Leading Jaguars: Jan Figa (Neighbors)
After six months in the position of University Library Dean at GovState, Figa brings a sweeping vision to unite high-tech amenities with low-tech congeniality and collaboration. “The library is a place of getting books and other materials, but it is also a place of doing,” Figa explained. “I think of the library as a studio—a place of belonging and creation, a showcase of work and a place of celebration.”
Figa arrived at GovState in 2023 from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida where he was Library Director. Though he was born in Denmark, Figa said coming to Illinois was a return to his academic roots. He earned advanced degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and he formerly held library positions at Illinois College and Rockford University.
With an initial academic focus on mathematics and engineering, Figa yearned for more creativity to organize and reimagine spaces.
Among his many talents is digital architecture. For students in the newly established Honors College, Figa anticipates creating space for the addition of 55-inch computer monitors installed vertically that he’s calling “trees.”
“The trees can display dynamic content such as student or faculty poster sessions,” Figa explained. “A paper poster is in a fixed format. If the poster is digital, you can add more visually appealing information, change your approach – make content come alive!”
He's also helping lead the way for the first stage of an early childhood library that will be used as a training setting for incumbent workforce students in the Early Childhood Education Program. Junior Jaguars, who attend the Family Development Center, will also use the space. The plans include appropriately sized new furniture and smart tables that can be used as a classroom setting for practical hands-on training for adult and pre-K students. When Junior Jaguars aren't using the space, it will be open to the community.
Partial project funding came from the College of Education and Human Development through the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity grant created to support Illinois’ Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity Act.
Looking to the future, Figa anticipates upgrading library technologies and hiring staff with talent in the tech field; establishing a campus Library Outreach Committee; and re-establishing the Friends of the Library, which would be directed toward alumni participation.
As for his decision to switch to academic library leadership, Figa has no regrets. “It’s exciting to work with people who care about students and making a difference, people who want to make the world a better place.”