PLA Leadership Academy

PLA Leadership Academy logo

Navigating Change • Building Community

PLA is dedicated to building and supporting leadership for public libraries that is reflective of the needs of each community and the profession. The PLA Leadership Academy empowers public library professionals to become innovative and successful leaders of change, shifting their libraries from an internal approach—focused on organizational operations—to an external approach—focused on community needs.

The centerpiece of the PLA Leadership Academy is a dynamic in-person event that includes four days of interactive education and networking. Twenty-eight public library leaders participated in the fifth PLA Leadership Academy, which was held March 25–29 in Chicago, IL. And with funding and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries program, PLA partnered with the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA) to develop an academy for African public librarians. Twelve African librarians also participated in the Spring 2019 PLA Leadership Academy, which served as the capstone project for the first graduating class of the African Leadership Academy. For part of the week, the AfLIA cohort split from the U.S. librarians to tour Madison (WI) Public Library, Columbus (WI) Public Library, Skokie (IL) Public Library, and Chicago Public Library's Chinatown branch. The goal of the tours was to explore leadership models in different contexts, as well as the role of leadership in developing innovative services.

Please submit your name and email address to be notified when we begin accepting applications for the next PLA Leadership Academy.

Leadership Academy participants will engage in thought-provoking lectures and breakout discussions focused on:

  • Understanding one’s individual leadership style and values;
  • Becoming an effective change agent;
  • Managing and sustaining “big picture” library projects;
  • Developing library programs that meet community needs; and
  • Understanding how to engage with nonprofits, local governments, and business partners for collective action.

Leadership Academy participants must have at least five years’ experience working in public libraries and be able to demonstrate a history of increasing responsibility in their roles. A corps of professional coaches has been chosen from among experienced public library leaders and city managers to participate in the workshop, providing professional insight and support.

Each participant will also propose a project to implement at their library, which exemplifies the academy curriculum.

As a result of participating in the PLA Leadership Academy, applicants will:

  • Understand the nature of effective leadership in public libraries and the context in which that leadership will be needed in the future;
  • Build personal leadership awareness and effectiveness;
  • Understand the opportunities for and challenges of civic engagement, including skills for effective community partnerships;
  • Form a long-term, sustainable mentoring network with colleagues and other experienced leaders; and
  • Know how to apply the above in the context of their particular library and community.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, a total of four academies have been held and 114 leaders have been trained.

The PLA Leadership Academy was developed in partnership with Adam Goodman, director of the Center for Leadership at Northwestern University. This project is supported in part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The International City and County Management Association and Institute of Museum and Library Services also provided support during the project’s early stages.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact