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CLA Elections 2017 - Erin Berman
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Erin Berman, San Jose Public Library


Erin Berman is the Innovations Manager for the San José Public Library (SJPL). In this position, she gets to dream big and make it happen. The position was created to give SJPL the tools to develop, implement, and manage new service models. Projects in her current role include the Pop-Up Mobile Makerspaces, which invited new ways of thinking about public urban space design, the Virtual Privacy Lab empowering people to take control of their online identities, and the Maker[Space]Ship, a state-of-the-art mobile lab. Currently, Erin is diving deep into the world of policies. She is also working on building Bridge Libraries, small branches embedded in high needs neighborhoods.


Erin was named an American Library Association’s Emerging Leader in the class of 2014. In 2016, she was named one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers. That same year the Virtual Privacy Lab earned her team the RUSA Award for Excellence in Adult and Reference Services. The California Library Association also honored her team with the Zoia Horn Award for Intellectual Freedom for the Virtual Privacy Lab. This year, Erin received the California Library Association’s Technology Professional Award.


She has served with the American Library Association in several different capacities. From 2014-2016, she was the Chair of the Fundraising Committee for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table. In addition, she has served on the Emerging Leader’s Steering Committee and planned Bay Area Mixers for fellow librarians in the New Members Round Table.


Candidate Statement

I’m excited about the opportunity to engage with all of you as one of your new At-large Board Members. While my service with the American Library Association has been fulfilling and effective, I’m looking forward to working within our state to advance the mission of the California Library Association. My unique skill set would be a valuable asset in connecting librarians, libraries, and educational organizations to continue expanding access to learning for every citizen in California.


California librarians and libraries are continually pushing the boundaries of traditional library services. All of our libraries face challenges every day. With a strong professional network to turn to, we can work together to learn, grow, and adapt to these challenges. Serving as your At-large Board member, I will work with our leadership to build robust librarian networks, forge solid legislative pathways, and innovate to solve problems. 



  1. How do you define leadership?
    Leadership is all about empowerment. It’s discovering ways to get other people excited about following. A great leader is someone who works in the trenches with people, not above them. Effective leaders are able to communicate the value of what they’re trying to accomplish, explaining the “whys” behind the project. Leadership can come from any level and is defined by a person who can make decisions and then lead by example.

  2. Why are you interested in this position?
    I’m excited about the opportunity to engage on a local level. I’ve been involved nationally for several years, but have seen more and more that real impact within the profession can be made at a more local level. I love California librarians and libraries and have been blown away by the phenomenal work we’re all doing in this state. The opportunity to facilitate and assist libraries in doing even more for their communities is why I want to join the board. I feel my skill set would be a valuable asset to connect with librarians, libraries, and educational organizations to continue expanding access to learning to every citizen in California.

  3. How would you describe your personal leadership/communication style?
    Good leaders are effective communicators. At the beginning of every project I set clear expectations for my team and give guidance and direction throughout. I am direct and honest, never beating around the bush. Instead, I work with my team to get right to the issue out at hand and figure out solutions. I am not a fan of micromanagement and put my trust in my team. We’re working together to make things happen. As the manager or leader of a team I help set direction, give tools to help make it happen, and ensure everyone has the resources they need to be successful.

  4. What strengths would you bring to the position?
    One of my most valuable skills is my passion. My ability to get people excited about libraries has been a huge benefit throughout my career. I am an effective communicator with a large network. No one has ever said that I was afraid to ask for something I needed. This has enabled me to forge new partnerships and make connections with people in and out of the library world.

  5. What experience do you bring to this position?
    My current position at San Jose Public Library is all about partnerships and project management. I have a great deal of experience seeking out non-traditional partners for libraries which has opened up a lot of new doors here at SJPL. I have worked with the American Library Association in several different roles, including as the Fundraising Chair of the GLBT Round Table from 2014-2017. I am also continually speaking around the world at conferences where I’ve led librarians in learning new skills to amplify what they’re doing at their libraries.

  6. What issues or trends are particularly informing your work at this time?
    The biggest issue that I’ve been managing is privacy. My team built the Virtual Privacy Lab to teach users how to be secure and empowered online. Now, I’m looking beyond patron education and into the core ethics of our profession. As the availability of tracking technology expands I am seeing more and more libraries jump into relationships with vendors which straddle (or sometimes cross) the core values of public libraries. It’s an interesting time for libraries and one in which we’ll have to decide if we jump on the technology bandwagon or stick with traditional values.

    Im also very interested in mobile outreach and access issues. Getting librarians out of the walls of libraries is critical. This doesnt just go for public libraries either. We can bring our services directly to where people are located instead of waiting for users to come to us. I led a team that built the Maker[Space]Ship, a 39 mobile makerspace which works to bridge those access barriers in our communities. Recently, Im working to build bridge libraries in communities that need them most. I visited a school library a few weeks ago where were planning to build one of these bridge libraries. Its in a low income neighborhood and they havent received any new books for 20 years. It was a shocking reminder how badly our communities need libraries. We should continually be looking for ways to connect with partners and expand beyond our walls into places where people already feel safe.

  7.  Who are the thought leaders (in libraries or in other fields) who interest you?
    There are several library leaders who I follow including: Sarah Houghton, John Chrastka, Michael Zimmer, and Bonnie Tijerina. Outside of the library: Elon Musk, Tristan Taormino, Ray Kurzweil, Stephen Hawking, Paul Krugman

  8. Who are the regional and statewide stakeholders libraries need to be in communication with?
    - State Board of Education
    - Local (county) Offices of Education
    - State Assembly and legislative offices
    - State Library
    - Library Foundations
    - Education Foundations
    - Private sector businesses
    - Joint Powers Authorities for Counties

  9. What do you feel are the most critical challenges and opportunities facing California libraries right now?
    While there are a great deal of challenges facing California libraries we also have many opportunities to make real differences. Across our state I think we’re seeing a lot of libraries dealing with immigration issues. We’re having to create partnerships with local organizations and curate collections to assist our users. The type of immigration issues we face depends on what type of library we are and who our users are. We also face access issues. How do we ensure that every resident (as appropriate to the demographic of our library) has access to our collections? There is a lot of movement recently in removing fines and getting public library cards into the hands of every citizen. We also see populations that are rural or face mobility issues. Finding ways to reach these populations either in person or digitally is important. Transforming our websites into 24/7 branches is a fantastic opportunity to expand access.

    As mentioned above, our school librarys lack of resources or existence is a huge challenge. It also speaks of opportunities for our public libraries to fill in the gaps. We also face privacy and ethics challenges. This is found both internally and from law enforcement trying to access patron information.

    Board Member At-Large

  10. Describe your experience serving on Association committees and/or interest groups.
    I have served as the GLBT Fundraising Chair from 2014-2017. I was the Bay Area NMRT Networking Regional Mixer Representative in 2014, planning local social gatherings. The last two years I’ve worked on the Emerging Leaders Interest Group, planning the social events for the annual conference, including this year’s 10th anniversary celebration.

  11. Describe your network of connections with library professionals and library stakeholders in California.
    I have a fairly large and vast network of library connections from southern to northern CA. Most connections are with Directors or Managers. I have worked on several state library projects. I’ve worked extensively with the Knight Foundation, including being invited to roundtable discussions with library thought leaders about the future of libraries.