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Get to Know the 2024 PLA Election Candidates

by on March 26, 2024

The Public Library Association asked the candidates standing for the 2024 election to answer three questions developed by the PLA committee members. The two presidential candidates, Kim DeNero-Ackroyd and Dr. Brandy McNeil, responded to these questions on Monday, March 18 during the virtual 2024 PLA Presidential Candidates Forum. The on-demand recording of the forum may be found at the bottom of this page, along with the full list of candidates and the positions for which they are running. The remaining candidates had the opportunity to answer via written responses below.

PLA members, get to know your candidates and invest in the future of PLA and public libraries by participating in the 2024 election! PLA members in good standing as of January 31, 2024 may cast a digital ballot to vote. The election will close Wednesday, April 3, 2024. Learn more about the candidates and the PLA election here.

Question 1: Why did you want to become a librarian in the first place, and how would you communicate the importance of being involved with PLA to librarians new to the profession?

Laura McGrath: Librarianship offered the opportunity to put my organizational skills to use. I love to figure out ways to organize and connect things so that others can more easily find out about and use them. Libraries have many paths for this, and I’ve been able to organize spaces and collections so they’re more accessible; analyze projects and processes so they can be more efficient; and provide information resources so people can more easily tap into them. From the very beginning of my career PLA offered me opportunities to learn from others and to develop my skills. I attended my first PLA conference less than two years into my career and was immediately hooked. Seeing librarians from all over the continent and hearing their approach to the issues we all face was transformative. Getting involved with PLA committees offered even more opportunities to meet others and grow and develop as a leader.

Megan Maurer: I was drawn to the library profession because I have a drive to serve others and genuinely enjoy helping people. I have stayed in the profession because I find it rewarding and challenging. For those new to the profession, I would emphasize that PLA can provide them with a network of understanding helpers, a sounding board for the tough days, and a variety of continuing education opportunities.

Padma Polepeddi: I knew I wanted to work in public libraries and share my passion and love for everything libraries offer to people of all ages and backgrounds, when I had a transformative customer service experience as an immigrant arriving from India (35 years ago) inside a public library branch in Chicago. The staff at the public library branch provided an unending supply of early childhood literacy resources for my young toddler son. The personalized service of each of the library staff motivated me to start volunteering in public and school libraries and later apply to work in a public library.

Being involved with PLA offers new library professionals the exciting opportunity to connect, be motivated, share and learn from other library professionals from a rich diversity of backgrounds, vast experiences and incredible expertise. PLA also offers many sharing and learning opportunities through webinars, PLA conferences as well as print and online resources. Additionally, PLA has several volunteering opportunities, to get involved in committees etc.

Sandy Wee: Within the field of librarianship lie abundant professional and growth opportunities. My unexpected journey into this profession started with a weekly ritual on Tuesdays after school. A part-time library position led me here today – my manager’s encouragement to pursue library school. What continually invigorates me is the field’s core mission: promoting accessibility and equity in public libraries for everyone who walks into the door of a library.

Question 2: What do you consider the top priorities facing public libraries today, and how would you address these priorities during your term?

Laura McGrath: Public libraries face a host of challenges: budget pressures, increasing numbers of safety incidents, challenges to collections and programs, and the need to support civic literacy efforts and to combat misinformation. Public libraries have long done tremendous work with limited resources, and the support that organizations like PLA provide continue to be of vital importance. I will work to advance PLA’s efforts to provide training and resources as well as opportunities to connect with other public library staff across the country. Staff need to be equipped and empowered to face these difficult issues and to facilitate discourse around challenging topics, and I’m committed to ensuring that PLA is at the forefront of that work.

Megan Maurer: I consider intellectual freedom and stable funding top priorities facing public libraries today. I also believe that these issues are linked, which can make them seem insurmountable. During my term, I plan to focus attention on the needs of small and rural libraries when addressing these priorities with measured and reasonable assistance, knowing that one size does not fit all.

Padma Polepeddi: Public libraries today continue to uphold these priorities:

  • providing equitable access to information, technology, resources and spaces
  • reducing access barriers to information, technology and resources and spaces
  •  fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in physical spaces and online environments
  • integrating trauma-informed librarianship into transformative customer service

I would address each of these priorities by:

  • building and expanding on already existing strong foundations for each of the priority areas
  • having an ongoing commitment to identify and address access barriers for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds
  • advocating for trauma-informed customer service approaches in public libraries

Sandy Wee: Public libraries face numerous priorities today:

  • Digital inclusion: Ensuring access to digital resources and technology for all, fostering equity and access.
  • Information Literacy: Empowering users to navigate, evaluate, and organize information across formats.
  • Diversity in collections: Offering a wide range of materials that represent various perspectives and communities.
  • Barrier removal: Exploring innovative approaches to eliminate barriers like fines and reconsidering library card issuance.
  • Staff safety: Equipping staff with resources to handle challenging situations effectively and safely.

As we address these challenges and much more, collaboration is essential. Sharing resources, advocating for sustainability, and improving communication enhance our collective strength and effectiveness.

Question 3: What leadership skills have you gained that you feel would be most applicable in your role as director-at-large?

Laura McGrath: Throughout my years as a supervisor, manager, and deputy director I have honed my analytical and organizational skills (I’ve never met a spreadsheet or a project-planning chart I didn’t love). I’m confident I can bring these qualities to the budget, structure, and programming issues that the PLA board faces in efficiently governing such a large and diverse organization. I’ve seen the value of connecting and uniting local library staff, the library board, and the community in support of strong library services. I am a champion for the training and development opportunities that PLA offers and would work to help raise awareness for staff at all levels of their value, especially given my first-hand knowledge of how PLA has been a positive force in my career and that of many others.

Megan Maurer: The leadership skills that I have gained that I believe will be most applicable as a director-at-large are active listening skills, the ability to make quick, sound decisions and provide thoughtful responses.

Padma Polepeddi: Working side-by-side with extraordinary human beings and having the privilege of serving diverse communities has given me the opportunity to bring my strengths of resilience, positivity, joy and connection to empower staff and communities through my mentoring, active listening, empathy, inter-personal skills, collaboration and conflict management.

Sandy Wee: Beyond my day-to-day tasks, I’ve had the privilege of engaging with various organizations, each experience contributing to my growth and understanding of diversity. As a leader, I’ve cultivated skills such as active listening, problem-solving, and advocating for inclusivity. Encouraged by mentors, I have challenged myself beyond my comfort zone, embracing broader perspectives. I am committed to passing on these valuable experiences to upcoming leaders, emphasizing the importance of our professional journey. This dedication reflects my desire to give back and foster a diverse, supportive community where everyone can thrive.

The candidates and the offices for which they are running are listed below. Please click on the name of each candidate to learn more about them.


Kim DeNero-Ackroyd
Deputy Director
Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library
Cleveland Heights, OH

Dr. Brandy McNeil
Deputy Director, Branch Programs and Services
The New York Public Library
New York, NY

Director-at-Large (Seat A)

Megan Maurer
Assistant Director
Scenic Regional Library
Union, MO

Laura McGrath
Deputy Director
Skokie Public Library
Skokie, IL

Director-at-Large (Seat B)

Padma Polepeddi
Assistant Director of Public Services, Community Outreach
Jefferson County Public Library
Lakewood, CO

Sandy Wee
Library Services Manager
San Mateo County Libraries
San Mateo, CA