Leadership Development

Image of people exchanging ideas

PLA doesn’t just improve public library services—we build public library leaders. We empower public library professionals with the skills necessary to be innovative and successful leaders of change. Under guidance from the PLA Leadership Development Committee, the association offers leadership programming centered around the PLA Leadership Model, originally developed by Dr. Adam Goodman, director, Center for Leadership, Northwestern University and the 2009 PLA Leadership Task Force.

In developing the model, the team outlined the “new normal” for public libraries. This new normal highlights five forces that influence and have an impact on library strategy and services.

Force 1 The Nature and Pace of Change
Force 2 The Evolving Role of the Public Library
Force 3 Building Community
Force 4 Asset Driven Impact
Force 5 The Challenge for Leadership

PLA Leadership Model: Navigating 21st Century Libraries

The PLA Leadership Model address four spheres of leadership and offers insights to consider when developing leadership skills:

  1. Self: How does the individual assess personal strengths and become an agent?
    • Acting with integrity/self awareness
    • Developing individual coaching and mentoring networks
  2. Organization: How does a leader guide an organization through change and help the organization adapt to constant change as the new normal?
    • Discovering new ideas
    • Building vision
    • Operating strategically
    • Taking risks and seizing opportunities
  3. Community: How does the library help address community issues and goals, developing partnerships that build communities and the library’s role within the community?
    • Working with and through others
    • Building and leveraging relationships
    • Understanding and communicating from the customer’s perspective
    • Delivering impact and results based on a vision
  4. Cross-cutting abilities: How does an individual develop a skills portfolio to lead in each of the identified spheres, moving quickly and seamlessly among them as needed?
    • Anticipating and leading change
    • Recognizing and growing potential in others

PLA Leadership Academy logoPLA Leadership Academy

The PLA Leadership Academy was developed with support from an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant and in partnership with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). This academy 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. It includes: a three and a half day, in-person educational/networking event; a professional coach program with experienced public library leaders and city managers; and development of real-world projects to implement at attendees’ libraries.

Want to be alerted when we begin accepting applications for the next PLA Leadership Academy? Please submit your name and e-mail address to be notified.

2017 Leadership Academies

With support from a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant and in partnership with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), the most recent PLA Leadership Academy took place December 4–8, 2017, in Chicago, IL. A roster of the winter fellows is now available.

The previous Leadership Academy was presented March 20–24, 2017, in Portland, OR. A roster of the spring fellows is now available.

2015 Leadership Academy

The second Leadership Academy was presented in spring 2015. A roster of the 2015 fellows and coaches is now available.

2013 Leadership Academy

PLA’s first Leadership Academy was presented in spring 2013. Some of the fellows from the pilot academy contributed statements about putting the leadership education into practice back at their libraries and achieving some incredible things. We’ve selected a few to offer an idea of what’s possible when library professionals become leaders not only in their libraries, but also in their communities.

  • Martha Baden, Prescott (AZ) Public Library
  • Michael Beck, formerly Scottsdale (AZ) Public Library, currently Glendale (AZ) Public Library
  • Toby Greenwalt, formerly Skokie (IL) Public Library, currently Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
  • Michelle Jeske, Denver (CO) Public Library