An Interview with Jill Jean, Director of Public Services at SPL

by Michael Wood, MLIS Day

Jill Jean is the Director of Public Services at The Seattle Public Library. In this capacity she is responsible for budgets, service delivery, program planning and the development of all personnel for both neighborhood and central libraries. Ms. Jean was a member of the team that led the building of the new Central Library in downtown Seattle. Throughout her 30-year career in public libraries, she has served on a number of community-based boards, focusing on literacy, youth involvement and children's theater. Jean is a member of the Downtown YMCA's Board of Directors, chairing both youth and fundraising committees. This very busy and experienced administrator has overseen the Seattle Central library for eight years.

After taking a guided tour recently offered to iSchool students by Ms. Jean, our Silverfish Editors charged me with the happy task of speaking with this very personable leader of downtown Seattle's new world famous Central Library to see what was on her mind. What might she like to share with the Silverfish's readers?

Ms. Jean suggested that we discuss something new to SPL and the Central library itself. Although I caught her just back in her office after a bad case of the flu, her enthusiasm for the work of this landmark institution was unhampered, and she agreed to take a few moments to speak here to the readers of the Silverfish.

Following up on a suggestion of hers, I asked Ms. Jean about the new method of self checkout of library materials. I asked her why self checkout was important to the library. She said:

There are several reasons-first of all we find that library users naturally want to help themselves whenever possible; one of our major impetuses for getting self-checkout working was in order to be much more efficient in how we do our work. Literally we have a building that is much larger than the one we had before with relatively the same amount of staff, so it was very important for us to have working methods in place that would allow us to work smarter, with the same amount of people.

Are the patrons ok with it?

[laughs] They absolutely love it! And once they get over the learning curve and understand how it works, they really are using it very freely and very easily. That's one of our most popular spots in our children's area, so children as well as the elderly are all finding it very user friendly. They can choose to do it on their own if they wish or choose to have a library person close at hand to help them, should they need any help at all.

Have the librarians at Central adjusted to self checkout?

Absolutely-all of us use it. It's such a time saver not having to stand in the line.

What challenges are you working on at The Central Library right now?

Right now we are working on the budget, that's always a beginning of the year project; we are actually working on aligning our branch libraries' staff in a way that will provide better underpinnings for the management of an individual library. So we are working on that, and continuing to work on our TechLogic system to get our delivery system working really well, along with our TechLogic machinery; we are continuing to put into place all of the self service kinds of situations that you can imagine; not only self check through out new TechLogic system but also self pickup of holds, and really getting librarians and other library staff out amongst the public, to provide even better one on one customer service.

What spaces in the library have patrons been enjoying most of all?

The one space I like to talk about a lot is our living room space which is the big area on the third floor [the entry point from Fifth Avenue] We are finding that people of all ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds are coming in just to sit and use the library in a community oriented situation; we really think of this living room as a community meeting center, and that's sort of a new thing for libraries-being kind of a community meeting place, a real destination for people to come to really be a part of a larger group of folks.

What do you love about Central?

About the Central Library? I really love all of the different views from the different parts of the building. The views you can see of the city. I just like how it presents the city to the users of this building. Particularly on sunny days, you just can't beat it.

Jill Jean, Thank you very much!

(I couldn't help but be warmed by Jean's parting words, spoken as they should be to conclude every good reference interview in every Public Library on this green earth:)

You are welcome! Let me know if I can be of further help.


Contact the Silverfish
Page last updated: March 14, 2004