March 16, 2018

Jeanne Marie Ryan | Movers & Shakers 2018 – Change Agents

Jeanne Marie Ryan


Director, Roselle Public Library, NJ


MLS, Rutgers University


Public Policy Committee, New Jersey Library Association


NJ Libraries Build Communities (Facebook)

Photo by Dave Rossi


Fearless Godmother

Jeanne Marie Ryan has some advice for anyone who wants to get anything big done: “It pays to be persistent—and keep smiling as you go back to people.” That approach served her well as the chief strategist for and coordinator of the New Jersey Library Construction Bond Act. “She’s the Godmother of our first-ever library bond act,” says nominator Chris Carbone, director of the South Brunswick Public Library, NJ.

As chair of the New Jersey Library Association’s (NJLA) Public Policy Committee, Ryan headed the advocacy efforts that ultimately led to the passage of a $125 million bond referendum by 60 percent of voters on November 7, 2017. “She invested 100 percent of her passion, energy, intuition, and political skills in obtaining this victory,” says Carbone.

Ryan drove newspaper and social media coverage. She leveraged business connections and grassroots advocacy, as well as NJLA’s partnership with the NJ Alliance for Action, with its connection to labor and the trades, and established a website, even erecting lawn signs.

“Part of the ongoing strategy…was to reframe how people, especially legislators, thought about libraries,” says Ryan. She credits “one of New Jersey’s premier lobbyists, Dale Florio, founder of Princeton Public Affairs Group,” with the approach.

When she asked Florio how to make her case to legislators, she says, he directed her to tell them what is going on in libraries now, because although that has changed a lot, perceptions haven’t.

Ryan and fellow advocates also used every nontraditional promotional idea they could. On the annual New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington, a prime lobbying opportunity, “We passed out Hershey bars labeled with the NJLA logo, a request to support the act, and bill numbers,” she says. “A month later, when we met with the speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, his staff remembered we had been passing out chocolate.”

The bond requires a 1–1 match by local communities to receive funding, which translates to at least a quarter billion dollars in library renovation and construction over the next several years. This will result in new facilities and also stimulate jobs.

As the director of the Roselle Public Library, Ryan has another challenge: campaigning for a new, or substantially renovated, library where her community can be better served. It seems likely that new library will come to be. As Carbone notes, Ryan “is fearless in her advocacy.”

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



  1. Mary Faith Chmiel says:

    Congratulations to Jeanne Marie who, against tremendous skepticism and cynicism (endemic in New Jersey), brought the bond referendum to a successful vote.

  2. Jo Ann Guest says:

    We (the Roselle Public Library Board of Trustees) are very proud of Ms. Ryan and her accomplishments. We truly appreciate all of her advocacy and dedication she pours into our community. Furthermore, we anticipate great things happing as a result of this passage. Sincerely, Jo Ann Reddick Guest, President Roselle Board if Trustees

  3. John Malar says:

    Nobody deserves this recognition more than Jeanne Marie. Congrats!

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