Crenshaw served library during tumultuous time
Heights Libraries Board President Gabe Crenshaw will complete her term on the library board at the end of December. Crenshaw served a three-year term, replacing outgoing board member Suzann Moskovitz, who left after serving four years of a seven-year term.
Crenshaw’s three years on the board have been marked by considerable changes and challenges for the four-building library system, ranging from COVID-19 shutdowns to preparation for a major renovation of the Noble Neighborhood branch.
“Gabe has been with us through a very challenging and exciting period of time,” said Heights Libraries Director Nancy Levin. “And during this past year serving as board president, she guided the board with confidence and grace.”
Crenshaw began her tenure on the board just as the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country, turning the public library service model on its head as buildings shut down and the board and staff worked to find ways to continue to serve the community safely. Crenshaw’s term as president began during the library’s third shutdown in roughly two years, in January 2022, as rising COVID-19 rates required a quick return to building restrictions and curbside services.
Also during this time, the country was experiencing a racial reckoning following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Rayshard Brooks during the spring and summer of 2020. The library wanted to respond to this national struggle, so Crenshaw used her community connections to facilitate the installation of a “Black Excellence” mural in the Coventry PEACE parking lot, funded by the Friends of Heights Libraries and created by local artists Wayne Pollard and Jimmy Hayden.
“Of all the things I’ve accomplished on the Heights Libraries board, I am most proud of having had the opportunity to cultivate the Black Excellence mural,” said Crenshaw. “I was able to convene a group of local artists, many of whom are from Cleveland Heights, to create a mural that represented historic contributions from Black Ohioans.”
Crenshaw, who works for the Urban League of Greater Cleveland as manager of education and career pathways, credits her experience on the board with helping her focus more on her passion.
“Serving on the board has inspired me to strengthen my work in education equity,” said Crenshaw. “In addition to my work with the Urban League, I am also an advocate for Black families with students enrolled in Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools, where I serve as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion chair for the Parent Teacher Student Association.”
As Crenshaw steps down, she leaves the library prepared to take on one of its most significant projects in the new decade, the expansion of the Noble Neighborhood branch. "I will no longer be on the board once the project is complete, but the planning of this renovation is the most important work I’ve participated in,” said Crenshaw. “It is a truly inclusive project that will bring new development to the neighborhood and allow the branch to continue to serve as a pillar to the community.”
Crenshaw has this to say when asked to sum up her years of services: “Serving on the Heights Libraries board has been a wonderful experience. I have learned a myriad of things in so many different areas. I don't believe I would have had the opportunity to gain such knowledge had I not been on the board. Finally, I have formed many relationships that I hope to continue even when I am no longer a trustee.”
Sheryl Banks is the communications manager for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library