Jennifer Hoffman simultaneously oversaw the renovation of the Denver Public Library (DPL) Central Library, an architectural landmark (it was designed by Michael Graves), and played a key role in the transition to a new integrated library system. And neither of those efforts is in her job description as manager of Books and Borrowing.
While juggling these two major initiatives, Hoffman worked through obstacles, including an unexpected switch in contractors resulting in a six-month delay. Ultimately, Hoffman says the challenges improved the projects. For one, the new contractor had worked on the Central Library before and brought insights based on experience. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is ‘Things happen for a reason,’ ” Hoffman says.
“Jennifer was the face and voice of the project and showed amazing leadership as the wheels of the renovation began to roll,” says Susan Kotarba, DPL director of public services. Hoffman worked with staff to resolve concerns, especially about the location of services. Some worried that combining three reference departments (on three floors) into one (on one floor) would reduce patron access.
To address such issues, Hoffman held information-gathering meetings and established guiding principles, communicating to staff throughout the 2011 renovation. “As we progressed, the whole Central Library staff had a stake in it,” Hoffman says. New data indicates reference relocation has been a success: among the biggest leaps, the number of actual reference questions asked and answered jumped by 82 percent from 2010 to 2012, the years before and after the reorganization, Hoffman says.
The renovation was named “Project of the Year” in 2011 by the Colorado Association of Libraries. Michelle Jeske, director of DPL’s collections and technology, says, “The complex renovation of the Central Library is the perfect example of Jennifer’s ability to plan for the customer, seek input from the staff, remember all the details, and keep the grand plan moving forward all at the same time.”
As part of switching the library’s integrated library system (ILS) from CARL to Polaris, Hoffman led the team that trained 300 staff in the new ILS circulation functions. Although the move to Polaris and RFID tags has added efficiencies, Hoffman continues to work to streamline circulation and collection management processes further and to improve the technology used for roving reference, also implemented in the new Central.
Hoffman’s tenacity, imagination, and commitment to library patrons is evident in her newest project: the MyDenver Card initiative launched in January 2013, allowing students to use their public school identification as a library card, as well as access other city services. For the project, she’s working with the schools, the parks, and the transit authority. “Nothing gets done without a lot of collaboration,” Hoffman says. Everything she touches reflects that.