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Jakubowski retiring after decade as Erie County's library director

One of the key figures in education and knowledge in Erie County is retiring. Now the hunt is on for her successor.

Mary Jean Jakubowski is leaving the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library in June, after a decade as director and 30 years with the system.

She may not be all that well known, but the library system provides everything from books for all ages to story time to computer access in parts of the county no one else does. That's particularly true in the southtowns, where people park in the middle of the night to use the WiFi system outside some library branches.

Library Board Chair Kathleen Berens Bucki said it's a complicated job, with 36 branches and the Central Library, spread across the county. They have different operations and different managements, tied together by books supplied from downtown and a very busy 24/7 public computer system.

Bucki said she wants some decisions made at the May 20 board meeting on forming a search committee.          

"We're putting together a committee, mostly of the trustees, and we also will want some others. The one 10 years ago had eight trustees. It had a trustee emeritus and a representation from the contracting libraries, so the ones not in the city," she said.

Bucki said the new director will require a lot of skills.

"Really have to get together and see what people think is going to be important for the director who's going to serve all of us, like not just the board and not just the staff, but all of Erie County," Bucki said. "We want someone who will continue to provide the access to technology services that the community is looking for, but also, there are so many treasures in our collection that she has showcased as well, like the big exhibits. Right now, there's 'B is for Book' about the history of childrens literature."

Despite COVID, the library system managed to keep operating on a reduced basis through a long lockdown, still offering WiFi and electronic books. Still, the returned books go into quarantine for a few days before being lent out again.