Indianapolis Public Library Foundation President Roberta Jaggers is driven by a lifelong passion for open access to literature
Roberta Jaggers grew up with a librarian who was supportive of whatever she chose to read. That free and open access to literature has been a theme throughout her life. As president of the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation, she leads fundraising efforts which benefit library programs. As a mother, she encourages her daughter to participate in the library’s activities.
“I do compartmentalize, but there is a blending of that, too,” she said. “I can see the connection of what I’m doing at the library makes me a better mom and what I’m doing with my daughter makes me better at what I do at the library foundation.”
Roberta now resides Franklin Township with her husband, Doug.
She described herself as having been a “frequent flier,” to the Stanford Free Library where she grew up in a New York small town. As a child, she would go there to read. She began to volunteer as a teenager, keeping the card catalog up to date and labeling the books.
Roberta moved to Indianapolis in 2001 to attend graduate school at what is now the Lilly School of Philanthropy and School of Public Environmental Affairs at IUPUI. She had the opportunity to apply for an internship, and with help of a member of the school staff, became the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation’s first-ever intern in May 2002. Though she left to study abroad in the spring of 2003, when she returned, she was offered a full-time position at the foundation in April 2003.
“I started at the library foundation interested in grant writing,” she said. “But I quickly realized that it’s not just about writing. It’s also about a building relationship with a donor.”
She gives credit her many mentors, especially past president Danny Dean for seeing potential in her as a leader before she saw it in herself.
“I had a lot of good mentors but above all I was fortunate to have a president who I served under who is still involved in the foundation,” Roberta said, “for him to recognize there was a succession need at the library foundation and see the potential to develop me into a strong candidate for the position.”
Roberta became the second president in the foundation’s history on Jan. 1, 2016. The foundation started in 1969 as a volunteer organization, hiring Dean in the 90s. There are now a total of nine staff members and 24 volunteers serving on the board of directors.
“I’ve worked hard to develop my own leadership capabilities, to be the awesome leader that they deserve,” she said. “I think I have reached good. They’re an awesome team and they deserve an awesome leader so I keep working. I’m proud of all of them and appreciative of their part. I’m keenly aware that I can’t do it all myself… They’ve given me the peace of mind that if a challenge comes up, they have my back. They’re so supportive and engaged.”
Her first year as president was about stabilization. She said while the organization was in great shape, there was a lot of change at one time.
In her first day as president, Roberta wrote a letter and attached a photo of herself at four years old, sitting in the very front as her librarian read a book to the children. It demonstrates that love of reading that was instilled in her as a youngster, an example of the impact of the foundation’s library funding. It also exemplifies something she is passing along to her daughter, Anna, age 6, who attends Acton Elementary School. Roberta maintains a notebook with each book she and Anna have read together for the Indianapolis Public Library’s summer reading program. She tries to read with Anna for 20 minutes each night. She even went to Anna’s Career Day to speak about the foundation and the Summer Reading Program which began June 5.
“It’s a way to share with her my love of reading and she loves to read anyway,” she said. “There are times she pushes me to the library. Plus, the concept of teaching responsibility. These books that we’re getting from the library, we’re borrowing these and sharing them with the community so we have to take care of them. We need to encourage children to be more civically minded and using your public library is a great way to do that.”
This year at the foundation, Roberta’s goals revolve around improvement.
“This year, it’s about picking up your head, looking around and what can we do better,” she said. “About 76 percent of our expenses are on library programs. I think we’re efficient but how can we be more efficient?”
Looking ahead, the foundation will reach its 50th anniversary in 2019. Roberta said they’re beginning to plan what that celebration will look like. Her goals are to make sure they are constantly maximizing their impact and keep the four dation operations healthy.
“I think our anniversary will create a public opportunity for us to do those things,” she said. “I’m excited about how we can help every person and every child enrich their lives through lifelong learning. We want to do additional outreach and programming. So stay tuned.”
Upcoming Indianapolis Public Library Foundation events and library programs
– Summer reading: Began June 5 and runs through July 29. Enroll anytime. The theme this year is Read It & Eat It. Children, teens and parents are encouraged to read books for incentives during summer break, at any branch of the Indianapolis Public Library.
– Imagine It: June 15, 7 – 9 p.m. at Ash & Elm, 2104 E. Washington St. This event for ages 21 and over is $30 per person. Participants can vote on the next program the library will offer.
– Book sale: Begins Friday, June 16 with Friends Night.
What’s in her bag?
Roberta Jaggers shares what she’s reading right now, and what she enjoys reading:
– Inspired Philanthropy: Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy by Tracy Gary
– Giving with Confidence: A Guide to Savvy Philanthropy by Colburn Wilbur and Fred Setterberg
– The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride
– I enjoy IBJ, the local neighborhood news.