February 17, 2018

Michelle Jeske | Movers & Shakers 2005

The New Service


It bothers Michelle Jeske that many people still don’t know all that their public libraries can do for them, even in Denver, where 80 percent of the population has a library card. Fortunately, as manager of web information services at the Denver Public Library (DPL), she can reach out to people who never come through the library doors.

Jeske and her team believe that virtual users deserve full service. As a result, says Jo Haight-Sarling, DPL’s director of access and technology services, they’ve created “a virtual branch library that rivals our physical locations in design, customer service, depth of collections, and browsability.”

From denverlibrary.org, library users can download ebooks, classical music, video trailers, and audiobooks. They can get homework help and answers to their reference questions through SmartyPants, the 24/7 chat service. Using a federated search system, they can search through Denver’s 85 databases with one user-friendly interface.

Jeske got some valuable insights into user-centered design when she worked for CARL, developing OPAC projects, conducting usability testing, and working with customers.

But Jeske also tailors the site to different user groups with style and verve. The children’s page, the Secret Wonder Web, bounces with color, cartoons, and all the things kids and their parents are looking for. The award-winning teen site, eVolver (“because evolving minds want to know”), is cool, with snarky, funny mouse-overs (“Homework Help: the closest to cheating you can get without the guilt!”). It offers the interactivity teens expect – a place to chat, volunteer, be heard, and publish their art and writing online. Another page provides Spanish-language library access.

Giving full and equal access to online users fits nicely with the passionate commitment to democracy that led Jeske to librarianship. Realizing that her “desire to save the world was not going to be fulfilled” through a graduate degree in public administration, she spotted the LIS program in the University of Washington catalog, remembered how much she loved the library in college, and transferred.

Back to saving the world. One online user at a time.



Current Position Manager of Web Information Services and Resource Sharing, Denver Public Library

Degree MLS, University of Washington, 1993

Surround Sound Loves having ready access at work to all the books, videos, and music she wants