Michael Jordan: looking at next steps for JML

This past August 15, Michael Jordan took over the reins as the president of the board of the Jackson Memorial Library (JML) from Betsy Welch. Jordan, who first joined the JML board a year ago, admits that at first the decision to take on the role of president didn’t come easy. “As president, Betsy really put her heart and soul into the library—she always seemed to be there. All of us on the board thought it looked like a lot of work.”

Jordan notes that Welch’s three-year tenure as president encompassed a challenging period when the library was without a director, searching for a new one and then supporting that new director—Deb Armer—as she learned the ropes of her new job. Now that Armer has been in place for nearly a year, Jordan believes that the time is ripe for thinking about next steps.

“The Jackson Memorial library is a good library where you can borrow books and all the traditional things you think of. But it’s also kind of a community center—a place where people play bridge and mahjong, where there’s a weekly “tech time” service for people who need help with their computers, several reading groups, French lessons and art shows six times a year that bring people here to see what the local artists are doing. So it is just a lot of different things—more things than my hometown public library used to have. And I think we’re ready to make some plans about what more we should be doing. The more we can connect the library to the community the better off we will be—in terms of support, in terms of volunteers.”

One area ripe for expansion, Jordan points out, is the library’s relationship with the St. George School. “The school is right next door. We have an amazing pre-K program and an excellent children’s librarian in Sharon Moskowitz. Classes already come here to check out books. Children and libraries are obviously meant to go together.”

Jordan and his wife, Karen, began coming to Maine from their home in Philadelphia for vacations 25 years ago, first spending time in Boothbay and then in Owls Head for 10 years. During that period the couple began coming to JML, which at that time was in its old quarters on Main Street. “We always liked to go to the book sale during St. George Days. Then we volunteered to work the book sale—Karen sold raffle tickets and I sold books, which was fun. So we got to know some people that way.”

The Jordans bought their home on Racliff Island five years ago. They began living in Maine full time in the fall of 2015, when Jordan retired. Jordan had been with the same law firm for 41 years working in the area of business, finance, mergers and contracts, eventually becoming the firm’s general counsel. Karen, who is also a lawyer, had been a prosecutor with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

Outgoing JML president, Betsy Welch, believes Jordan’s experience in the corporate world makes him a great choice for board president.

“I see him as a business man who understands the importance of running the library as a business, because that is exactly what it is. It may be a nonprofit, but it is still a business and you have to have the same consciousness of the bottom line and making sure that what you are doing is not going to run you into the ground. You have to balance expenses and income.”

Jordan says he’s glad that he’ll be working with the JML board as he endeavors to ensure that balance is maintained, especially as the library looks at ways of expanding services. “The board is strong. The people on it have ideas. We’ll be looking to develop the talent represented there.”

Jordan admits that he remains a little daunted by his new role, but that he is also looking forward to it. “The first year we were here full time I had a taste for laziness—I was glad to read books, to kayak, to play some golf—I don’t need much to amuse me. But it is also nice to have something to focus on.” After a pause he adds with a smile, “In some ways I’m coming full circle—my first job, starting in high school, was in my hometown library, summers and weekends. I really liked it.”­—JW

PHOTO: Karen Jordan

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