Ryan grew up in Hamilton, Marion County, and attended the University of Alabama, where she majored in home economics and interior design. She began her career as a circulation assistant for the Birmingham Public Library in 1978 and soon took the opportunity to work as a professional storyteller. In 1983 she left to become assistant director of the new Hoover Public Library, and in 1985, after completing a Master of Arts in educational media at UAB she was promoted to Youth Services Director. She completed a masters' in library services at the University of Alabama and UAB in 1990.
Ryan assumed the directorship of the JCLC in August 1997. Among her first initiatives was coordinating implementation of computer services across the JCLC's member libraries which was funded by a grant from the Gates Library Foundation.
- Romero, Catherine (n.d.) "Patricia Ryan: FACES of Birmingham" Style Blueprint
- Rebman, Stephanie (November 7, 2018) "Longtime JCLC leader retiring, successor named." Birmingham Business Journal
- Pat Ryan at linkedin.com