The beginnings of the Polish American Librarians Association are closely linked with the World Languages Info Fair at the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) and American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago. On April 28, 2009, two Polish American Librarians – Aldona Salska of Prospect Heights Public Library and Elizabeth Marszalik of Indian Trails Public Library – met at the World Languages Info Fair and discovered that they both had similar idea about forming some sort of organization for Polish American librarians, as well as librarians working with Polish collections or serving Polish patron in the United States. A few months later, the ALA annual conference in Chicago gave more inspiration and opportunity to discuss this idea with Malgorzata Bylinska of Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
They decided to meet again to see how three Polish American librarians, serving three neighboring communities in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, could make a difference.
The mission of the Polish American Librarians Association is to positively impact services provided to library patrons of Polish descent and individuals interested in Polish culture.
1. To enhance professional knowledge by developing forums for discussion and networks of communication among library staff working with Polish collections and patrons of Polish origin.
2. To promote understanding and respect among all cultures by expanding the means to access reliable, current information about Polish and Polish-American culture.
3. To promote Polish American librarianship.
4. To provide opportunities for cooperation with other library associations.
The Polish American Librarians Association became an ALA Affiliate in January 2020 during the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. PALA and the Chinese American Librarians Association are the only two affiliates that are nation-specific.
“The significance of PALA’s affiliation is two-fold,” says PALA President Ewa Barczyk. “First, it supports our mission of having a positive impact on services provided to library patrons of Polish descent and individuals interested in Polish history and culture. Second, it is a form of professional recognition of the Polish diaspora and the library profession’s responsibility to address the service needs of Polish communities in America and around the world.” There are roughly 20,000,000 people of Polish ancestry living outside Poland, making the Polish diaspora one of the largest in the world and one of the most widely dispersed.