Student Works | Weatherhead School at Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland Public Library

Cleveland Public Library

Executive Summary

Historically, the Cleveland Public Library, which turns 150-years old in 2019, has served as a service-oriented information source for Ohioans by providing free public access to its collections and services. Today the Library continues its service-based posture by offering an eclectic assortment of resources, programming, and learning tools for its users.

Libraries throughout America and the world are going through a major period of transition. Long a bastion of culture, learning and bedrocks of the community – libraries face funding cuts, a dramatic shift in user attendance and expectations and a variety of competing alternatives, largely search engines and book stores. For the Cleveland Public Library, recognized as one of the top research libraries in the United States, the numbers tell the story. In 1992, the Downtown hub of the Cleveland Public Library system had over 1 million visitors and 173 employees; while as of 2011, attendance had fallen to just under 600,000 visitors and there were roughly 33% less employees. Corresponding to the collapse in attendance and reduction in headcount has been drastic funding cuts, most significantly in 2009, after the state reduced the local government funds available, including those of libraries.

While the Cleveland Public Library asked us to address more spatially oriented concerns/issues, throughout our research we determined that the spatial issues were secondary to the following cultural issues related to communication and trust. These 4 cultural issues were evident in three separate relationships – "Administration and Staff," "Staff and Staff," and "Library and The Public." Firstly, there are communication breakdowns between high-level administrators and front-line employees, leading to culture of fear and misunderstanding by library staff. Secondly, responsibility and initiative is lacking in many ways – no sense of team, a high level of insecurity, and unfamiliarity with one another. Finally, and most importantly, words don't match actions. Culture of fear, disconnect and skepticism. "Access" to materials isn't enough. Extraction of content and value is of huge importance.

Academic Year

Fall 2013 – Spring 2014

Team Members

  • Tom Brown
  • Bridget Mahovlic
  • Rosie Varela
  • Dan Whalen