Kitsap Regional Library Director Jill Jean will retire on December 31 after serving the library system for 15 years. A new library director, announced Friday, will be onboard on February 1.
The library announced Jean’s retirement in September. After conducting a nationwide search in the past few months, the KRL board of trustees on Friday announced that Jason Driver, who has 20 years of experience in public library service, has been named the new library director.
According to a statement from the library, Driver served most recently as a District Chief at Chicago Public Library overseeing 14 branches and the supervision of 125 staff. He received his master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Thrilled to accept the position, Driver, with his wife and their two children, is already looking for a new home in Kitsap County, according to the statement.
“We were attracted to Kitsap County because of the breathtaking natural beauty, excellent school system, and it’s a wonderful place to raise a family,” Driver said in the statement.
KRL Board of Trustees is thrilled to have recruited Driver to the library and to the community, the board’s vice president Stephanie George said in the statement.
“Throughout the process he demonstrated a strong commitment to the core services of libraries today, but also looking forward what they can be for our communities,” George said on behalf of the Trustees.
After retiring from the position, Jean will continue to mentor some high school students at Bremerton High School, that she’s been doing for some time, and enjoy the unscheduled time, Jean said.
15 years of service
Jean started working as KRL’s director in 2006. Prior to KRL, the Michigan native had worked at The Seattle Public Library for 20 years since 1986. Attracted by the rural atmosphere in Bainbridge Island, she moved to the island in 1992, Jean told Kitsap Sun in 2006.
During her time in KRL, Jean has led the library through the 2008 recession, two failures of the levy lid lift requests in 2007 and 2010 and the passage of the levy proposition in 2017 through collective bargaining with the library staff regarding a promise during the levy campaign recently generated public attention at the end of her career.
KRL Board of Trustees President Dan Gottlieb recognized Jean’s leadership to take KRL through the challenges the library system has been facing along the way.
“Jill was a really great leader in terms of motivating staff to keep providing the best service they can, and in fact, expand services as much as they could,” said Gottlieb, who has known Jean for more than a decade.
Jean has had a vision of reaching out to the community, providing better services and coordinating with school districts, cities and community groups to do better programming, Gottlieb said.
“She’s just done a great job,” Gottlieb said.
Providing self-services in the libraries and forming strong community partnerships are what Jean has been dedicated to working on for KRL in the past 15 years, she said.
“When I first came here, there was a real need on the part of our library system to really move towards self-service,” Jean said.
Through the years, the library worked hard to get to the point where patrons pick up and check out materials by themselves, Jean said, adding that library workers are still important for the more in-depth services that people need.
Partnered with The Village Green Foundation and the metropolitan parks district, KRL opened its Kingston branch in a new location in the Village Green Community Center in 2016. KRL also helped manage a project in which the Bainbridge Public Library Board, the owner of the Madison Avenue library building, raised considerable dollars to remodel the building in 2017, according to Jean.
“Frankly, I think the public really likes that, when public entities like us really unite with other community groups to really do something even bigger for the community,” Jean said.
Three levy elections
Recalling the three levy lid lift propositions, Jean said the success of the passage in 2017 was attributed to the library system changing how it’s going to spend the levy increase in the proposal and communicate with voters.
At the first time, the library system had gotten used to passing levies without a lot of community fanfare. But as people have become more tired of property taxes continuing to rise every year, voters became “a little more choosy” about what they supported and what they didn’t, Jean said.
Jean said she thinks voters in 2007 were voting more against taxes in general rather than against the library.
Through the failure of the second attempt in 2010, the library learned that it’s not correct to assume voters would support using the income to build up only two libraries in Silverdale and Kingston, so KRL adjusted its proposal to tell voters in 2017 that the levy increase will benefit all branches in Kitsap County, Jean said.
Such improvements include restoring hours of service on Sunday, upgrading facilities and boosting youth programs.
However, a promise from KRL during the third levy campaign, that pay of library personnel would be aligned with other libraries in the region, has generated public concerns in the county. KRL’s frontline library staff said they’re among the lowest paid compared with some other library systems in the state and that living wages are needed.
Collective bargaining between the library’s union and management continues since the negotiation started in February.
“We just appreciate being able to work in partnership with our union to figure this out…and believe that it will eventually come to some kind of conclusion,” Jean said.
Gottlieb declined to comment on the negotiations at this point.
New Silverdale library
The opening of a new Silverdale library building on Central Kitsap campus would have been Jean’s “last hurrah for the library system,” as described by Jean, before her retirement, but the construction has been disrupted due to supply chain issues.
The new Silverdale library was supposed to open at the beginning of December, but it lacks two large pieces of metal fabricating for a front door and a staircase of the building to complete the construction, according to Jean.
KRL now anticipates opening the new Silverdale branch in March, but the library is a little cautious about setting a date at this point since they know the supply chain issues are chronic over the country, Jean said.
Jean said she’s excited about the new building and will enjoy the opening of the new branch as a library patron when it opens next year.