2016: PLA's Year in Review Highlights from the Public Library Association

Honors & Achievements

PLA Honored at 17th Annual ASAE Power of A Summit Awards Ceremony

Clara Bohrer, PLA past-president and co-chair of the PLA Family Engagement Task Force, accepting the award at the 17th Annual Power of A Summit Awards Dinner on PLA's behalf.

In October, PLA was honored at the 17th Annual American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Power of A Summit Awards ceremony for its co-creation and implementation of Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR), a research-based program that teaches parents how to help develop literacy skills in children while also advancing the skills of public library staff. ASAE honored PLA and its partners, the Association for Library Service to Children and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Photos from the ceremony are available online, and a special video to honor the program was created featuring PLA President Felton Thomas Jr.

PLA Member Carla Hayden Becomes 14th Librarian of Congress

On September 14, PLA member Dr. Carla Hayden was sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress. Dr. Hayden, ALA past president and former CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland, is the first female and the first African American to lead the Library of Congress. She is also the first professional librarian to be confirmed in more than 60 years.

PLA, TASCHA, and IFLA Initiate Exciting and Enduring Partnership

PLA joined with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington’s Information School (TASCHA) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) to align efforts over the next 10 years to strengthen the library field. Through this partnership, we will better understand and support how public libraries drive community development, help library leaders be responsive to local needs, and strengthen networks for librarians and library champions to learn from each other. This partnership has received initial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as the foundation completes 20 years of investments in the global library field.

PLA Members Elect Sandlian Smith, Kong, and Strobel

Pictured from left to right: Pam Sandlian Smith, Richard Kong, and Tracy Strobel.

Pam Sandlian Smith, director of Anythink Libraries in Adams County (Colo.), has been elected the 2017-2018 PLA President. Sandlian Smith became PLA president-elect at the conclusion of the ALA 2016 Annual Conference in June and will assume the PLA presidency in June 2017 for one year. Also on the ballot were two Director-at-Large vacancies. PLA members elected Richard Kong, director, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library and Tracy Strobel, deputy director, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library to three-year terms on the PLA board.


PLA, OITP, and OLA Release Library Advocacy Video Series

Footage from the "Libraries Transform: Education" video, filmed at Cleveland (Ohio) Public Library's TechCentral learning center.

In April, PLA, the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP), and the ALA Office for Library Advocacy (OLA) released a video series showcasing the impact that today’s public library has on the community. The videos were developed as tools that the library community, allies, and decision-makers can use to show how Libraries Transform. The subject matter intersects with the National Policy Agenda for Libraries, including how libraries support education, employment, and entrepreneurship. All of the videos are available for download and use from the PLA YouTube channel.

PLA Represents Public Libraries in D.C.

Group photo during NLLD 2016. Photo credit: Adam Mason.

PLA leaders and staff joined the ALA Washington Office and librarians nationwide at National Library Legislative Day (NLLD) 2016, meeting with legislators and federal agencies to advocate on critical issues such as the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), “Net Neutrality” protection, and Freedom of Information Act Reform.

Continuing Education

PLA 2016 Conference Draws More than 8,000 to Denver

PLA 2016 Conference speaker and author Nikki Giovanni with 2015-2016 PLA President Vailey Oehlke.

More than 8,000 public library professionals, exhibitors, speakers and supporters gathered in Denver and online from April 5-9 for the PLA 2016 Conference. As the nation’s largest public library conference, PLA 2016 explored the library’s evolving role in support of their communities and provided attendees with tools and best practices they need to help people thrive in the digital age. The conference offered more than 100 educational programs; special events showcasing bestselling authors and innovators; and more than 600 exhibitors that featured the latest technology and services vital to today’s public libraries and their users. Planning for the 2018 PLA Conference, March 20-24, in Philadelphia is currently underway.

PLA 2016 attendees getting charged up at the Anythink Libraries (Colo.) Take Charge Lounge in the Exhibit Hall.

PLA Hosts First-Ever Dynamic Planning Institute

Attendees getting silly at day 2 of the Dynamic Planning Institute.

PLA’s new Dynamic Planning Institute, with content developed and delivered by trainer Stephanie Gerding, blends an intensive in-person training with personalized online learning. 48 library professionals attended the in-person training, which took place October 5-7 in Washington, D.C. In addition to covering best practices in strategic planning and project management, this program was unique in its focus on simple, low-cost planning. Participants learned how to create a dynamic strategic plan in a timely manner, which will serve as a living document and create actionable pathways for decision making, community involvement, and funding priorities.


PLA’s DigitalLearn.org Debuts Personalized Library Sites and Spanish Content

Through the partnership and support of the Chicago Public Library Foundation, PLA’s online computer and internet training initiative expanded into developing library-specific DigitalLearn.org sites with customized community information for libraries nationwide. PLA also added six new modules and translated all 19 modules into Spanish in 2016.

PLA Partners with Harvard on New Initiative to Strengthen Family Engagement

PLA and Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) partnered on a new initiative to explore family engagement in children’s learning through public libraries, supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. In August, PLA and HFRP released the publication Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement. The publication calls for libraries to join together with schools and community organizations to establish a system of family engagement that extends throughout a child’s life, supports children and families, and prepares children for success. A compendium of ideas for libraries along with other resources will be released in 2017.

PLA Releases First Project Outcome Annual Report

In October, PLA launched its first Project Outcome Annual Report. The report includes a summary and side-by-side results of all the work Project Outcome and its participating public libraries have completed in the first year, aggregate findings from the survey responses, and what’s next for Project Outcome.


PLA Hosts Leadership Ideas Exchange

In December, PLA hosted Ideas Exchange: Leadership to engage practitioners of leadership development programs and representatives of state and national public library organizations in a dialogue about the leadership development landscape in the United States. 24 leaders participated, representing a balance of various types of organizations, geographies, and leader levels. The discussion covered all aspects of leadership and assessed the current state of library leadership development. PLA plans to release a findings report in 2017, and to continue to collaborate with attendees and other practitioners of leadership development programs to assist public library leaders’ development that is effective and sustainable across their entire career span.

PLA Accepts 28 Fellows to Attend 2017 Leadership Academy

In December, 28 PLA Leadership Fellows were accepted to attend the 2017 Leadership Academy in Portland, Oregon, March 20-24. This academy, supported by an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant and in partnership the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), offers intensive, empowering leadership education for public librarians who want to increase their capacity to lead not only within the library, but also in the community.

PLA to Provide Leadership Training in Africa

PLA and AfLIA (African Library & Information Associations & Institutions) planned a 3-year leadership training initiative for African public library staff, based on PLA’s successful leadership training model. This work is one component of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries (GL) support to strengthen African libraries. PLA will collaborate with other grantees, who will support training library staff to develop innovative services, assess baseline data for African libraries, and strengthen AfLIA’s infrastructure.


PLA Hosts Second Annual Member Welcome Breakfast and Awards

Keynote speaker Diana Nyad plays her bugle at the PLA Member Welcome Breakfast and Awards in Orlando.

In June at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, PLA hosted an exclusive PLA members-only breakfast featuring keynote speaker Diana Nyad. The PLA Member Welcome Breakfast and Awards included recognition of the 13 individuals and libraries that received PLA awards. These award winners demonstrated the best in public library service, innovation, and outreach. In addition to the awards presentation, PLA also welcomed Deborah Jacobs, director of the Global Libraries initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to speak about the initiative’s past and future support of PLA and libraries.

PLA Launches Member Library

In October, PLA launched its new Member Library (login required), a one-stop shop for PLA members-only content. The Member Library currently includes the latest publication in our “Quick Reads for Busy Librarians” series and the recording of our latest members-exclusive webinar, Sure Bet Bests: Matching Readers With Their 'Best' Reads. PLA looks forward to expanding upon the Member Library in 2017 with new publications and webinars.


PLA Launches “Quick Reads for Busy Librarians” Series

In January, PLA launched its new series, “Quick Reads for Busy Librarians.” At no more than 100 pages, these books cover both emerging and essential topics in public librarianship with style, clarity, and above all brevity. Each book in the series is available as a pdf download. The first three, The Bed Bug Guide for Public Libraries, Weeding Manual, and Building and Operating a Digital Media Lab, are now available. Books in the series released after October 2016 are available free to PLA members.

PLA on the Road

PLA Leaders and Staff Visit over 30 Cities in 2016

Throughout the year, PLA leaders and staff visited over 30 cities, representing public libraries and advancing the work of the association. Events include but are not limited to:

  • Portland City Club Friday Forum: Digital Equity Action Plan | January 5, 2016 | Portland, OR
  • Havana International Book Fair | February 15-23, 2016 | Havana, Cuba
  • Oregon Library Association Annual Conference | April 20, 2016 | Bend, OR
  • Texas Library Association Annual Conference | April 20, 2016 | Houston, TX
  • National Library Legislative Day | May 2-3, 2016 | Washington, D.C.
  • NORWELD Institute on Community Engagement | May 19, 2016 | Oregon, OH
  • NorthNet Library System Council Meeting | June 7, 2016 | Fairfield, CA
  • African Collaborative Action for Impact (ACAFI) Meeting | July 18-21, 2016 | Seattle, WA
  • Ohionet Library Leadership Ohio | July 21, 2016 | Columbus, OH
  • IFLA World Library and Information Congress | August 13-19, 2016 | Columbus, OH
  • Georgia Project Outcome Regional Training Workshop | September 21, 2016 | Leesburg, GA
  • North Dakota Library Association Annual Conference | September 22, 2016 | Dickinson, ND
  • International City/County Management Association | September 27, 2016 | Kansas City, MO
  • Ohio Library Council Convention & Expo | September 28, 2016 | Sandusky, OH
  • Research Institute for Public Libraries | October 2, 2016 | Denver, CO
  • Georgia Council of Media Organizations Annual Conference | October 5, 2016 | Athens, GA
  • American Society of Association Executives Summit Awards | October 5, 2016 | Washington, DC
  • West Virginia Library Association Annual Conference | October 6, 2016 | Daniels, WV
  • Oregon Museum Association | October 24, 2016 | Eugene, OR
  • National Center for Families Learning Summit | October 17-19, 2016 | Detroit, MI
  • New England Library Association Annual Conference | October 17, 2016 | Danvers, MA
  • Internet Librarian | October 19, 2016 | Monterey, CA
  • Illinois Library Association Conference | October 19, 2016 | Rosemont, IL
  • COSLA Fall Meeting | October 25, 2016 | Minneapolis, MN
  • Nevada Library Association Annual Conference | October 19, 2016 | Las Vegas, NV
  • African Collaborative Action for Impact Meeting | October 20-24, 2016 | Entebbe, Uganda
  • Association for Rural and Small Libraries Conference | October 28, 2016 | Fargo, ND
  • Library Assessment Conference | November 2, 2016 | Arlington, VA
  • Arizona Library Association Annual Conference | November 3, 2016 | Tucson, AZ
  • Athens Regional Library System Staff Development Day | November 9, 2016 | Athens, GA
  • Indiana Library Federation Annual Conference | November 9, 2016 | Indianapolis, IN
  • Starke County Library Staff Day at The Smart Store | November 11, 2016 | Canton, OH
  • IFLA Development and Access to Information Meeting | November 14, 2016 | Montreal, Canada
  • I Love My Librarian Award Ceremony | November 30, 2016 | New York City, NY
  • Ideas Exchange: Leadership | December 7-9, 2016 | Chicago, IL
  • Association Forum of Chicagoland Holiday Showcase | December 15, 2016 | Chicago, IL

Thank you to our members, volunteers, and partners for making 2016 a success!

Public Library Association (PLA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA)

50 E. Huron, Chicago, IL 60611

1-800-545-2433, ext. 5PLA (5752)

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