A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Gratitude and Growth: My Journey at PLA 2024

by Asha Norman, Library Associate, Brentwood Public Library (Brentwood, MO), PLA 2024 Scholarship Recipient on May 24, 2024

As I sit down to reflect on my experience at the Public Library Association conference in Columbus, Ohio, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. This journey, made possible through the generous scholarship provided by the PLA, has been nothing short of transformative.

The most moving program for me was the “PLA President’s Program: The Black Public Librarian in America”, led by PLA President Sonia Alcántara-Antoine, accompanied by Shauntee Burns-Simpson, Roosevelt Weeks, and a prerecorded video from the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden. Collectively, they embarked on a captivating exploration of the profound legacy and promising future avenues of Black public library leadership.

The session’s focus on the importance of representation in public library leadership struck a chord with me. In a time where diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of discussions within the library profession, this conversation provided a poignant reminder of the need for library leadership to reflect and serve the diverse communities they inhabit. It also asked the pertinent questions of why we don’t see more diverse leadership and staff in libraries. By raising the question of why there is a lack of representation, it prompts a necessary examination of the barriers and systemic challenges that contribute to this disparity.

The observation that libraries predominantly consist of white women underscores a broader pattern of underrepresentation of marginalized groups in the profession. While acknowledging the valuable contributions of white women to the field, it also highlights the need for greater diversity to truly reflect and serve the communities libraries are meant to support.

Followed by an internal reflection, why am I not striving for leadership positions in this career that I love? This introspective moment touches upon a profound realization that many individuals within the library profession may grapple with: the lack of representation of people who share similar backgrounds or identities in leadership positions. It prompts a deeply personal examination of my own aspirations and motivations within the context of a profession I am passionate about. The session challenged me to confront my own roadblocks in not seeing myself in leadership roles, and immediately reaching for more, and asking for more. I feel that my career in librarianship has been forever changed, thanks to the panel of library leaders who facilitated the discussion. I am forever grateful to be in that room.

Tags: , , ,