ES library director retiring after 8 years of service
By Samantha Jones
Eureka Springs Carnegie Public Library director Loretta Crenshaw is starting a new chapter in her life.
Crenshaw, who has worked at the library for 15 years, will be retiring to travel the country with her husband. The decision to retire was bittersweet, Crenshaw said, because she’s loved being part of the library. She remembered when she started working at the library, saying she was a part-time employee.
“I actually had my real estate license and was working with my husband,” Crenshaw said. “I knew real estate wasn’t exactly what I was suited for, so there was a part-time job here. I applied and was hired.”
She continued, “About a year into that, I knew I needed to be full time somewhere, so they created another full-time position so I could stay, which was really wonderful.”
When former library director Jean Elderwind retired in 2011, Crenshaw said, everyone on the staff was talking about who would replace her. Crenshaw said she wasn’t too sure about applying for the position at first.
“I had some trepidation, but I finally decided it would be a good thing to do,” Crenshaw said.
During the interview process, she said, she agreed to get a master’s degree in library science if she was hired.
“I did one class per semester, so it took me a few years to complete that,” Crenshaw said. “I did a case study each semester. I could focus on the library as a case study.”
Stepping into the director’s role meant she was now the boss, Crenshaw said, but she made sure to maintain a team atmosphere at the library. Everyone who works at the library has found their niche, Crenshaw said, and she didn’t want to change that.
“I made it plain to them if I was going to do this, I needed their help,” Crenshaw said. “This was not about me being in charge. We were doing this all together.”
It wasn’t hard to encourage everyone to work as a team, Crenshaw said.
“Everybody’s got a lot of ownership of the place. The staff is very dedicated,” she said. “Libraries don’t pay very well, but it’s a labor of love. You have to love it to work here.”
She has certainly loved her time at the library, Crenshaw said. The best part of the job is working with the community, she said.
“I love all our patrons. They are just so nice to us and love us right back,” Crenshaw said. “It’s an extremely unique place to work. It’s very gratifying and I’m going to miss it.”
Crenshaw’s love for the community is apparent, said library board chair Lucilla Garrett. Garrett said it will be difficult to replace Crenshaw.
“Anyone who is the library director must be involved with the community, because it helps us connect to people,” Garrett said. “It helps the library to have a familiar face, and Loretta has been that familiar face for eight years.”
Garrett thanked Crenshaw for effortlessly managing the library staff, saying it’s not an easy job to do.
“It’s managing a lot of space and staff and people and all the library’s services and trying to meet the needs of the community, which are really great,” Garrett said. “We had six patron computers and added two last year, and we could add more.”
Crenshaw said the library offers valuable services to everyone in the community, saying people frequently comment on how much they love coming there.
“People do use this to apply for jobs and that kind of thing,” Crenshaw said.
She remembered when New Orleans residents used the library’s services to contact family back home after Hurricane Katrina.
“They could check on their properties and life back in New Orleans,” Crenshaw said. “The library was a lifeline for them.”
The library is truly a social gathering place, Crenshaw said, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s like its own little community,” she said. “I really see it as the heart of our community. Everybody doesn’t use the library, but a lot of people do.”
Crenshaw said she looks forward to retirement, planning to travel the country with her husband. In between trips, Crenshaw said, she plans to reinvigorate the Friends of the Library program.
“We used to have a really active program,” Crenshaw said. “The really active members have dispersed, but I think it’s really important. There are a lot of people who want to help the library and just need an avenue to do it.”
Garrett said she’s excited to see how the program grows under Crenshaw’s leadership.
“Eureka Springs has been truly fortunate to have Loretta, and she’s still going to be helping with the library,” Garrett said. “I am thrilled with that.”
Though she’s excited to retire, Crenshaw said she’ll miss interacting with the staff and patrons of the library.
“One of the perks of this job is getting to know people,” Crenshaw said. “I will miss that. I will miss a lot of things.”