Leadership Development

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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, shifting their libraries from an internal approach—focused on organizational operations—to an external approach—focused on community needs.

In 2018 PLA released a new model for its Leadership and Professional Development Initiative. The model was developed by 21 select library leaders, with guidance from Dr. Adam Goodman, director of the Center for Leadership at Northwestern University. In alignment with the PLA Strategic Plan 2018-2022 (PDF)*, this model both advances public libraries’ shift from an organizational focus to a community focus and supports leadership that reflects the needs of the community. The PLA Leadership Model describes the work, methods, and core values of leadership in a public library context. It describes library leaders’ core areas of responsibility as Learning and Literacy, and Stewardship and Integrity. Under the model, library leaders are also encouraged to practice the paired values of Respect and Civility; Inclusion and Equity; Service and Privacy; and Information and Truth, while embracing a spirit of caring, integrity, and optimism. The model envisions these leaders helping individuals, neighborhoods and communities to thrive by making the library a trusted, helpful resource to all people.

*PLA's current Strategic Plan 2022–2026 was approved by the PLA Board of Directors in June 2022.

PLA Leadership Model

Library leaders work to:

  • Help Individuals, neighborhoods, and communities thrive
  • Become a trusted resource that allows everyone to have their voices heard and to contribute to a healthy and engaged society

To carry out this work, library leaders commit to:

  • Engaging all community stakeholders in contributing to the well-being of the community
  • Convening to allow meeting, learning, and knowing between community members
  • Sharing to communicate for a common understanding
  • Collaborating to work towards achieving common goals
  • Advocating to use the library’s trusted position to further community goals

This work is carried out with concern for:

  • Respect and civility
  • Inclusion and equity
  • Service and privacy
  • Information and truth

While never losing sight or the core responsibilities of:

  • Learning and literacy
  • Stewardship and integrity

The original PLA Leadership Model (2010–2018) was developed with support from an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant and in partnership with the International City/County Management Association. The current (2018) model was developed with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Continuing Education

Panel Discussions

Understanding the Role of Public Library DirectorsUnderstanding the Role of Public Library Directors
FREE on-demand panel discussion
Panelists: Doug Crane (moderator), Roberta R. Phillips, Mark Williams, Mary Ellen Icaza & Jessica Hudson

Public library directors fill a unique role in their organizations as leaders in both policy and culture. Whether it is a single building rural library to a multi-location big city system, all library directors face a series of similar problems as they strive to keep operations going. Between budgets, politics, policies, and staffing, no two days are the same. In this on-demand panel discussion, experienced directors will share their stories about why they chose this career path, its challenges, and their thoughts on the future of the profession. If you are interested in becoming a director, are already a director looking for some tips, or simply want to learn more about the role, this is the panel discussion for you. More…

Affecting Change in a Middle Management RoleAffecting Change in a Middle Management Role
FREE on-demand panel discussion
Panelists: Lynn Hoffman (co-moderator), Isaiah West (co-moderator), Andrea Dictor, Sarah La Torra, Lisa Lewis & Doris Mendez-DeMaio

Program coordinators, department heads, and other supervisors are the leadership of public libraries on the front lines, but they don't always have a seat at the table when administrators talk about change within the library. Attendees of this panel discussion will hear from public librarians representing libraries of varying sizes, geographic regions, and diverse populations who have affected change from their positions in middle management through effective communications, advocacy, and storytelling. More…

Re-Weaving the Culture through Inclusive Norms in the Public LibraryRe-Weaving the Culture through Inclusive Norms in the Public Library
FREE on-demand PLA panel discussion
Panelists: Derek Wolfgram (moderator), Chantel L. Walker, James Allen Davis Jr., Lalitha Nataraj & Sonia Falcón

The history of public libraries is deeply rooted in white supremacy, and white cultural norms still dominate management practices in public libraries today. In order to create more inclusive workplace cultures in public libraries, new norms must be established by creating decision-making processes and modes of communication that honor the cultural norms of BIPOC staff members. As libraries emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with an increased awareness of racial inequities in the communities we serve, the time has also come to look inward at the ways our own management systems and structures perpetuate inequities among those who work in public libraries. By dismantling and re-weaving organizational culture norms to decenter whiteness, we can work together to create a better, more inclusive future. This panel discussion will provide background on white cultural norms in librarianship, illustrated by examples from the lived experience of the panelists. Attendees will develop a deeper understanding of the way that these norms marginalize, silence, and harm BIPOC library staff members. More…