February 17, 2018

Jenna Freedman | Movers & Shakers 2003

Truth to Power

Jenna Freedman combines a driving need to know with the passionate idealism of one who believes that individual action can make a difference. Before she could learn successfully to meld her profession with her values and beliefs in the pursuit of change, she had to come to librarianship.

After years “resisting” it – with stops in the theater and dot-com worlds – she entered library school. “If my father hadn’t been a librarian I probably would have done it sooner,” she says. Many know her father, Mitch Freedman, as director of the Westchester Library System and current president of the American Library Association (ALA).

In librarianship she has found a career that not only accommodates political and social action but demands it. Her father’s career must have had some impact, and at the University of South Florida she worked with and was influenced by then-director Kathleen de la Peña McCook. McCook isn’t exactly Freedman’s “model,” but they are very much alike as activists and in their incredible productive energy. “Jenna speaks truth to power, and we need more young librarians like that,” McCook says.

In addition to being a vital member in such activist bastions as the Progressive Council Caucus and the Social Responsibilities Round Table, Freedman is a true sparkplug in ALA’s better salaries campaign. She coordinates the Program Working Group and serves on the Unions Working Group of the Presidential Task Force on Better Salaries. Most recently, she was elected to the ALA Council.

“In theater, everything is urgent, but nothing is important. In librarianship, everything is important, and almost nothing is urgent,” she says, comparing her two favorite careers. “By the way, I hope you’re coming to the march against the war on Saturday. We’ll have a group of librarians marching together,” she says, as if to rebut her own comment as we ended the interview.


Current Position: Coordinator of Reference Services, Barnard College Library, New York

Degree: MA, Library & Information Science, University of South Florida, 1999

Elected Office: ALA Council, 2003 – 05