February 16, 2018

Jane Fisher | Movers & Shakers 2004

All About Community


As a library page in high school, Jane Fisher never wanted to be a librarian. But after working as a healthcare administrator for six years, she wanted something more intellectually stimulating and more urban–and which didn’t require her to be on call 24/7.

‘I considered public health and social work, but then one day I had an ‘aha’ moment,’ she recalls. It was an ad in the New York Times
that said, ‘New York City needs librarians.’ Indeed, after her detour to Wisconsin for library school, she gravitated to the New York Public Library (NYPL).

Her career in the corporate world, Fisher says, shaped her analytical approach to library service. Even at her first job, at Manhattan’s Fort Washington branch, she cast an eye at the reference room and advised reorganization: the best books were behind the reference desk, and the Spanish-language materials were hard to reach.

‘I was really questioning things,’ Fisher recalls, ‘to the point where I was probably annoying to some librarians. But fortunately not so annoying that the administrators said, ‘Let’s get rid of her.”

Within two years, she was invited to serve as project analyst on the three-month Resource Utilization and Branch Activities Assessment Team, conducted with Coopers & Lybrand Consulting. The resulting report established how long it takes to do certain activities, whether it is processing reserves or weeding materials. ‘It’s really become a tool that makes us look at how we allocate staff,’ she observes, noting its importance in a time of budget constraints.

Fisher then combined her expertise in librarianship and healthcare as the supervising project librarian for CHOICES in Health Information, NYPL’s health information initiative. The job included not only training staff and evaluating resources but outreach to local health agencies and community organizations.

In late 2000, she jumped up the ladder to her current job, a sign, she says, ‘of not how amazing I am but a change in the profession, where people recognize that staff members with maybe five years of experience have significant ideas.’

She recently earned a master’s in public administration and in the process learned how libraries can benefit from other organizations, especially in customer service and community relations. ‘Urban public libraries need to think about how connected they are to their communities,’ says Fisher. While librarians are usually good at briefing an organization about library resources, ‘We fall short in building sustained relationships with key organizations.’

If there is one thing Fisher is passionate about it’s ‘helping NYPL stay connected with the communities we serve.’




Current Position: Coordinator of Information Services, NYPL, The Branch Libraries
Degrees: MLIS, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1995; M.P.A., Baruch College, City University of New York, 2002
Professional Activities: Fellow, Urban Libraries Council Executive Leadership Institute, 2002–03
Recent Presentation: ‘Community Building Strategies,’ Public Library Association National Conference, 2004