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Gates Foundation librarian named to lead Boise Public Library

Ten months after the resignation of the city’s former library director, Boise’s public library system has a new leader.

On Thursday, Boise Public Library’s Board of Trustees announced Deputy Director of Global Libraries for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Jessica Dorr as their pick to head up the city’s network of libraries. Dorr, who is currently based in Seattle, was selected after a nationwide search by a consultant garnering 26 applications from 13 states and Canada. She starts work on November 30.

[Boise city council makes changes to voter-approved library law]

“The Trustees unanimously selected Jessica Dorr,” Board President Margo Healy said in a press release. “She brings deep experience and knowledge of trends in library service models. In our interviews she described how she will empower staff to engage with the community to create a shared vision and mission for Boise Public Library in 2020 and beyond. Dorr is a respected administrator, a strategic thinker, and believes in community partnerships to achieve the Library’s mission in the community.”

From Gates foundation to Boise

Dorr worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for 22 years, where she started as a technology trainer for community center West Seattle Learns. In her current role as the Deputy Director of Global Libraries, she was a leader in the 20 year, $1 billion initiative to boost information access to communities in need. She also oversaw the foundation’s Native American Access to Technology Program, which provided funding and resources to meet the needs of Indigenous communities. She holds a B.A. from Georgetown University and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington.

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“Boise is a vibrant, dynamic city and I am eager to build relationships with the community,” Door said in a press release. “I look forward to joining the Library and working with the staff of the Library, the City, and the Board of Trustees to help the Library contribute to the city’s goal of creating a place that is equitable, safe, and thriving for everyone,” said Dorr.

[Boise looks at library options after initiative scuttled $100MM+ building]

Dorr will take over the library system after a year and a half of turmoil surrounding former Mayor Dave Bieter’s plan to build a new main library. The project, designed by world-famous architect Moshe Safdie, was expected to cost over $100 million and include an events center and a new office space for the Boise Arts & History Department. Some residents pushed back against the library’s high price tag, design and the city’s plans to move the location of a historic 1940s era log cabin next to the building. 

A ballot initiative passed by an overwhelming margin in November 2019 blocked the city from building a new main library without a vote of approval from the city. Shortly after the vote, former Library Director Kevin Booe announced his retirement. 

Margaret Carmel
Margaret is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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