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From the President › Page 2

Ask Me Why I Love My Job

My favorite library conference tchotchke of all time is a button I received from the PLA membership booth several years ago. It reads, “Ask me why I love my job!” Considering the fact that I would have proudly worn that button the first day I started working in a public library thirty-two years ago and would still do so today makes me feel very fortunate. Of course those who dare to ask the question need to be prepared to cut me off at some point (luckily for you, there’s an end to this column).

Moving Toward Outcomes

Recently I received an email message from a fellow library director recommending a librarian for employment. She noted that the librarian was skilled in readers’ advisory and a good team member, but had been let go due to continuing cuts to the public library’s budget by the municipal authorities, despite the fact that the town is sufficiently affluent to afford sustained support for public library services. Unfortunately, the local officials do not see the extent of the public library’s contribution to the well-being of community residents and to the town. We need to show more effectively that libraries are not only busy and efficiently run institutions, but that public libraries have multiple direct and indirect impacts on our communities.

Knowing Our Communities

Public libraries in the United States were founded at the community level, largely through the work of volunteer associations actively engaged in community building. As a result of this dependence on local initiative, there are still areas in Illinois that are not served by a public library. Funding for these early libraries was initially through […]

Innovation in Public Libraries

Librarians understand that innovation is important to the future of public libraries. One need only look through the program listings for any library conference, through the titles of recent articles in library journals, or newer position descriptions from public libraries to observe that the words “innovation” and “innovative” have become ubiquitous. Syracuse University has a […]

The Right Work

Recently Skokie (Ill.) Public Library (SPL) engaged in another strategic planning process. The event kicked off at our annual staff day, with all staff members sitting at big round tables in mixed groups of librarians, clerks, shelvers, maintenance,
and security personnel. They talked about the changes they had observed in the community over the past three years and where they saw opportunities for the library to make a difference. While we will continue to circulate materials, answer questions, and conduct storytimes, we have increasingly begun to look for the strategic intersection of gaps in community services or needs of specific groups with the library’s capacity to respond. These areas represent opportunities for the library to truly make a difference. We crafted a vision stating that SPL is “the heart of a vibrant village where people of all ages and cultures engage in lifelong learning and discovery while actively participating in the life of the community.” Meanwhile, our mission portrays the library “as a springboard for personal growth and community development.” Our planning team talked about our shared values, which in brief were articulated as: provide access, foster learning, and build community.

New Measures for a New Era

One of my earliest involvements with PLA was with the 1987 book, Output Measures for Public Libraries.1 I recall the sense that we were developing new measures for a new era. Indeed it was a bold step to begin looking at what a public library delivers to its community rather than at the resources (budget, collection size, and building size, for example) that the library has to work with. The measures a public library uses are important because they shape the way we think about libraries, library service, and the community. Also, public libraries use measurement for management of services and resources; for planning and assessment over time; for justifying funding requests; and for reporting to local, state, and national authorities. It is often helpful for a library to be able to compare itself to some comparable libraries, the selection of which may vary depending on the purpose.

It’s Been a Blast!

My year in office as PLA president has been a privilege and an honor. It occurred during a time in my life that now seems like an absolute whirlwind, both personally and professionally! On June 23, 2012, my term as PLA president officially began.

Turning Outward

This past January, I was privileged to be invited by American Library Association (ALA) President Maureen Sullivan and Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels to travel to Chicago and participate with twenty-four other library leaders, in an initiative called “The Promise of Libraries Transforming Communities.” With funding to ALA from the Institute of Museum and Library […]

Readers Are Our Best Advocates

In 2005, the Online Computer Library Center’s (OCLC) study Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources identified two critical facts about library service.1 First, the study revealed that most people come to public libraries for print materials. Second, it found that people associate libraries, first and foremost, with books. There is no runner-up. We’re known primarily […]

Unleash the Power of the Library

Public libraries are a unique network of service providers that exist to ensure that all citizens have free access to information and materials that are critical to daily life. Increasingly, this means providing access to computers and the Internet. Nowhere is this more evident than in the conclusions of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Libraries […]

Telling the Story of Public Libraries

This column represents my sign-off as president of the Public Library Association (PLA). It has been an honor to serve the PLA members and to represent our organization both nationally and internationally. As I close the book on my presidency, I would like to acknowledge the PLA staff members who make the difficult task of […]

Forging Ahead

“In our time, the curse is monetary illiteracy, just as inability to read plain print was the curse of earlier centuries.”—Ezra Pound (1885–1972)1 It appears that history continues to repeat itself. These words ring as true now as they did when Pound wrote them; although we also still grapple with reading literacy both in this […]

A Visit to Cuba’s Libraries

In May I traveled to Cuba on an educational tour comprised of teachers and librarians. We visited libraries, schools, museums, cultural art centers, and special programs offered for children. The experience was truly enlightening and I found out that despite all of the political and cultural differences, our two countries have many things in common. […]

Leadership and Advocacy

This is an important and challenging time to be a leader. Public library leaders are expected to have great motivational and communication skills; be innovators, risk takers, and strategic thinkers; and at the same time be fiscally responsible and politically savvy. Leaders are being held more accountable for their expenditures and need to be able […]

Grab Your Partner

What makes a good community collaboration? At the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Public Library (GRPL), we’ve had partnerships where the library does all the work and the community partner slaps its name on it, as well as incredibly fruitful, long-lasting partnerships that make you want to believe in marriage again. Some will argue, rightfully so, that […]