Leaders x Libraries: Mayor Matt Mahan

A composite of Mayor Matt Mahan with a collage of 25 San Jose branch libraries behind him.

Leaders x Libraries

We're happy to introduce San José Mayor Matt Mahan. Sworn into as San José's 66th mayor in 2023, he previously served as the District 10 Councilmember representing the Almaden Valley, Blossom Valley, and Vista Park neighborhoods.

We're excited to have him participate in our Leaders x Libraries blog series to share what he loves most about libraries and how libraries have shaped his life while growing up.

Get to Know Mayor Mahan

Q. What is your hometown?
A. Watsonville, California

Q. Do you have an SJPL Library Card?
A. Yes!

Q. Where did you get your first library card?
A. Watsonville Public Library when I was around 5 years old.

Q. Which do you prefer, physical books, eBooks, or Audiobooks/eAudiobooks?
A. Physical Books

Q. What is your favorite book and why?
A. I can’t pick just one! Top of my list includes For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, One Hundred Years of Solitude. These novels are all early to mid-20th century epics about people of great character forged in adversity. They show humanity authentically – acknowledging our many weaknesses and shortcomings as well as the beauty and kindness of which we are capable.

Q. What are you currently reading or learning?
A. I read The Economist and The New Yorker each week. Earlier this year, I got on a tree kick and read a half-dozen books on oak trees and forests more generally. And of course, I read to my kids at bedtime – they aren’t quite ready for The New Yorker and my nature books aren’t too thrilling, but I do read The Princess in Black and Dr. Seuss books on repeat.

Q. What does the library mean to you, and why do you think libraries are essential to society?
A. Growing up, the library was my daycare. Every day after school, my younger sisters and I would walk to the Watsonville Public Library – staying there until dark when our parents got off work and could take us home. Moreover, at that time, Watsonville was a small farming town without a lot going on, so reading was how I accessed the wider world. To the larger community, libraries act as places of exploration, community gathering spaces, after school sanctuaries, and a resource center, including for closing the digital divide.

Q. How did the library shape your life while growing up?
A. Beyond functioning as a daycare for me in childhood, libraries helped instill in me an appreciation for learning. When I graduated from college, I decided to come back to San Jose to teach middle school in Alum Rock because education changed my life and I wanted to give back. My perspective on reading, education, and libraries has been strongly shaped by this personal experience as a teacher. I was — and continue to be — motivated to make society a fairer place with greater opportunity for all, and libraries are undoubtedly an important part of that better future.

Q. How do you see libraries shaping the city's future?
A. Something noteworthy about libraries is how they evolve and adapt to meet society's needs. Many people still think of libraries as rooms full of books – but in reality libraries have grown and evolved with society. From helping close the digital divide to addressing learning loss and promoting early childhood literacy – libraries are an incredible public resource for creating opportunity.

Q. Why is it important for everyone to exercise their right to library?
A. As a parent and former teacher, I know how important our libraries and community centers are for the most vulnerable members of our community, including children and seniors, who often lack alternative spaces that are safe, warm, and provide access to information and other resources.

Favorite Book

For Whom the Bell Tolls, book cover
The Grapes of Wrath, book cover
East of Eden, book cover
One Hundred Years of Solitude, book cover

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