Prior to founding KLF, Forstner helped establish the Ravenswood Literacy Project, which donated approximately 5,000 books to more than 15,000 students in the Ravenswood School District. The project also brought popular children’s authors to campus. Dan Gilbert, chairman of the KLF board, credited Forstner with spearheading the program.
“What really made the program unique was that we gave schools 20, 30, 40 copies of a book so it could really be dispersed among schools,” Forstner said.
Forstner joined Kepler’s in 2007 as a community volunteer, developing programs in partnership with local libraries, schools, and other nonprofit organizations.
In 2012, as director of community relations, Forstner was part of the team that helped plan Kepler’s future as the bookstore faced another major existential threat when owner Clark Kepler announced his retirement.
Praveen Madan, who had just joined Kepler’s as “head of community engagement” and restructured operations, envisioned a hybrid, part-profit, part-not-for-profit business.
Kepler first established Peninsula Arts & Letters, which was financially sponsored by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, before KLF applied for its own nonprofit status.
Soon, the Kepler Bookstore was created as a social purpose corporation, while KLF would act as a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm responsible for community programs and events, with Forstner as executive director.
At the time, the nonprofit had an annual budget of about $500,000 and a staff of about five people, Forstner told The Almanac in 2017.
KLF has maintained its community programs during the pandemic, including its popular speaker series. Forstner said guiding the nonprofit through a pandemic was a challenge, but found some of the programs may have worked better online than in person, such as the literary seminar program run by Kimberly Ford. . By hosting the sessions online, attendance went from around 25 to 30 people per session to around 100, she said.
Although she is leaving KLF, Forstner said she hopes to continue to be involved in community organizations. The climate is a subject at the top of the list.
“We really aim to maintain the momentum that Jean has built over the past, let’s call it 10 years or more, with Kepler’s, and continue to produce great events for our customers in the community at large,” Gilbert said. .