Bon Voyage: Debra Jackson, LPLS Public Services Coordinator
Described as a hard worker, highly influential and an effective manager of large crowds, Debra Jackson, one of the longest serving employees at the Lorain Public Library System has retired after a 26-year tenure.
She began her career at LPLS as a children’s librarian and department manager and retires as the public services coordinator.
“She is a consummate professional, very rational, and very pragmatic,” said Terri Frederick, LPLS public relations officer.
Jackson has served in many roles at LPLS including the circulation system/operations manager, the liaison to the Lorain Auxiliary Police who provide the library security, and liaison to the CLEVNET library consortium staff.
LPLS is part of CLEVNET, allowing the library system to offer over 10 million items and one of the largest eMedia collections in the country.
Before LPLS, Jackson worked at a small local public library in Ohio where she also served as a children’s department manager. Before working for public libraries, she served as a school librarian in Minnesota.
She holds a master’s in library science degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
Since high school Jackson knew she wanted to work in the Library world, and she has never worked professionally in another career.
Yet her interest in Libraries, books and reading extend to an earlier time; her family has been instrumental in molding her career path.
She comes from a family of avid readers including her parents, and of teachers including her aunt who was an English teacher, and a cousin who is a college English professor.
“My parents took me to the Library when I was a small child,” Jackson fondly recalls, “We come from a family that’s always been involved with books in various ways.”
Helping the clerical staff through some of the major automation transitions is one of Jackson’s most cherished accomplishments, she said.
Through her involvement with a CLEVNET committee in 2004, Jackson helped train many library clerical staff on the new library automation system called Sirsi Dynix. CLEVNET trained in all, over 4,000 library clerical staff.
Sirsi Dynix, like an electronic library catalog, is the leading provider of automated system software that helps the Library track its collection and provides other library related services.
“We are well-regarded by the CLEVNET consortium because of her hard work,” said LPLS Director Joanne Eldridge.
Jackson said she’s also proud to have helped organize multiple well-attended, successful family library events.
Programs that she says left her cherished and humorous memories of the Library.
She organized the library appearance of Liz Hermann, from Cleveland’s Channel 43’s Kids Land, a popular show of the 90s; and of Cleveland Indians Pitcher Scott Bailes.
Jackson also worked on the dedication event for the Toni Morrison Reading Room at Lorain’s Main Library in 1995. The Lorain native and Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison attended the reading room opening ceremonies.
In standing room only, jam-packed family library events, Debra commanded the room ensuring the event ran smoothly in order, Frederick recalls.
“I have many memories of big programs that she was willing to take on and I’ve never seen anyone like her be able to handle a crowd so well,” Frederick said.
In over two decades, Jackson has witnessed gradual yet great Library transformations including dwindling state funding; a growing and more diverse patron base; and an increasing use of technology and nonprint materials including DVDs, audiobooks and eBooks.
“I don’t think (printed) books are going away. There’ll still be a place for them,” she said, adding she finds benefits to both printed books and eBooks.
Jackson has also seen the library system shift from being solely an information providing institution to also including a recreational role.
She advises others deciding to enter the Library field to “keep flexibility and an open mind because the changes are coming so quickly,” she said.
She’s also witnessed the growing patron usage of public computers whether it be the unemployed looking for jobs, creating resumes or filing for unemployment; the student completing homework and research; the patron filing taxes or, surfing the web for socialization and entertainment purposes.
“Public use computers are such a big deal here,” Jackson said.
A new chapter is about to begin in Jackson’s life, and she’s looking forward to among other things, spending time volunteering.
Yet retirement can be bittersweet – she leaves her Library family.
“Debra has been a wonderful mentor to me,” said a teary-eyed Frederick, “She has been one of the most influential people that I’ve worked with here because she knows public libraries so well.”
Eldridge described Jackson as a hardworking, overachieving and conscientious manager.
“Debra and I are more than colleagues,” Eldridge said. “We’ve been to conferences together and we’ve learned so many things.”
Valerie Smith, who has worked at LPLS for 38 years and currently serves as a public services coordinator, described Jackson as a knowledgeable manager with broad experience.
“Debra’s terrific people skills and knowledge about our regular patrons has been invaluable to our library system,” Smith said.
“Her broad experience working as a librarian in a variety of Libraries and at different levels – such as children’s librarian and public services coordinator in charge of circulation services – has helped all of us do our jobs better,” Smith said.
Jackson said being surrounded by such a diverse patron base as well as new book releases have also made working at LPLS so enjoyable all these years.
And she loves how “Public Libraries are open to everybody,” she said.
May Books and Libraries continue to take you on great voyages!
Best of luck Debra Jackson!
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