February 16, 2018

Lori Easterwood & Jessica Zaker | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Innovators

Lori Easterwood & Jessica Zaker



Central Branch Manager, Sacramento Public Library, CA

MLIS, University of North Texas, Denton, 2008

Zaker leads the Sac City Rollers, a roller derby team, skating with the number 796.21 (the Dewey classification for roller derby)

saccityrollers.com; altlibrary.com


Programming and Partnerships Coordinator, Sacramento Public Library, CA

MLIS, Simmons College, Boston, 2006

An avid gardener and chicken farmer, Easterwood was named by lifestyle blog Girls on the Grid as one of 15 Sacramento women leading the farm to fork movement


Photo by Phillip Kampel

Programming Provocateurs

In 2010, Lori Easterwood (l.) and Jessica Zaker attended a session aimed at pulling in younger patrons called “If You Didn’t Work Here, Would You Come?” Though they both answered no at the time, they’ve since drawn in that age group to the Sacramento Public Library (SPL), starting with the development of alt+library, innovative programming aimed at twenty- and thirtysomethings.

“Many [young] people use [the library to check out] ebooks, or they come in and get their holds and they’re out. This is about serving them differently,” says Easterwood. While events aimed at adults typically draw four to seven participants, alt+library boasts high numbers. BollyWow!, a Bollywood-themed night that featured dance lessons, Indian food, and henna tattoos, attracted 68 attendees.

Zaker attributes their success to understanding their elusive demographic: they eschew traditional print marketing in favor of a MeetUp.com page and opt for edgy but memorable names such as Zombie Survival Fitness and Punk Rock Aerobics. “Every library does a holiday program, but calling it Broke A$$ Holidays makes people take notice.”

Five years later, alt+library is more than quirky programming: it’s an integral part of the community. “It’s one of the places that people who are new to Sacramento and looking to meet people join,” says Easterwood. Its separate Friends group has become crucial to SPL, helping to pass a parcel tax for city library services in 2014. “The alt+Friends were especially helpful in getting the word out about the campaign through social media,” says Rivkah Sass, SPL director. “Their work brought a much needed younger perspective.”

With every move they make, these two meet user needs in groundbreaking ways. Easterwood’s grant-writing skills were instrumental in developing SPL’s Maker space, known as Design Spot. In 2013, two budding young entrepreneurs took advantage of the space to create Hex Flex, a snowboarding multitool that’s racked up over $70,000 in Kickstarter funding. Zaker pioneered the You Belong at Your Library campaign in 2012, intended to make SPL a welcoming environment for LGBTQ patrons, with a suite of programs that included Rainbow Family Storytime and same-sex speed dating.

Their latest endeavor is Library Unexpected, a grant-funded project dedicated to challenging preconceived notions about libraries. Part of the grant includes a Library of Things, which will allow users to vote on objects they’d like SPL to make available, such as laminators, sewing machines, and 3-D printers. “People see libraries as an antiquated hall of books,” says Zaker. “We’re trying to make the library visible.”

Says Sass, “They…think about libraries in a whole new way, thus allowing our public to do the same.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.