2017: PLA's Year in Review Highlights from the Public Library Association


Research finds ECRR leads to successful family engagement

Libraries are taking a proactive approach toward engaging caregivers in supporting the early literacy development of their children, and the Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library® (ECRR) Program is an excellent tool to ensure libraries’ success. These were two of the key findings of a study released in November by Dr. Susan B. Neuman, a professor of childhood education and literacy development at New York University. In 2013, PLA and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conduct a national study on the effect of library programming on parent behavior and engagement using the ECRR model.

Partnership revisits ‘From Awareness to Funding’ advocacy study

In September, PLA, the ALA Office for Library Advocacy and OCLC initiated an update to OCLC’s 2008 report, “From Awareness to Funding: A Study of Library Support in America,” which explored voter attitudes and perceptions about library funding. This landmark study was created to conduct research, develop strategies, create materials and evaluate the potential of marketing programs aimed at increasing and sustaining funding for U.S. public libraries. It was one of the first to bring forward U.S. voter perceptions about libraries that revolutionized library advocacy efforts.

Library staff gather virtually for discussion of national opioid crisis

From discarded needles in outdoor spaces to overdoses in bathrooms, public libraries are acutely impacted by the dramatic rise in opioid abuse. More than two million people in the U.S. are estimated to be dependent on prescription opioids or heroin. Responding to this growing issue, the PLA and WebJunction teamed up in September to present a virtual “town hall meeting” on the opioid crisis. During the 90-minute event, which was attended by more than 500 people, representatives from libraries and other community organizations described their efforts to address this crisis locally.


PLA recognizes excellence in libraries

In February, PLA announced the winners of its annual awards and grants honoring the best in public library service, innovation and outreach. The winners were selected by the PLA award juries and the Public Libraries Advisory Subcommittee and were honored at the PLA Member Welcome Breakfast in June at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. The 2017 award and grant recipients are listed below.

  • Allie Beth Martin Award: Maureen Millea Smith, Librarian, Hennepin County (Minn.) Public Library
  • Baker & Taylor Entertainment Audio Music / Video Product Award: East Berlin (Pa.) Community Library
  • Charlie Robinson Award: Valerie Gross, President & CEO, Howard County (Md.) Library System
  • Demco New Leaders Travel Grants: Jane Blue, Branch Librarian, Andrews (N.C.) Public Library; April Hernandez, Director, Lincoln (Kan.) Library; Daniel Ng, Adult Programming Librarian, Fresno County (Calif.) Public Libraries
  • EBSCO Excellence in Rural Library Service Award: David A. Howe (N.Y.) Public Library
  • Gordon M. Conable Award: Vanessa Strange, Librarian, Spokane County (Wash.) Library District
  • John Iliff Award: Charles Pace, Executive Director, Gwinnett County (Ga.) Public Library
  • Romance Writers of America Library Grant: Philipsburg (Mont.) Public Library
  • Upstart Innovation Award: Brampton Library, Brampton, (Ont.) Canada

The Singer Group Helping Communities Come Together Award added to 2018 offerings

Through the generosity of sponsors, PLA is offering awards and grants designed to highlight the best in public library service and to honor those bringing innovation, creativity and dedication to public libraries n 2018. New for 2018 is The Singer Group Helping Communities Come Together Award. This award will recognize a public library’s ability to identify community needs specifically in times of crisis and division, and respond in creative and exemplary ways to critical challenges.

Continuing Education

PLA 2018 Conference

Offered biennially, the PLA Conference is the premier event for public libraries, drawing thousands of librarians, library support staff, trustees, friends and library vendors from across the country and around the world. Themed, “Imagine the Possibilities,” the 2018 Conference will be held March 20-24 in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. PLA leaders worked tirelessly in 2017 to pack the schedule with extraordinary educational content, inspirational speakers, and memorable entertainment. The conference will feature distinctive networking events, opportunities to mingle with authors, a bustling exhibit hall and more than 100 educational programs carefully curated for public library professionals.

Nearly 9,000 participate in PLA webinars

PLA hosted a total of 28 live webinars in 2017, covering a wide range of essential topics for public librarians, including goal-setting, organizational change management, performance measurement, sustainability, and diversity. These webinars attracted more than 8,600 registered participants, and many are available on demand through the PLA website.

PLA at ALA Annual

Keynote speaker Valerie Jarrett at the PLA Member Welcome Breakfast.

PLA offered several excellent programs at the 2017 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, beginning with preconference educational sessions focusing on disaster preparedness and measurement of program outcomes. PLA hosted a Member Welcome Breakfast featuring keynote speaker Valerie Jarrett and presentation of PLA’s 2017 Awards and Grants. PLA President Felton Thomas, Jr. and Association of College & Research Libraries President Irene Herold hosted a Joint Presidents’ Program featuring leadership expert Bernie Banks.


Global Libraries Legacy Partnership grows in 2017

In May 2016, PLA received a ten-year grant from the Global Libraries (GL) Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. PLA will work 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 the organizations’ individual efforts toward a shared vision: a global library field where every public library can fulfill its potential as a vital, visible source of individual and community well-being. This year saw PLA contributing to IFLA’s Global Vision workshops in Athens (Greece), Washington, D.C., and Chicago; the launch of a new research report on the role of information access in developing countries; and long-term planning around data/impact measurement and engaging the field.

Inclusive Internship Initiative a tremendous success

Interns at the 2017 PLA Internship Initiative (III) wrap-up event in Chicago, Ill.

Library interns and mentors from across the U.S. gathered in Chicago in October to celebrate the successful conclusion of PLA’s summer internship program. The PLA Internship Initiative (III) sponsored paid, mentored public library internships for 50 high school juniors and seniors from diverse backgrounds. A total of 39 public libraries representing 25 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, were selected to participate in this first-of-its-kind program. PLA received support for this program from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The commencement event featured presentations by each of the interns on their summer experiences and connected learning projects, career guidance for aspiring librarians, and awards recognizing the work of the interns and mentors.

Project Outcome builds custom tools in response to user needs

Project Outcome made significant improvements to its online toolkit this year, to improve the user experience and better equip libraries to measure the outcomes of their programs and services. Evaluation data from 2016 showed that library staff wanted more flexibility in their data collection, so PLA rebuilt its online toolkit to include new survey management and reporting tools. The added flexibility of the tools allows libraries to better manage, create and customize surveys and analyze their results. Approximately 450 new libraries joined the performance measurement effort in 2017, and the number of surveys collected through Project Outcome more than tripled from the previous year.

Extensive additions made to PLA’s digital literacy training site

In November, PLA completed the incorporation of the learning modules that formerly comprised Gail’s Toolkit, into its DigitalLearn.org website. Gail’s Toolkit was developed by the Gail Borden Public Library District and provides slide, handout, and exercise templates for in-person technology training on over 80 topics. The materials are available at training.digitallearn.org.

To assist libraries in developing unique content for DigitalLearn.org, PLA has also added online training modules on designing courses for the site. The modules cover the process for creating courses using PLA’s e-learning storyboard template, and offer guidelines for designing professional looking tutorials using the Articulate Storyline software program.

PLA and Cox Communications partner to narrow digital divide for low-income families

In February, PLA and Cox Communications announced a new partnership intended to strengthen and expand the organizations’ shared commitment to helping low-income students and their families use technology. Through this new partnership, more low-income families will have access to digital literacy training in their local libraries and online at www.digitallearn.org. In Tucson; Topeka, Kansas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, libraries and Cox piloted the deployment of enhanced digital literacy training and resources for community members.

PLA, National Network of Libraries of Medicine embark upon consumer health information initiative

PLA and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) launched a nationwide initiative to increase public library workers’ knowledge and skills related to consumer health services. Throughout the nine-month Promoting Healthy Communities initiative, PLA and NNLM are assessing health information needs among public librarians and sharing free resources and professional development opportunities that will help public library staff better serve their patrons’ consumer health needs. The initiative will hold training programs and webinars, publish articles and podcasts about successful library programs, and help dozens of library staff gain the Certified Health Information Specialization credential.

PLA partners with DC Public Library for Memory Lab Network digital archiving project

In 2017, the Institute of Museum and Library Services IMLS) awarded DC Public Library (DCPL), in partnership with PLA, a National Leadership Grant to build Memory Lab digital preservation programs in seven public libraries across the U.S. Selected public libraries will spend one year creating personal archiving stations and programs to for their communities following the DCPL model. They will receive training, mentoring, and financial support to create digitization stations and curriculum to build public knowledge and skills around the complex and paralyzing problems of personal digital archiving through their own Memory Lab programs.


PLA members elect Ziesenhenne 2018-2019 president; Chase, Jeske, & Plymire added to board

From left to right: Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne, Stephanie Chase, Michelle Jeske, and Carrie Plymire

In April, members elected Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne, director of the Palo Alto (Calif.) City Library, elected to be the 2018-2019 president of PLA. She will serve a three-year term beginning after 2017 ALA Annual Conference in June, including one year each as president-elect (2017–2018), president (2018–2019) and past-president (2019–2020). They also elected two new directors at large: Carrie Plymire, director of the Calvert (Maryland) Library and Michelle Jeske, Denver city librarian. Stephanie Chase, director of the Hillsboro (Oregon) Public Library, was elected ALA division councilor. Each will serve a three-year term beginning after the 2017 ALA Annual Conference.

Candidates announced for 2018 PLA board election

From top left to right: Nicolle Davies, Ramiro Salazar, and John Spears. From bottom left to right: Kelvin Watson, Susan Considine, and Cindy Fesemyer.

In November the PLA Nominating Committee unveiled the slate of candidates for the Association’s 2018 election. In the 2018 PLA election six nominees will stand for three positions on the board of directors: PLA President and two Directors-at-Large. The candidate elected in each race will serve a three-year term from June 2018 through June 2021. The candidates are as follows:

  • President: Nicolle Davies, Executive Director, Charleston County (S.C.) Public Library; Ramiro Salazar, Director, San Antonio (Texas) Public Library
  • Director-at-Large (Seat A): John Spears, Pikes Peak (Colo.) Library District; Kelvin Watson, Broward County (Fla.) Library
  • Director-at-Large (Seat B: Small/Rural Library*): Susan Considine, Fayetteville (N.Y.) Free Library; Cindy Fesemyer, Columbus (Wisc.) Public Library

Candidate profiles will be available on the PLA website in early February. Voting will take place from the first Monday in March through the first Wednesday in April.

*Per an August 2017 board resolution (PDF, 2 pgs.), for PLA to better represent the needs and interests of library staff from public libraries of all sizes, the 2018 slate shall include two candidates from small/rural libraries (those with service area populations less than 25,000 people), who will run opposite each other to ensure one PLA board member represents that constituency.

Two Leadership Academies hosted in 2017

Left: Spring 2017 Leadership Academy in Portland, Ore. Right: Winter 2017 PLA Leadership Academy in Chicago, Ill.

PLA hosted its Leadership Academy twice in 2017, bringing the academy to Portland, Ore. in March, and to in Chicago, Ill. in December. Twenty-eight exceptional public library leaders participated in each iteration of the Academy. This three and a half day, immersive educational/networking event included lectures and breakout discussions with a focus on becoming innovative and successful leaders of change in their libraries and the communities they serve. This program is designed to empower participants with the knowledge necessary to be innovative and successful leaders of change in public libraries.

New Digital Literacy Committee formed

In July, PLA launched a new Digital Literacy Committee. Chaired by Monica Dombrowski, Director of Digital Services for the Gail Borden Public Library (Elgin, Ill.), the committee will help public libraries meet community needs related to digital literacy and use of technology, collect and disseminate information on digital literacy resources and provide channels of communication for sharing among public librarians about digital literacy.

PLA forms new task force on equity, diversity, and inclusion

At the 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta, the PLA Board approved the creation of a PLA Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Co-chaired by Richard Kong, director, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library and Amita Lonial, principal librarian, San Diego (Calif.) County Library, the task force has been charged with developing a strategic and coordinated approach for PLA related to issues of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Task force activities will include making recommendations for how EDI content is integrated into PLA programs; elevating successful libraries as models to generate and share best practices; identifying ways PLA might influence equity and inclusion within public libraries; and helping libraries serve diverse communities and staff.


New publication offers practical ideas to help libraries engage families in learning and development

PLA and Global Family Research Project (GFRP) released a collaborative publication, Ideabook: Libraries for Families. This publication will inspire libraries to create meaningful family engagement experiences by sharing the many innovative ways that their peers support and guide families in children’s learning and development. The Ideabook is built upon a research-based framework that was outlined in PLA and GFRP’s 2016 publication, Public Libraries: A Vital Space for Family Engagement. The Ideabook highlights case studies from more than 50 libraries that are incorporating the five “Rs” of engagement—reach out, raise up, reinforce, relate, and reimagine—to develop meaningful, lasting relationships with families in their communities.

PLA and ALSC release Every Child Ready to Read toolkit for early childhood educators

In February, PLA and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) released Every Child Ready to Read® (ECRR) @ your library® Toolkit for Serving Early Childhood Educators. This digital toolkit is aimed at public library staff as a how-to manual to train early childhood educators, including licensed home child care providers, child care center staff, Head Start teachers, preschool teachers and other child care professionals. The training offers a better understanding of what it means to partner, train and facilitate learning with early childhood educators whose students are growing in independence and ability as they approach school entry.

Free PLA member publication focuses on library service to incarcerated individuals

In September, PLA published the fourth installment in its “Quick Reads for Busy Librarians” series, Get Inside: Responsible Jail and Prison Library Service. The publication provides a thoughtful perspective on the American criminal justice system as well as concrete advice and information for providing the best possible service to this population. In this 72-page publication, available as a downloadable PDF, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library Director of Outreach Services Nicholas Higgins shares wisdom gleaned from years of experience providing library service to incarcerated persons. Higgins also addresses shortcomings of the American criminal justice system, including embedded racism and harsh sentencing laws, in the hopes that readers will become more conscious of how they think and talk about prisons and prisoners.

Organizational Excellence

PLA Revenue Remains Strong and Diverse

Over fiscal years 2016 (FY16) and 2017 (FY17), PLA achieved a combined positive net of $659,143, due to the strong performance of the 2016 PLA Conference in FY16. For the most recent fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2017 (FY17), PLA had revenue of $3,952,932 and expenses of $4,336,712. Strong management kept the negative variance to $383,779, which was 30 percent lower than budgeted in the non-conference year. In addition to strong results from PLA conferences, grants and contracts have increased significantly. PLA ended FY17 with pledges and contracts totaling about $11 million and net assets of over $3 million. While member dues have been steady, they’ve consistently dropped as a percentage of revenue due to the success of PLA’s conference and fundraising.

PLA Plans for Sustainability

Always looking forward, PLA made significant strides to ensure its sustainability and identify new resources for the future. PLA bolstered its staff support for proactive fundraising and partnership development. It also created a development plan incorporating diverse revenue sources including individual donors, public and private grants, and earned income. Additionally, PLA helped plan and fund the ALA Development Audit, to create a stronger fundraising program for all of ALA.

PLA Staff Grows

Since 2012, under the leadership of Executive Director Barb Macikas, the PLA staff has grown from 9 positions to 16. Recent additions have included positions focused on communications, leadership, advocacy, program expansion, member service, and project management.

PLA on the Road

PLA Leaders and Staff Visit 50 key events in 2017

Throughout the year, PLA leaders and staff visited 50 events around the world, representing public libraries and advancing the work of the association. Events include but are not limited to:

  • ALA Midwinter Meeting | Jan. 20-23, 2017 | Atlanta, Ga.
  • Legacy Partners Joint Projects Meeting | Feb. 5-8 | Chicago, Ill.
  • Hawaii Library Association Dinner | Feb. 6 | Honolulu, Hawaii
  • IFLA International Advocacy Programme, Regional Meeting | Feb. 16-18 | Montego Bay, Jamaica
  • Knight Foundation Conference | Feb. 11-12 | Miami, Fla.
  • African Library & Information Association & Institution (AfLIA) Meetings | Feb. 18-27 | Mahe Island, Seychelles
  • PLA/Cox Communications Press Conference | Feb. 24 | Tuscon, Ariz.
  • Adobe Digital Marketing Summit | Mar. 20-23 | Las Vegas, Nev.
  • PLA Leadership Academy | Mar. 20-24 | Portland, Ore.
  • IFLA Leadership Meeting | Apr. 1-6 | Athens, Greece
  • New Mexico Library Association Mini-Conference | Apr. 5-6 | Las Vegas, N.M.
  • Legacy Partners Data & Impact Meeting | Apr. 17-20 | Seattle, Wash.
  • PLA 2018 Conference Site Visit | Apr. 20-21 | Philadelphia, Penn.
  • Texas Library Association Conference | Apr. 19-21 | San Antonio, Texas
  • Oklahoma Library Association Conference | Apr. 24-25 | Norman, Okla.
  • New Jersey Library Association Conference | Apr. 25-26 | Atlantic City, N.J.
  • ALA Legislative Day/PLA Board Meeting | Apr. 30 – May 2 | Washington, D.C.
  • IFLA Visioning Meeting | May 3-4 | Washington, D.C.
  • Florida Library Association Conference | May 10 | Orlando, Fla.
  • TASCHA Civic Engagement Meeting | May 10-11 | Seattle, Wash.
  • ASU+GSV Summit | May 10-11 | Salt Lake City, Utah
  • AfLIA Conference/African Library Summit | May 14-22 | Yaounde, Cameroon
  • National Digital Inclusion Alliance | May 16-17 | St. Paul, Minn.
  • Partnership for Progress on the Digital Divide | May 24-26 | San Diego, Calif.
  • Rhode Island Library Association Conference | May 31 | Smithfield, R.I.
  • Measures That Matter Advisory Committee Meeting | June 8 | Hartford, Conn.
  • Next Library Conference | June 11-15 | Aarhus, Denmark
  • Inclusive Internship Initiative Kick-Off | June 16-17 | Washington, D.C.
  • ALA Annual Conference | June 22-27 | Chicago, Ill.
  • DA2I Launch | July 17 | New York, N.Y.
  • Seattle Public Library Foundation International Public Library Fundraising Conference | July 23-25 | Seattle, Wash.
  • Statewide Mayors’ Digital Inclusion Summit | Aug. 8 | Kansas City, Mo.
  • IFLA World Congress | Aug. 19-25 | Wroclaw, Poland
  • Association for Rural & Small Libraries Conference | Sept. 6-9 | St. George, Utah
  • Measures That Matter Data Summit | Sept. 19-20 | Baltimore, Md.
  • U.S.S. Constitution Museum Family Engagement Conference | Sept. 22 | Boston, Mass.
  • PLA Board Meeting | Sept. 26 | Chicago, Ill.
  • International Network of Emerging Library Innovators Meeting | Sept. 30 – Oct. 6 | Cairo & Alexandria, Egypt
  • PLA Ad Hoc Development Advisory Committee Meeting | Oct. 3 | Chicago, Ill.
  • Maryland Association of Public Library Administrators Meeting | Oct. 5 | Ocean City, Md.
  • National Center for Families Learning Conference | Oct. 8-10 | Tucson, Ariz.
  • Legacy Partners Team-Building Retreat | Oct. 9-13 | Seattle, Wash.
  • South Carolina Library Association Conference | Oct. 11-13 | Columbia, S.C.
  • Inclusive Internship Initiative Wrap-Up | Oct. 14-16 | Chicago, Ill.
  • Measures That Matter Advisory & Working Group Committee Meeting | Oct. 20 | Minneapolis, Minn.
  • International City/County Management Association Conference | Oct. 22-25 | San Antonio, Texas
  • California Library Association Conference | Nov. 2-4 | Riverside, Calif.
  • AfLIA Advisory Group Meeting | Nov. 27 – Dec. 1 | Cape Town, South Africa
  • I Love My Librarian Awards Ceremony | Nov. 29 – Dec. 1 | New York, N.Y.
  • PLA Leadership Academy | Dec. 4-8 | Chicago, Ill.

Thank you to our members, volunteers, and partners for making 2017 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)

Created By
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