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“Librarians used to be just the gatekeepers of the collection. Now, we are focused on educational success. We know how to bring people together and create programs for all,” said Giltrop. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Workspace: 'Epiphany' led Giltrop, a former finance and HR employee, to public libraries

by Max Marbut | Associate Editor


When she returned to her office in the Main Library after lunch Tuesday, Jennifer Giltrop took a minute to reflect on her time in Jacksonville.

It was her one-year anniversary as deputy director of the Jacksonville Public Library and she’s proud of what has been accomplished in that time for the residents of Duval County.

“It has been a busy year. I have enjoyed it,” said Giltrop.

Being a library administrator wasn’t her original career track.

Giltrop worked in finance and human resources for nonprofits until taking a job with the Kent District Library in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The system had been spun off from the city’s general fund through creation of an independent taxing authority.

Her first assignment was to conduct a job classification study.

“I worked all the jobs in the library,” Giltrop said. “It taught me the importance of public libraries.”

While in graduate school for a master’s in public administration, she attended a library conference.

After spending a few days with library directors and learning about the qualities and skills needed for that job, “I had an epiphany,” Giltrop said.

She changed her academic focus toward a graduate degree in library science.

Her first cross-country relocation was to Seattle, where she oversaw renovation of 27 branch libraries in 10 years. She also supervised security for the system and directed the library’s public services.

Then it was off to Washington, D.C., where the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library was being built near the White House.

Giltrop directed the “Dream Lab,” which comprised 11,000 square feet of computer spaces, 3-D scanners and printers, and a co-working space for entrepreneurs.

She brought that expertise to Jacksonville.

Since Giltrop became deputy director, the library has partnered with Duval County Public Schools to issue “virtual library cards” to all kindergarten through fifth-grade students.

More than 28,000 kindergarten through second-grade students have come to the Main Library Downtown for field trips.

For many, it was their first visit to the library, Giltrop said.

The program is expanding next year to include all public school students.

Also introduced in the past year is Project LEAP — Library Enhanced Access Program — which sends librarians with computers and other resources to community centers in underserved neighborhoods as a way to promote literacy for all ages.

Giltrop’s latest project is Brainfuse: Ignite Your Mind.

It provides online tutoring for students seven days a week and resume-writing and interview skills for adults.

“Librarians used to be just the gatekeepers of the collection. Now, we are focused on educational success. We know how to bring people together and create programs for all,” said Giltrop. “That’s what we’re here for.”

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