By Kevin Kelley
Starting Sept. 2, the length of time books, CDs and DVDs can be borrowed from the Cuyahoga County Public Library system will be reduced from three weeks to two weeks.
Officials at the county library system say budget cuts have forced reductions in the number of materials they can purchase. The library’s purchasing budget for 2014 is $8.5 million, down $1 million from the previous year, according to Hallie Rich, the system’s director of marketing and communications.
Sari Feldman, the system’s executive director since 2003, addressed the policy change during her appearance Friday at the City Club of Cleveland’s weekly forum.
“Cuts to our state funding and the ongoing reductions in local property tax have cost the library a cumulative $20 million loss since 2009,” Feldman said.
The reduction in the loan period will allow the library to provide patrons with best sellers and other popular items as quickly as if the purchase budget had remained constant, Feldman explained.
“It’s really to move the most popular materials quickly and satisfy people,” she said.
The system will continue its policy allowing borrowers to renew materials as long as no other patron has requested them.
“So if nobody’s waiting for that material, you can keep it out,” Feldman said.
Feldman, who is president-elect of the American Library Association, told her City Club audience that libraries cannot be seen as “nostalgic throwbacks” that can’t or shouldn’t change.
“If the library profession builds our future exclusively based on what’s worked in the past, then we won’t survive,” she said.
Feldman said she intends to push for greater innovation during her time as the American Library Association’s leader.
“I want to see public libraries do more to embrace convenience, customer service and content creation,” she added.
One national trend likely to have an effect on libraries is collaborative consumption, also known as the sharing economy, in which individuals use the Web to rent something they aren’t using. Examples of libraries emulating the sharing economy, she said, are Cuyahoga County Public Library’s toy borrowing program and the Cleveland Public Library’s seed library, where gardeners plant seeds they later replenish from their garden’s fruits and vegetables.
The period of time toys can be borrowed will also decrease from 21 days to 14 days.
Public libraries also have a role to play in helping people access and use the massive collection of statistics, known as “big data,” made possible by the ubiquitous use of technology, Feldman said.
The county library system has a total of 27 branches. In the Westshore, branches are located in Bay Village, Fairview Park and North Olmsted. Libraries in Rocky River, Westlake and Lakewood are independent.
Andrew Mangels, director of Westlake Porter Public Library, said no plans exist to reduce the loan period there.
“While our budget concerns and constraints are philosophically similar to the county’s – decreasing state funding, lower property values, lower collection rates – the effects have not hit us as hard,” Mangels told West Life. “Our materials budget, I believe, is currently sufficient to meet patron demand for materials.”