continue to offer such traditional services as books, computer training and homework tutoring. But we recognize that, while books are our brand, the physical form of who we are and what we offer does not matter as much as the service and information we provide. Cleveland Public Library is committed to serving the community, but how we do so is dramatically different than it was 20 years ago.

So what changed in 2011? The foundation was put into place to move our Library from a transactional to a transformational system — one that truly has the potential to affect people’s lives in all the areas identified by Greater Cleveland Congregations as being the region’s greatest needs: jobs, education, healthcare, sustainable living and safe neighborhoods. Our Library has a function in all of these areas by either serving as a direct resource or a supportive venue. Whereas we once counted the number of books or programs offered to verify our success, we now think about outcomes and the impact we can make in the community. | MORE »