Oct 02, 2022 3:42 PM

New public library director excited to fill well-worn shoes

Posted Oct 02, 2022 3:42 PM
Brittany R. Jacobs, the new director of the Burlington Public Library, poses in front of the library's sign.
Brittany R. Jacobs, the new director of the Burlington Public Library, poses in front of the library's sign.

By William Smith

The Burlington Public Library has a new director — Brittany R. Jacobs.

And she is encouraging everyone to make use of a resource they may have previously ignored.

“This library is huge,” Jacobs said. “It’s one of the best libraries in the state.”

Jacobs, 35, is replacing former library director Rhonda Frevert, who took another library job in Des Moines. 

Jacobs began working at the library 11 months ago, taking on the role of manager of outreach and program services for the library.

“I care deeply about the staff here. I’m a huge champion of the work they’re doing. This is such a well-oiled machine,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs has worked closely under Frevert for the past 11 months and has gotten to know the staff intimately — all 46 of them. 

“We are proud and excited to have Brittany as our next visionary leader,” said Becky Godfrey, president of the Burlington Public Library Board of Trustees.

“Her interest in learning sciences and her leadership style are a great fit for our future.”

Frevert was director for 15 of her 20 years at the library, and Jacobs said she’s the best library director she has ever worked for.

Jacobs earned her Masters of Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois and serves on the Editorial Review Board for the Afterschool Matters academic journal, and recently completed the Iowa Library Association Leadership Institute.

Before coming to Burlington, she also worked in the public library systems of Denver Colo., and Naperville, Ill.

Jacobs is an accomplished children’s book author who illustrates her own work, sometimes digitally.

Coming to Burlington was a bit of providence and a bit of luck. 

Jacobs has participated in the annual RAGBRAI event, and she and her wife talked of retiring to Iowa someday.

When a job opened up at the Burlington Public Library, Jacobs jumped at it. 

She and her wife have four dogs and over 120,000 bees. 

Jacobs took on the bee colony as a new hobby before leaving Colorado, and the little guys have adapted to Iowa as well as she has.

“They make way more honey down here,” she said.

Jacobs has big plans for the library and is helping oversee several projects to fruition — including making the library “sensory certified” next month. 

That means the library will become certified to be more inclusive to those with autism and other sensory issues. 

That will make it only the second library in the state with that designation.

Meanwhile, Jacobs and her family have found serenity in Burlington — a new home for a bright future.

“I think Burlington is the best-kept secret of the Midwest,” Jacobs said.