2015–2016 PLA President
Vailey Oehlke was appointed director of libraries for Multnomah County (Portland, Ore.) in 2009. She began her career at the library in 1997 as a youth librarian in an outreach program called School Corps. Five years as a youth librarian was followed by increasingly responsible management positions within the organization. Since becoming director, Vailey has been proud, among other things, to lead the organization through three successful funding efforts, culminating in 2012 with the formation of a library district to provide stable funding for a cherished and well-used institution about to celebrate its 150th year of service.
Vailey is a member of ALA, PLA, and the Oregon Library Association. She served on the Executive Board for the Public Library Association from July 2011 to June
2013 and is currently a member of the Urban Libraries Council Executive Board. Additionally, she has served on ALA's Digital Content Working Group since its inception, and was a member of the advisory group for the federally funded initiative "The Big Shift: Advancing Public Library Participation in Our Digital Future." Most recently Vailey was asked by the University of Albany's Center for Technology in Government to serve on the advisory committee for an IMLS grant with which they will explore the public library's role in open government. Locally, she serves on the Leadership Advisory Council for the Cradle to Career's Ready for Kindergarten Collaborative.
Life beyond work includes family, a feisty terrier named Tucker, lots of running, hiking and general outdoorsiness, and time with friends. Vailey received her bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University and her master’s degree in library science from the University of Illinois, Urbana.
“Public libraries—small and large—are in a position to demonstrate the unique value they offer in a rapidly changing world and ensure their own continued relevance through collective action and by upending the practice of 'doing what we’ve always done.'
My goal is to represent and engage all public libraries in a conversation that will extend to our communities, with areas of focus including working together to prepare for the future and remain responsive; leveraging our trusted roles to lessen the 'Opportunity Gap' affecting a growing percentage of those with few resources; expanding our contribution to learning success from outside of the formal K–12 paradigm; and creating a lasting role for libraries in the changing ecosystem of reading through personal service and assistance.
Whether a person is part of a large urban library system or a small rural library, whether funding is secure and stable or the struggle continues to provide adequate staff, open hours and worthy collections, we all have a voice and we all have something vital to contribute to the challenges and opportunities we face together.”