BBLM Interview with Benicia Library Director Jennifer Baker

Community Partnering is the Answer

Benicia Black Lives Matter, by Sheri Leigh, August 8, 2022

“A truly great library has something to offend everyone.”  This quote by librarian Jo Goodwin is how Jennifer Baker, Benicia’s new Director of Library and Cultural Services, approaches her job.

Baker wants to shake it up by inviting the people of Benicia to think and act more critically and responsibly.  When BBLM members approached her to discuss partnering, Baker welcomed the opportunity.  

Pushing boundaries isn’t something new for Baker. She and her husband left Texas to be part of a more progressive community in 2000.  They came to California to work in the library systems of Fresno, Napa, and Solano Counties, with Baker landing in Benicia at the beginning of this year.

Baker is a big supporter of expanding the horizons of a community, particularly through conversations about equity and social justice.   She already started the ball rolling in Benicia with the “Book to Action: From Just Us to Justice” program.

Last March, just two months into her position at the Benicia Public Library, Baker applied for and received a federal grant to launch a community book reading campaign of “Just Us” by Claudia Rankine, followed by several months of activities, including book discussions, a speaker’s panel, and a readers’ theater presentation of “The White Card,” another literary piece on social justice by Claudia Rankine, produced by Benicia Theatre Group.  The program was a success and has inspired Baker to do more.  

When talking about how we can better partner with Baker, we learned that she has many ideas and goals.

Starting this fall, the library will facilitate a Community Needs Assessment to determine what makes our community so appealing and what would make it even better.  Baker is committed to equity and inclusion in this process and is eager to prove that the library can serve as an active collaborator on efforts to change practices and systems that create barriers to prosperity and well-being. “Libraries are equalizers,” says Baker, “a truly strong, vibrant community can only be achieved if all community members can realize their full potential, and my goal is to position the library to help make that happen.”

She also looks forward to working closely with our schools to see how the library can best support the young people of Benicia and cultivate their critical thinking skills. Other ideas include professional development for teachers to support student information literacy and sponsoring community discussions that incorporate societal changes and challenge institutional and systemic racism and outdated cultural norms.

The firm belief that education and productive community activities are the keys to fostering peaceful and progressive change is something Baker and BBLM share.  It is through cooperation and collaboration, that we can achieve these goals.  Baker is excited to work with progressive and community minded organizations like BBLM, and we are excited to work with her.    

Anyone interested in joining us in this partnering endeavor to make Benicia the place to be for everyone can contact Jennifer Baker at or BBLM at