Heights Library System: Growing to Serve the Community’s Needs
The University Heights Branch went under a complete renovation and expansion in 2016-2017.
By Mary Flenner
If you’ve ever been inside one of the four branches of the Heights Libraries, you know there’s a certain magic in the longstanding buildings. Their four locations include: Coventry Village, Noble Neighborhood, Lee Road and University Heights branches.
Heights Libraries Communication Manager Sheryl Banks says their growth through the decades, “is really a testament to community and their commitment to supporting our levies.” Over the years Heights residents have rallied, petitioned and fought to keep the Heights Libraries thriving. Today, they are one of the top systems in the state, with a 5-Star designation from the Library Journal Public Library Services Index.
One unique aspect of their system is the way each Heights area has their own neighborhood branch. “We have four buildings in our community, which makes it a walkable experience… you don’t have to get in your car and drive to the library in a lot of cases. The libraries become much more accessible, and easier to visit frequently," said Banks.
The oldest location, the Coventry School library, began in 1916, it stands in the beautiful gothic building where Coventry Road meets Euclid Heights Boulevard. Now the Coventry Village Branch, it is the only library that remains relatively unchanged throughout the years, with only a few minor renovations. This brick Tudor Revival is adorned with charming features such as fireplaces and medieval lighting fixtures.
The Noble Neighborhood Branch opened inside a portable building located on the Noble Elementary School grounds in 1923 and found a permanent home in 1937. This stunning Georgian-style building was built by the famed Cleveland architectural firm of Walker and Weeks. Although it was later renovated, the library took careful consideration to preserve the historical aspects of the original design.
The Lee Road Branch began in 1928, the same year the Coventry Village Branch saw an expansion. In 1968, the Lee Road Branch later moved to its current location near the Dobama Theatre.
The University Heights Branch opened in 1952 as an answer to growing population and demand. Through the years, the branch grew and saw several major renovations, most recently in 2017.
The Heights Libraries are special, not only because of their longevity, but because they operate as an independent system.
“Because we’re independent, and not part of the county system, we can make decisions about what kind of books we have, our services, programs we offer… we can make those very specialized,” says Banks.
One example of this specialization is the "English as a Second Language" course they offer at the Noble Road Branch, where they have many Nepalese refugees and others who come for help learning the language. The Coventry Road Branch offers 250 Russian books each month and is also one of the only systems in the area that has a specific service model for deaf customers. “It’s nice to have the flexibility to serve these special groups,” Banks says.
Other specialties include an entire wing of the Noble Neighborhood Branch devoted to adult fiction of all genres, which came with their 2011 renovation. They also added a separate teen room, an expanded computer area, and a children’s department in the lower level.
The Lee Road Branch offers a comprehensive media lab where visitors have access to audio and video equipment and green screen. They even provide equipment such as a keyboard, so patrons can compose and record music, take photos and create videos.
At this time of year, the library system would usually be getting ready to launch their Summer Reading Program out of each branch, but the Heights Libraries team is quickly adapting to bring the best parts into children’s homes through a virtual program.
“Summer reading is so important because there is this concept that if learning loss occurs over the summer, a student can start out the next school year at a disadvantage. It can be really hard for kids to catch up again in the fall,” Banks explains. She goes on to say this is especially important for younger readers just figuring out how to read.
“Summer reading is nice because kids get to choose what they want to read. It can really be a lot of fun. We have prizes, and the kids can read whatever types of books they want.”
“Luckily we offer so many online books: for a tablet, laptop or phone. We also offer Hoopla digital for ebooks and audio books. With the shutdown, we’ve opened up more services, such as Tumblebooks. It’s free and offers tons and tons of books with no limit to how many you can check out,” she says. The Heights Libraries are also offering virtual story times online.
For information about their online reading options and learning resources, visit HeightsLibrary.org. Their team is also excited to share the details of their online Summer Reading program soon, so check back often!
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