With a degree in Celtic Studies from Cal Berkeley under her belt and experience in film, media, healthcare and at retail booksellers, Jennifer Ullrich was looking for a way to serve the public more grandly. “Books are where it’s at and public libraries level the playing field – everyone is welcome.” By becoming a librarian Jennifer knew she could fuse her desire to give back with her passion for books.
After obtaining her master’s degree at San Jose State and working for another California library system Jennifer was inspired by Santa Monica’s progressive commitment to sustainability. She joined the staff as a Public Services Librarian in 2017 and enthusiastically began her work helping patrons on the information desk and planning Santa Monica Reads, Adult Summer Reading and a lot of adult programming.
One of the nations running community reading programs, Santa Monica Reads offers the community the chance to come together for author talks, programs, and book discussions based on a single title (with free copies of the featured read sponsored by the Friends!). “I love the book discussions because hearing people’s perspectives and takeaways, the way people look a the book in a different way is interesting. The selected titles are ripe for conversation and conversations go in ways you could never anticipate. Participants are willing to be in a vulnerable position and are compelled to share. So rarely are you in a setting where there is so much diversity of age, race, culture, and experience. Learning and connecting with people in a way that you rarely get to do. Everyone is actively listening and learning and shifting perspectives, that is huge.”
Fully embracing that kids can’t have all the fun, Jennifer brings her exuberance to engaging adults in the Summer Reading program. “Rewarding them for reading further incentivizes them to get involved. Whole families can participate in summer reading. Seeing their parents sign up – it’s lifelong learning – modeling that behavior.” Plus Jennifer says, “That it is just fun!” Jennifer’s current goal for the program is to have a higher number of patrons complete their summer reading hours. After a busy summer of Summer Reading and Santa Monica Reads Jennifer is looking forward to banned books week in September and the COAST Festival.
As Jennifer reflects on the library’s place in Santa Monica life, she notes “to have a central hub in the community, with the sheer volume of the collection and the resources, the libraries are able to provide is impactful. Santa Monica values learning and fosters dialogue. This library system is a bastion of democracy, well situated to appeal to a wide variety of interests. There is something for everyone. We want an ongoing dialogue with the community. Come with your ideas, make suggestions. We’ll offer our recommendations and we know how to find the experts.”