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It’s Been a Blast!

by Eva Poole on June 7, 2013

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. On June 27, I spent my last day as director of libraries for Denton (Tex.) Public Library to become chief of staff for the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL). When I arrived in D.C. on the evening of June 29, I spent the night in a hotel because I couldn’t move into my apartment until the following morning. On June 30, a friend and colleague from the Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library called and asked me if I was okay. “Okay?” I asked incredulously. “Yes,” she said. “We had the worst storm ever last night. With 60-80 mile-per-hour wind gusts, they are calling it a ‘derecho’.” I had slept through the derecho and didn’t hear the wind gusts, the falling tree branches, or anything else. I moved into my apartment on June 30, unpacked all of my boxes, and started my new job with DCPL on July 1.

As president of PLA, I was invited to give the keynote speech at the International Conference on Public Library Development Trends in the Digital Era in honor of the Taipei (Taiwan) Public Library’s sixtieth anniversary. I flew to Los Angeles on October 20, 2012, to travel with Jan Sanders,  director of the Pasadena (Calif.) Public Library, and past PLA president, who also had been invited to speak at the conference. We left the Los Angeles Airport on October 21 and arrived in Taiwan on October 23. I left Taiwan on October 25 to preside over my first PLA board of directors meeting on October 26. I was told that my first board meeting went very well.

Many other events happened that I will not bore you with in my last column, but working with a fabulous PLA board of directors, and an extremely efficient PLA executive director and her talented staff, was the most wonderful experience! I’m most proud to have worked personally to appoint highly qualified and diverse PLA members to serve on the various PLA committees, many of whom were new to the field (including Emerging Leaders and Spectrum Scholars) or had never served on a PLA committee.

PLA received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for three grants during my term as president. Building on the PLA strategic plan priorities, these grants provide critically needed leadership training and literacy resources for public libraries. I want to share just how these grants will help.

Development of a Digital Literacy Website

One in five Americans doesn’t use the Internet,1 which often means they take longer to find a job, they may have limited access to educational resources, and they are more isolated, among other issues. Many organizations are working to decrease the digital divide, and many state and public libraries have created digital literacy curriculum and resources in response to the increased demand of Broadband Technology Opportunities Program activities. DigitalLearn.org will build on the resources of libraries and other community organizations and will offer training and communities of practice for the profession. Be sure to check out the beta site and provide us with feedback. The site will launch at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago.

Digital Summer Reading Planning Grant

PLA received a planning grant to research summer reading practices, how digital resources are or might be used, and what would be most useful to public libraries. A white paper based on survey results and focus groups will be made available for public comment in June 2013. The final results
will be used to consider implementation of a summer reading application that will help strengthen communities by building the skills needed for our increasingly digital society.

Leadership Training Model Planning Grant

In partnership with the International City/County Management Association, PLA received a planning grant to design and develop a leadership-training model for key staff in public libraries across the United States. Training was held March 5–8 for twenty-four library leaders to increase their capacity to lead within the library and the community. As a result of the grant funding, twenty-four library leaders are now better prepared to maximize the potential of public libraries in the twenty-first century and ensure that libraries are viewed as critical to communities. PLA will use the pilot results to develop an implementation plan for sustainable leadership training.

I leave the office of president knowing that PLA will continue to provide strategic vision, innovative solutions, and careful management of its resources to help public libraries. Thanks so much for the opportunity! It was indeed a blast!


1. Kathryn Zickuhr and Aaron Smith, “Digital Differences,” Pew Internet & American Life Project, April 13, 2012, accessed May 21, 2013.