January 1, 2020

Jennifer Podolsky Looks Forward To New Role as Library Director

By Donald Gilpin

Jennifer Podolsky

Appointed last month as the new executive director of the Princeton Public Library (PPL), Jennifer Podolsky will begin her duties in mid-February.

Currently executive director of the East Brunswick Public Library (EBPL), Podolsky is excited to be taking on the challenges of running the PPL, which Wikipedia cites as the most visited municipal public library in New Jersey, with the PPL Annual Report noting more than 500,000 print and digital materials checked out in 2019, more than 57,000 people attending library programs, and more than 660,000 visitors last year.

“Princeton Public Library is a vibrant, respected library that is vitally important to the community it serves,” Podolsky wrote in an email. “The idea of being part of a team that elicits such devotion and esteem, both locally and throughout the state, was an exciting prospect for me. I knew of Princeton’s reputation and I was eager to help shape its future.”

Podolsky expressed her interest in embarking on a strategic planning process for the library. “I will be looking to assess our role as a trusted source of information in the community, examining the accessibility of our services both within and outside the library building, and looking at removing any barriers to utilizing those services,” she said. I am eager to get the community’s input about our programs and services as I develop my vision.”

She takes over at PPL from Brett Bonfield, who stepped down as director last February to accept a position at the Cincinnati Public Library.

In addition to her leadership of the EBPL, Podolsky has served as project specialist to Business and Technology Outreach in the Lifelong Learning Division at the New Jersey State Library, has worked as a youth services librarian for the Somerset County Library System, and was a volunteer research librarian for the archives department of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.

Podolsky has experience in management, research, and editorial positions in publishing and libraries. She started her career as the senior research editor at Reed Elsevier, where she supervised a staff of researchers, managed research assignments, conducted online database training, and assisted in collection development.

She is a Rutgers University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and anthropology and a master’s degree in library and information science.

Podolsky discussed how her varied experiences will enhance her future challenges at PPL. “I have worked in many types of libraries and in many non-library fields,” she wrote. “This diverse range of experience has always been helpful to me in identifying new ways that libraries can connect with the surrounding community. I have worked on many innovation and technology projects. I enjoy trying out new and exciting initiatives, which I think will be a great fit here. I know Princeton is the perfect place for me to build on my experience and find new ways in which the library can serve its community.”

Podolsky described her love from early childhood of libraries and books and how that affinity developed into curiosity about manuscripts, archives, and research as she progressed through college and graduate school.

“I’ve had a book in my hand for as long as I can remember,” she wrote. “I remember early on that trips to my school or local public library were an amazing adventure to me. I devoured series books and became fascinated with mysteries at an early age.”

She continued, “In college, when I needed a break from studying, I would go to the library and walk around the stacks, looking for a section that I’d never looked at before, and randomly take out a book to read. I love wandering around and finding treasures in the stacks.”

In college she studied archaeology, realizing after a dig in Jamestown that “digging up artifacts and doing research on their origins awakened a curiosity about research that I didn’t know existed,” she said. “Soon after I became interested in manuscripts and archives, and when I had to choose where to go to graduate school, I knew I wanted to focus on library science. Just about every facet of librarianship interested me, and I was excited to see where my studies would lead.”

PPL Board of Trustees President Pam Wakefield described Podolsky as “an accomplished and visionary librarian, who is a consummate professional, a mentor, and a role model.” She continued, “We are delighted that Jennifer Podolsky will be the next executive director of Princeton Public Library. I think she will build on the excellence to which we as a community have become accustomed.”