Outgoing library board president honors benefactor
On Dec. 21, Rob Fischer, Heights Libraries outgoing board president, called the library board to order for the last time. Fischer’s term ended in December, and one of his last acts as president was to dedicate and rename the Children’s Room at the Lee Road Library in honor of Grace F. Brody, library customer and generous benefactor.
Brody, who died in March 2014 at the age of 98, made Heights Libraries one of two recipients (along with the Cleveland Public Library) of the remainder of her estate, which is valued at approximately $1 million. Brody was a resident of Cleveland Heights and a retired faculty member of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University. Brody did extensive research and writing in the area of family development and child rearing, and provided the funding for an endowed chair at Mandel, the Grace F. Brody Professor of Parent-Child Studies.
Fischer is currently a research professor at the Mandel School and, while he did not have a chance to work with Brody, his current work complements her research, focusing on the evaluation of programs to improve the well-being of children. Since 2001, he has led the Mandel Center’s research on Invest in Children, a countywide early childhood initiative that includes home visiting, children’s health and childcare components.
“Our times at Mandel did not overlap, but our work was certainly related, as well as our passion for improving outcomes for young children,” said Fischer. “So I felt very honored to dedicate the children’s area to Dr. Brody as one of my last acts as board president.”
Part of Brody’s gift has been used to turn a large corner of the Lee Road Library children’s area into an early-literacy play area—similar to those at the Coventry Village and Noble Neighborhood libraries—with toys, furniture and other objects that encourage hands-on, imaginative play and other early-literacy activities that can improve a child’s readiness for school. The gift will also be used to create a new designated children’s area in the University Heights Library, scheduled for renovation in 2016.
Fischer’s service on the board was inspired by a professional commitment to improving the lives of the community’s children, as well as by his own children. “I came to the board as someone who had seen his own children thrive when connected to the resources at our Heights Libraries,” he said. “I leave with a much deeper appreciation of the quality of the library services available in the Heights, and confident that the library leadership has a focus on making the library’s offerings line up with what the community wants and needs. It has been an honor to serve the community in this way.”
During Fischer’s time on the board, Heights Libraries reinstated Sunday hours at all branches; reinstated Friday hours at the Coventry branch; proceeded with plans to undertake a renovation and expansion of the University Heights branch, including the retaining of an architect; opened a new children’s area at the Coventry branch; and earned the top, five-star rating from the Library Journal's Index of Public Library Service for seven years in a row.
The new board president is Rick Ortmeyer, who has been a board member since 2012. He has been a Cleveland Heights resident for nine years, and is a principal at the architecture firm Bostwick Design Partnership in Cleveland, where he has worked on several local library projects, including the Cleveland Public Library’s Rice branch and the Cuyahoga County Public Library’s Gates Mills branch. Ortmeyer’s term will expire in 2016.
Sheryl Banks is the marketing and community relations manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.