February 17, 2018

Jennifer Chang | Movers & Shakers 2002

On the Front Lines of Diversity

“I’d like to see this library being the center of people’s lives”

“We serve a literate, library-loving user community, and an immigrant community hungry for Chinese-language materials.” Jennifer Chang, herself from Taiwan, leads this new branch library attracting hundreds from nearby Chinatown with its Chinese-language books, videos, web sites, and classes. Under Chang’s nurturance, the branch offers much for other underserved groups also. Named the “Place of the Year” by Philadelphia Gay News, it houses the Barbara Gittings Gay/Lesbian Collection, only the second such U.S. public library collection.


Current position: Library Supervisor, Independence Branch Library, Free Library of Philadelphia

Degree: MSLIS, University of Illinois at Urbana, 1989

Factoid: Previously worked in Taiwan as an educational consultant to place students in U.S. colleges and universities.

Credo: Commitment to excellent customer service.

Extensive children’s programming, the city’s largest circulating collection of poetry, and many other features made the Independence Branch a bustling, cheerful community center within a year and number one in circulation among 54 branches.

Chang’s calling has been multicultural outreach–she is trilingual in English, Mandarin, and Japanese and spent six years in the Central Library’s Children’s Department, making connections with the Philadelphia Chinese community, especially the young people. She is on Chinatown’s Children’s Village Child Care board and on the Asian-American Women’s Coalition, and she is a Christian member of the Chinese Gospel Church.

With a staff of only nine, plus four bilingual teen assistants, Chang orchestrates the teamwork for this rich, hospitable collection, plus numerous workshops and special events. Not to rest on their success, staff visit other high-circulation branches to share experiences and ideas. “I can’t say enough about our staff,” she says. “I get the credit, but it’s really all of us working as a team–not just the librarians but library assistants who are on the front line. I’d like to see this library being in the center of people’s lives in this community, including the immigrants. They welcome the library with so much enthusiasm and look to this library to help them be better citizens.” With the friendly and welcoming presence of Chang and her team, this is happening now.