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February 24, 2018

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Library News Release

Release Date: 01/01/1970

Deborah L. Jacobs honored as one of top public officials in nation for 2001

Deborah L. Jacobs, city librarian for Seattle Public Library, will join the governor of Michigan, the mayor of Boston, a Texas legislator and five other outstanding public officials in receiving one of Governing magazine's Public Official of the Year awards for 2001.

The winners also include: the administrator of Maricopa County, Ariz.; the chief information officer for the state of Kentucky; the director of environmental quality for the state of Idaho; the Kansas insurance commissioner; and the commissioner of cultural affairs for the city of Chicago.

"These nine people found ways to innovate and to govern impressively at a time when skeptics were warning that large public institutions had grown unmanageable," said Alan Ehrenhalt, executive editor of Governing. "Some performed miracles by building consensus among differing factions, and some by taking risks as individual entrepreneurs. But all provide graphic testimony that dedicated public servants are winning important battles at every level of the American political system. What they need most is a public that appreciates the difficulty of their work, and the sacrifices they make to accomplish it."

Every year Governing honors between five and 10 public officials in state and local government for their outstanding accomplishments, either during the past 12 months or over the course of a longer career. Jacobs is the first librarian to receive the award.

The magazine solicits nominations from the public and consults recognized experts and scholars in the field, seeking the names of officials they deem worthy of recognition. In addition, Governing's editors and writers submit brief reports on outstanding individuals they have encountered in the course of their journalistic work during the year. The editors make the ultimate selections.

This year's group of recipients is the eighth to be honored in Governing's awards program, which was launched in 1994. Governing, now 14 years old, is an independent national magazine devoted to coverage of state and local government. The magazine has a circulation of 86,000 and can be viewed online at

The award winners are profiled in Governing's November issue and will be honored at a dinner on Thursday, Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C., hosted by the magazine and the corporate sponsors of the awards: ACS State and Local Solutions Inc.; Compaq Computer Corp.; MasterCard; Microsoft; and PeopleSoft.

Governing Magazine's 2001 Public Officials of the Year:

Deborah Jacobs, city librarian of Seattle, Washington, arrived in town in the aftermath of a disappointing defeat for the cause of library improvement, and used her personal credibility and tireless energy to forge a new commitment to the library system and a realization of its importance in the city's future.

Governor John Engler pursued the idea of market-driven government with energy and conviction and achieved successes that turned critics into imitators both in his state of Michigan and at the national level.

State Representative Garnet Coleman mastered the intricacies of health policy and negotiated complex financial solutions that have brought decent care for the first time to more than a million low-income Texas citizens.

David Smith, the administrator of Maricopa County, Arizona, took a local government that was bankrupt and demoralized, and not only led it to solvency but lifted it to the forefront of innovative public management.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino brought his lifelong vision of urban revival to the government of Boston and persevered until the neighborhoods of his city became a showcase for commercial renewal and vibrant community life.

Aldona Valicenti, the chief information officer of Kentucky, built a network of technology services that gives her state's residents unprecedented opportunities to use the Internet to better their lives.

Steve Allred, director of Idaho's Department of Environmental Quality, turned an agency long maligned as inefficient and powerless into one respected by all factions and all ideologies in the state's intense environmental politics.

Kathleen Sebelius, the Kansas Insurance Commissioner, took over a moribund state agency and developed it into one that carefully and effectively balanced the needs of consumers and the concerns of the industry it regulated.

Lois Weisberg, Chicago's Cultural Affairs Commissioner, conceived and implemented a brilliant sequence of public events and artistic projects that united diverse groups of city residents and attracted admirers all over America and the world.

Jacobs said she is honored to receive the award, and is proud that "the incredible work our Library staff, Library Board and policy-makers are doing is being recognized at a national level." Seattle Public Library is in the midst of a comprehensive renewal of its library system. Under the current $235 million "Libraries for All" capital program, all 22 existing branch libraries will be improved or replaced, five new branch libraries will be constructed and a new world-class central library will be built downtown. In addition, significant resources that have been raised from the private sector are being used to enhance library collections, technology, literacy efforts and literary programming.

Jacobs supervises nearly 600 part-time and full-time employees and oversees an annual operating budget of $32 million. She provides leadership in planning, organizing and guiding library operations to serve the informational, educational, cultural and recreational needs of the residents and organizations of the city of Seattle.

Jacobs' past honors:

  • Jacobs was named Library Journal's Librarian of the Year in 1994.

  • A Seattle Times editorial included Jacobs in a group of "remarkable people" in 1998 who "added measurably to the quality of life in the Puget Sound region."

  • The Seattle Times stated that Jacobs "proved that true leaders can energize an organization, convert skeptics into believers and get things done. . . . ."

  • In March 1999 the Municipal League of King County named Jacobs Public Employee of the Year for her exceptional leadership in developing Libraries for All, creating a legacy we can all be proud of and can help to assure our city's continuing dynamism and prosperity in the world of the 21st century.

  • In January 1999, Jacobs was honored nationally as a First Amendment Champion by the American Library Association. 
    In spring 1999, Jacobs was invited to teach a graduate course at the University of Washington to inspire and energize a new generation of librarians.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director

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