February 17, 2018

Erin Berman | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Tech Leaders

Erin Berman


Innovations Manager, San José Public Library


MLIS, San José State University, CA, 2011


“The world is my playground and I intend to jump on all the equipment”


@mohawklibrarian (Twitter); www.sjpl.org/privacy

Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

Mobile Maker

Before December 2014, when she stepped into the new role of San José Public Library’s (SJPL) technology and innovation project manager (now innovations manager), Erin Berman launched SJPL’s first Maker faire, which introduced 200 people to after-school STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] programs. She believes Making can empower her community and help close the digital divide. Statewide, 25 percent of Californians in 2014 lacked broadband Internet access at home, according to a Field Poll. “When someone walks into one of our libraries and says they want to learn something, we don’t just hand them a book; we hand them the tool and teach them how to use it,” Berman says.

Serving the underserved has been one of Berman’s goals as leader of the team that designed a prototype for a program-centered mobile Maker space and developed a guide that other libraries could use to build their own Maker-mobiles. During this process, librarians surveyed stakeholders and tested programs around the community. “We kept asking ourselves what we could do to empower all residents in San José but especially those without access to the technology developed here,” Berman says.

After obtaining a Pacific Library Partnership grant, Berman hired consultant Parker Thomas to help SJPL with the vehicle and programs design. At SJPL’s request, Berman and Thomas, formerly of Make magazine, wrote the Mobile Makerspace Playbook for Libraries, which will be ready for distribution to other library systems later this year. The $400,000 Maker[Space]Ship goes out to bid soon. “[We want] a space where we can give people the skills needed to solve problems creatively,” she says.

Additionally, Berman directed development of SJPL’s Virtual Privacy Lab, an online privacy literacy  toolkit designed to help people understand and control their online privacy. The lab prototype was built by the Berkeley, CA–based International Computer Science Institute and San José State’s Game Dev Club with the help of $35,000 in prototype funding from the Knight Foundation. The SJPL’s web team revised it. In the three months following the lab’s October 2015 launch, 1,500 people visited the site to build 250 toolkits; the project drew both national (NPR) and local (San Jose Metro) attention. Since then, Spanish and Vietnamese content has been added.

Berman also secured a $50,000 donation from Microsoft for the teen librarian’s upgrade of the Teen Center and to build a recording studio and Maker space, and started a STEAM [STEM plus arts] programming committee to create high-level, outcome-based programs for both the Maker[Space]Ship and branch libraries. “That moment when a person connects with technology, the fear melts away, and they realize they can do it, is magic,” she says.

Ed. note: This profile was edited to clarify the phrasing.

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



  1. Edith Sutterlin says:

    Congratulations, Erin! A well-deserved recognition! Shake it up! :-)