January 6, 2017
Upon her arrival to California’s San Jose Public Library (SJPL) in 2013, Jill Bourne faced the effects of years of decimating budget shortfalls and service cuts. Several of the new library buildings were already closed, hours had been reduced and library use was in a steep decline. The effectiveness with which Bourne directed her Library Access Strategy, opened the libraries, built new relationships with San Jose’s civic leadership while garnering their support, leveraged partnerships and fostered innovation—and is now reaching beyond the library to a new citywide Education and Digital Literacy Initiative—has won over a newly inspired staff and convinced the judges at the Library Journal to name her the 2017 LJ Librarian of the Year, sponsored by Baker & Taylor.
Bourne was instrumental in the successful passage of Measure B, a 25-year extension of the Library Parcel Tax, approved by 81 percent of San Jose voters in 2014. The revenue meant millions in funding, stabilizing and insuring sustained library service. Growth and innovation followed with general fund support from the city. With funding secured, Bourne worked with the mayor and city council and, in July 2015, secured a 39 percent increase in library hours. In Bourne’s first year, SJPL managed to open the four closed branches based on the city’s commitment to funding. Now all branch libraries are open six days a week.
San Jose Mayor, Sam Liccardo, credits Bourne with leading this impressive comeback for our local libraries. “Jill’s leadership has truly moved our libraries forward,” he says. “Today, branch libraries provide a range of services to our residents that they never had before, including free lunches in the summer, coding classes, Maker spaces, and citizenship workshops.”
To enable those new services, Bourne built relationships with Silicon Valley tech companies and organizations (including eBay, PayPal, and Microsoft) to enhance public access to technology and applied learning through STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) education and Maker programs. Bourne also led the creation of TeenHQ, a new center that offers learning tools, such as a recording studio funded by Microsoft, and serves as a nexus to connect teens to the full range of services.
Bourne will continue to spearhead progress in her broader future role in the city’s infrastructure as head of San José’s Education and Digital Literacy Initiative. The ultimate goal, according to the mayor’s office, is “re-envisioning our city as a classroom,” which will “ensure a more coherent ecosystem of learning that combines in-school, out-of-school, employer-based, and online learning experiences into a coordinated network that advances education goals equitably and inclusively.”
“It’s a huge goal,” says Bourne, “but it’s how I approach my library work anyway, and it’s just expanding it out.”
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