Name – Deborah Jacobs

Designation – Director of Global Libraries

Organization – Global Development Program

Deborah Jacobs, director of the Global Libraries initiative at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, oversees the foundation’s work to improve the lives of 1 billion “information-poor” people by 2030 while positioning the world’s 320,000 public libraries as critical community assets and providers of information through relevant technologies.

Global Libraries works to support the transformation of libraries and expand their role as engines of development in partnership with governments and other public and private funders to expand technology access in public libraries, train library leaders, and advocate for policy changes that benefit public libraries. Jacobs and her team have worked in nineteen countries throughout the world ranging from the United States to South Africa, Vietnam to Bulgaria.

Deborah is a librarian with 40 years of experience leading libraries in becoming the relevant, dynamic, useful, and used centers of their communities. In Global Libraries she works with library organizations, governments, and future leaders in the field to help ensure the world’s libraries are places where technology and cultural heritage meet to change the lives of those they serve.

Prior to joining the foundation in 2008, she served as Seattle City Librarian for 11 years. In addition to directing the Seattle Public Library system, Jacobs led a $291 million capital-improvement program called “Libraries for All” that funded the construction of a new Central Library and renovated, built, or expanded 26 branch libraries. Over her tenure as Seattle City Librarian, the library moved forward in many areas including her priority areas of strengthening services to immigrants and refugees, early childhood learning, teen services and the virtual library.

Jacobs began her career as a children’s librarian, and has received a number of honors throughout her career. Among other recognitions, Jacobs has been named by the University of Washington as one of the most influential women of the 20th century and was included as one of Governing Magazine’s Public Officials of the Year in 2001, the first librarian ever to receive this honor. Jacobs’ happiest moments are when she has the opportunity to lead, manage, mentor, and inspire staff, allowing them the support they need to help shape their libraries and library programs in response to the needs of the people, aligning library services to community needs.

She received a BA in Government from Mills College and an MLS from the University of Oregon.