A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

A Year of Accomplishment

by Audra Caplan on April 29, 2013

As my presidential term comes to a close, I’d like to share with you PLA’s many accomplishments. This year we have reexamined all of our services to align them with the new PLA strategic plan and to reflect the new economic realities. As a result, the organization is providing new training opportunities and products that are more cost-effective and responsive to memberships needs. As you know, none of this happens in a vacuum. All of these initiatives are the result of an amazing PLA staff, lead by Executive Director Barbara Macikas, and a committed board and membership. Also, one of the PLA strategic plan objectives is to engage members in the work of the organization. Many new members have become involved this year and many of our seasoned members have provided leadership, mentorship, and guidance.

During the 2010–11 year, PLA continued to offer its premier level of professional development, but with a new level of online engagement. In an effort to provide more opportunities for accessible training throughout the year, PLA developed a webinar series, “Public Libraries at Work,” in fall 2010. The series was designed to offer practical education and innovative ideas that help participants make a difference in their library. PLA’s 2010–11 webinars have included:

  • “Transforming Our Image”––presented by Valerie Gross, president and CEO, Howard County (Md.) Library
  • “Nancy Pearl Presents: Books that Make Great Gifts”
  • “Right on the Money: Financial Literacy @ your library”––presented by Project Read Staff, South San Francisco Public Library
  • “Creating a User-Friendly Website for Your Library”––presented by Nate Hill, web librarian at the San Jose (Calif.) Public Library
  • “Cracking QR Codes: What Are They and How Can They Help Your Library”–– presented by Carson Block, IT director of the Pudre River (Colo.) Public Library District

The series had more than one thousand participants and we look forward to continuing this successful endeavor next year.

On March 2, 2011, PLA held its first-ever “Member Update” webinar, developed to inform and encourage member engagement within the organization and
throughout the field of public libraries. The topics included:

  • 2011 PLA elections and proposed dues increase;
  • information about participating in PLA Communities of Practice (CoPs);
  • how to engage in public library advocacy; and
  • a preview of the 2011 Virtual Spring Symposium.

Through the years, the PLA Spring Symposia have built a reputation of being premier education events for public library staff. This year, PLA brought that same level of professional development and inspiration right into the library with the Virtual Spring Symposium, creating a more convenient and affordable event for members.

On March 30, almost seven hundred registrants joined PLA for a full-day of public library education. Eight programs highlighted topics in technology, youth services, administration/leadership, and adult services. Individual registrants were able to switch between tracks to participate in sessions that were of interest to them. Registered groups streamed simultaneous tracks on multiple computers to allow each member of the team to get the most out of the day. Participants were able to submit questions during each program and chat with other attendees online, making the Virtual Spring Symposium a truly interactive experience. Additional highlights of the day were a lunchtime interview with author Diane Ackerman led by Booklist editor Donna Seaman, and a lively closing session, “The Sustainable Library,” with George Needham and Joan Frye Williams.

This year, PLA also offered a four-week, blended-learning course, “The Accidental Public Library Technology Trainer.” Designed for library professionals who have unexpectedly found themselves responsible for technology training at their library, the course sold out quickly. Librarian, author, and trainer Stephanie Gerding guided participants through a highly interactive combination of live webinars, independent assignments, and online discussions.

This year, PLA also continued to offer public library management courses that provide in-depth education and interactive opportunities for library professionals. The courses can be taken individually or used cumulatively as credit toward the Certified Public Library Administrator (CPLA) program. The two-day workshops, offered in every region of the country, tackled valuable topics including Budget and Finance, Fundraising, Marketing, Serving Diverse Populations, and Planning and Management of Buildings.

PLA also added three publications to its wide range of resources for career advancement, problem-solving, continuing education, and library information for public library professionals.

  • In October 2010 PLA released Time Flies . . . But Where? Time Management Tips and Tools, its fourth downloadable training program for public library staff. The program culminates in a personal plan outlining steps and tools for better time management for each participant. Time Flies includes all the materials needed to present a daylong training program.
  • Published annually since 1988, PLA’s Public Library Data Service (PLDS) Statistical Report presents timely and topical data to assist public library administrators in making informed management decisions. In the 2010 edition, 987 public libraries shared their data. The 2010 report also features a special section on children’s services in public libraries. The report is available in both print and digital formats.
  • In summer 2011, PLA, in cooperation with the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), will release the eagerly anticipated Every Child Ready to Read @ your library Second Edition Toolkit. The ECRR program is a series of parent-caregiver workshops and resources that provide public libraries with vital tools to help prepare parents for their critical role as their child’s first teacher.

Also in 2011, PLA was fortunate to renew its partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and move forward on two projects—Turning the Page 2.0 and the Public Access Technology Benchmarks initiative.

  • Turning the Page 2.0 is the next generation of Turning the Page: Building Your Library Community, the successful program previously offered by PLA. Free to all ALA members, the 2.0 training addresses the same core issues of advocacy, communications, and relationship building—this time in a convenient blended-learning format. In this six-week, facilitated online course, library staff and supporters can learn how to create and tell their library’s story, deliver effective presentations, develop a compelling case for support, and build and sustain partnerships along the way.
  • Spring 2011 saw the start to a groundbreaking coalition and project funded by the Gates Foundation—the Public Access Technology Benchmarks initiative. PLA joined eleven organizations in an effort to develop, pilot, and promote the adoption of public access technology benchmarks for public libraries. The primary goals of the initiative are to create benchmarks that motivate local reinvestment and to inspire continuous improvement in public access technology at public libraries. Libraries will be able to use the benchmarks as tools to evaluate and plan for their technology needs.

In the summer of 2010 PLA introduced restructured CoPs to offer a more engaging and rewarding way for members to become involved in the association. The CoP enhancements were designed to strengthen member opportunities for networking, sharing best practices, engaging in discussion, and developing new ideas. There are more than twenty active CoPs.

Advocacy and Awareness is one of the new Strategic Plan goals. The Advocacy and Legislation Committee led by Kathleen Reif has been working in conjunction with ALA’s Washington Office and the Institute of Museums and Libraries (IMLS) to forge partnerships with key federal agencies. One of these is an initiative with the Department of Health and Human Services to create an information memorandum between the Administration of Children, Youth and Families/Head Start and IMLS to encourage collaboration between Head Start and public libraries to meet the education needs of young children.

The culmination of activities this year will finish off with a flourish of programs at the 2011 Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. Topics include digital literacy, diverse communities, unique programming, and library management.

The PLA President’s Program and Awards Presentation will recognize the PLA 2011 award winners and, to my great excitement, will host keynote speakers writer-producer David Simon and bestselling mystery author Laura Lippman. This husband-wife duo brings a dynamic energy and urban perspective to the stage. Their Baltimore origins inspire their work—Simon as writer and producer of award-winning shows Homicide and The Wire and Lippman as the author of What the Dead Know and Life Sentences, as well as mysteries featuring Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan. Simon will also bring a unique insight on the conference host city, New Orleans, from his current work on the television drama Treme.

In addition, PLA will host its first-ever Mega Issue Discussion during the PLA All-Committee Meeting. The discussion will be an interactive event designed to offer PLA members an opportunity to meet in person and provide input on the topics of leadership development and membership engagement for the organization. I strongly encourage anyone who attends the Annual Conference to participate and lend their expertise to this discussion.

As you can see, together we have crafted a year of continued successes and new initiatives. For me it has been a true honor to work alongside so many passionate, dedicated people. I have had the opportunity to travel to national and international events communicating the value of public libraries. I look forward to turning the gavel over to Marcia Warner, the incoming PLA president. I hope she enjoys her presidential year as much as I have and know she will lead PLA to even greater successes in the year to come.