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More Than a Numbers Game: Jessica Gagnon’s Data Wizardry Benefits HPL Patrons

Annabelle as duchess

Annabelle as duchess

Elegant Meeshtar

Elegant Meeshtar

Serenade Sammy

Serenade Sammy

A Ph.D. in computational chemistry might sound like the most unlikely possible background for a project specialist at Hillsboro Public Library. And yet, it turns out to be perfect for Jessica Gagnon’s job managing the data and analytics that allow the library to make solid decisions on how to use its resources most effectively.

Using data visualization software, Jessica’s analysis informs library services in ways that might not immediately occur to most patrons. “Summer outreach is a good example,” she explains. “Due to COVID, it’s really different this year. We’re using these numbers to help determine whether we’re distributing materials equitably.”

“Analytics were also critical in designing our HPL To Go program,” which allows patrons to place and pick up holds on books and other physical materials.

Gagnon connects data to services, while respecting patron privacy and keeping the library’s mission always front and center. “It gives our leadership the insight that allows us to be much more strategic about our outreach and maximize our resources.”

“Libraries have always been part of my life since I was a kid growing up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin,” she says. “We had a huge, beautiful library where I volunteered when I was in high school.”

Despite that connection, she never saw herself working in a library, and although she had a Ph.D. she didn’t want to remain in academia. “After we moved to Hillsboro and I interacted with the library outreach team, I realized it was exactly what I was looking for – a fulfilling career where I could make a contribution.”

She adds, “There aren’t too many places where you can interact with such a huge cross-section of your community.”

Outside of work, Jessica enjoys video and tabletop games, woodworking and “all kinds of random crafts like macramé, watercolor and crochet that I learned because my mom was the leader of my 4H Club.”

“During the quarantine,” she adds, “I also like green-screening my two cats and my dog into weird scenes.”

Gagnon enjoys her largely behind-the-scenes role, but wants patrons to know, “The staff really miss seeing everyone. We’re working hard to come up with new and different ways to serve patrons despite COVID-19.”