Meet Barb Macikas, PLA Executive Director
I’ve had the honor and pleasure of serving as PLA Executive Director since 2009. Previously, I was executive director of two other ALA divisions, RUSA (Reference and User Services Association) and ASCLA (Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies) and before RUSA/ASCLA, I spent nine years as PLA Deputy Director. I have 25+ years’ experience working in non-profits at the state and national level. For fun, I love long hikes and running distance (when I’m in shape!), travel, especially when I can try out the local IPA—the hoppier the better, and hanging out with family and friends.
Why I volunteer
Throughout my life, I’ve had opportunities to volunteer and with each, I gain much more than I give. In high school, I volunteered at a local hospital, quickly learning that my plan for a career in medicine needed a serious rethink (passed out at the sight of blood) while also developing an abiding respect for the work of medical professionals. When my children were younger, I volunteered at our school learning resource center and as a room mom, cooked dinners for the football team, and went on a lot of field trips. More recently, I served on the board of my local library, on park district committees, and have participated in associations—yes, there are associations for association professionals. Connecting and meeting people and organizations, learning, and having the chance to contribute make me a strong advocate of volunteering and very appreciative of the energy, passion, commitment, and amazing contributions of the PLA community.
My vision for the future of public libraries
I don’t work in a public library, yet I am immersed in them and have the benefit of diverse insights and perspectives from the PLA Board, staff, and hundreds of extraordinary public library staff and advocates. At the same time, I’m a public library user and always have been. My vision for public libraries floats between a 30,000-foot national perspective and an on-the-ground user’s perspective. At the national level, I see successes and challenges “writ large,” and work to be sure PLA showcases those successes while also responding to challenges. At home, I have the opportunity to see both play out locally. I believe public libraries are at a critical juncture. My vision for them is that they continue to do the work which has made them among the most trusted and generous institutions in the world, with the ability to absorb social changes and lead their communities to their fullest potentials. The principles are the same though the work may look different. The outcomes will be more powerful than ever.
My favorite book
Impossible to name one. The books that kept me going back to the library over and over again as a kid—Black Beauty, Old Yeller, and The Incredible Journey (sob!), Nancy Drew (what’s a “roadster,” Mom?)—morphed into grown-up reads that include anything by Ruth Rendell, Lee Child, Tanya French, and books like Seabiscuit. I am always looking for great new authors (and finding there are too many!)—mostly anything written by Kate Atkinson, Junot Diaz, or Kazuo Ishiguro works for me.
Somewhere I love to frequent in my community
We have a nature preserve in my town, one of the Izaak Walton League chapters. In the middle of suburban Chicago, I am 5 minutes from a walk or run in nature and that is a wonderful thing! It’s a green, peaceful place surrounded by an industrial park. Yet it’s completely possible to believe you are truly in the country when heading down a trail. Things like the amazing sight of a Great Blue Heron taking flight affirm the healing power of nature for me. The preserve campgrounds host festivals and programs, too. Our community is rightly proud of this treasure and works hard to maintain its beauty and accessibility.
Photo: Barb and her daughter, Amy, after a local 5K race. Amy won the women’s division that day!