Introducing Mary Jean Jakubowski, finalist for the 2021 ATHENA Leadership Award

The BNP is pleased to introduce you to the finalists who have been selected for the 2021 ATHENA® honors including the ATHENA Leadership Award® and the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award®.  NEW THIS YEAR, we will also present the ATHENA Organizational Award® to recognize one  for-profitorganization and one non-profitorganization that inspire women in WNY to achieve their full potential. 

We will bring you profiles of each finalist in the weeks ahead, leading up to the awards event. Come back often to read the profiles and you’ll learn what it means to be an Athena. And if you’d like to attend the ATHENA Awards® Luncheon, the region’s most prestigious event dedicated to the professional accomplishments of those who work to advance women, you can get tickets here.

Meet This Week’s ATHENA Leadership Award® Finalist

Mary Jean Jakubowski
Library System Director
Buffalo & Erie County Public Library 

Mary Jean Jakubowski is Library System Director of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, responsible for overseeing the Central Library, 8 branches in the City of Buffalo and 22 contract member libraries which operate 28 facilities outside the city in Erie County. She has more than 30 years of experience with the library system including 10 years as director. Among her many volunteer and community activities, Mary Jean has served with the American Library Association (ALA) Key Congressional Contact Program and the New York State Regents Advisory Council on Libraries. She also supports the Zonta Club of Buffalo and Trailblazing Women of Western New York.  

First Job

Mary’s first job was as a camp counselor in northern Ontario, Canada. 

Career Highlights

Throughout her tenure as library system director, Mary Jean has considered it an ongoing accomplishment that the community continues strongly (and vehemently) to support library services – both new and traditional – and that library staff, administration and trustees have readily and willingly adapted to the ever-changing needs of those the library serves. Their success is her success. She also notes that she is proud of her role in bringing together 23 independent organizations to focus on the same goal – serving as centers of information, education, culture, and entertainment for the residents of Erie County.  

Further, Mary Jean is very proud of how the organization was able to pivot and provide services during the pandemic. The team adjusted to the “new normal” by moving many services and programs to a virtual platform and offering new services including curbside pickup, books by mail, online programming and so on to support the educational and recreational needs of the community, especially students, teachers, parents, seniors, and job seekers, etc. 

Best Piece of Advice Given Regarding Her Career

Stay strong and trust in yourself. 

Advice to Give to a Woman Just Starting in the Workplace

Trust and believe in yourself, try new things, accept change, never stop dreaming, and be strong!    

About being an ATHENA Award® Finalist

“I am shocked, appreciative, honored, and most definitely humbled to be a finalist. Libraries are community and like a community it takes a multitude of people with a common goal to be successful. My being named a finalist is reflective of the fabulous team I have the privilege of working with and the tremendous support received from the B&ECPL Board of Trustees and the community at large.”

On Buffalo Niagara

“It’s the people of our region that make is so special. Not to mention the weather – I absolutely love the fact we experience all four seasons.” 

Favorite Spot in Buffalo

Any library

Lightning Round: Added Insights
  • Guilty Pleasure: Religiously reading People Magazine every Friday evening. Admitting to having watched 40 seasons of Survivor.
  • My Superpower: Kindness, Internal Strength 
  • Best Describes Me: Dedicated, diplomatic, persistent, supportive, and thoughtful
  • Most Likely To: Find a way to make it work 
  • Best At: Multi-tasking under pressure. Juggling career and family. Being a Mom to two, beautiful, independent young women
  • If You Were a Celebrity, You’d Be: Batgirl (she is a librarian after all!); my family would say: Helen Parr a.k.a Mrs. Incredible
  • Book Recommendation: Lost Girls of Paris by Pam JenoffWhere Crawdads Sing by Della Owens; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


 Attend the ATHENA Awards® Luncheon

The ATHENA Awards® Luncheon is the region’s most prestigious event recognizing the professional accomplishments of exceptional individuals who are dedicated to the advancement of women. Be there when the winners are announced.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Register to Attend Here


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