Coventry library's Pat Gray retires
After 15 years at the helm of Heights Libraries’ Coventry Village Branch, Patricia Gray will retire on March 1.
As branch manager, Gray was known for her compassion, perceptiveness and creativity. She nurtured the library’s staff, programs and collections, and helped it grow into a neighborhood gathering place that reflects the eclectic needs and interests of the community it serves.
“Pat became synonymous with the Coventry branch and its warm, intelligent programs and services,” said Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin. “Her retirement is bittersweet for all of us—we are thrilled for her to be taking this next step in her journey, but we will miss her so much.”
Gray’s many accomplishments as manager included her development of a local author collection and related author programs, oversight of a remodel that included a new children’s early-literacy play area, nurturing the growth of services for the deaf and hard of hearing, and the establishment of the branch as a place to explore wellness through programs such as meditation and tai chi.
The local author programs thrived in part due to Gray’s ability to connect with others and build partnerships, like the one she shared with Suzanne DeGaetano of Mac’s Backs - Books on Coventry.
“I have loved working with Pat, talking books and collaborating for the [local author] speaker series, the Pekar Park Comic Book Festival, and other Coventry Village events,” said DeGaetano. “Some of the highlights of my work life have been our semi-annual discussions of authors and writers when we scheduled our author events. Pat's warmth, kindness, and deep love of books and reading has enriched our community and my own life.”
That feeling was echoed by Mallory Phillips, executive director of the Coventry Village Special Improvement District. “In my early days working in Coventry, she was a guiding light and haven for me; a place to land and find connection, support and encouragement,” said Phillips. “She has a deep care for the neighborhood and invests herself completely in the people around her. We've worked together on a variety of community events, and she's been a huge supporter of the Coventry Village merchants.”
Gray also has a keen sense for what residents and fans of the neighborhood respond to. With businesses that include the alternative-music club the Grog Shop, independent record store Record Revolution, vegan- and vegetarian-friendly Tommy’s restaurant, and independent coffee shop Phoenix, Coventry Village has a reputation as a haven for creativity and alternative ways of thinking. Under Gray’s leadership, the Coventry branch developed long-standing programs including the weekly ukulele jam, the Step Out of Time alternative health series, and free concerts with the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Gray's replacement is Maggie Kinney, a longtime Coventry library employess.
Kinney began her Heights Libraries career 15 years ago, when Gray hired her as a page. Since then, Kinney has held several positions, including youth services librarian at the Coventry branch and, most recently, as the library’s special projects manager, overseeing programs such as the Mobile Pantry, writing grant applications to support programming, and coordinating the library’s participation in countywide projects, such as One Community Reads.
“Pat has been a wonderful mentor and guiding force in my career from the very beginning,” said Kinney. “I couldn't be more excited to have the opportunity to build on her achievements."
[To read more about Gray's library career, look for the Q-and-A on Heights Libraries blog, at www.heightslibrary.org.]
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.