Publication Guidelines and Procedures

To assure the continued availability of top-quality PLA publications, the following guidelines and procedures have been developed. These guidelines describe the subject matter of interest to PLA, the audience for PLA publications, the proposal process, the criteria used to evaluate manuscripts and publications, and more. If you have questions not answered below, please call or email Kathleen Hughes ( 800-545-2433, ext. 4028.

rev. 5/18/2011

Subject matter of interest to the Public Library Association

The highest priority subjects for PLA Publications are:

  • Practical information related to public library operations (such as manuals, cost studies, training guides, etc.)
  • Issues/hot topics
  • Applied research useful to library management and staff
  • Publications addressing the priority concerns of the Public Library Association are particularly encouraged. The priority concerns are:
    • Adequate funding for libraries
    • Improved management of public libraries
    • Recognition of the importance of all library staff in providing quality public service
    • Recruitment, education, training and compensation of public librarians
    • Effective use of technology
    • Intellectual freedom
    • Improved access to library resources
    • Effective communication with the non-library world

Subject matter must be timely and focus primarily on public libraries. Topics having the lowest priority are historical and theoretical works.


Public library staff, managers, and other library personnel comprise the primary target audience for PLA publications. Other audiences include library trustees and library Friends groups.


The PLA Publications Program includes materials in a variety of formats including print and electronic. However, the program's main focus is on manuscripts with sufficient number of pages to constitute a "book." Works of fewer pages may be more appropriate for Public Libraries, the division journal, and can be sent directly to Public Libraries for consideration.

Sources of publications

PLA accepts original, never before published material, as well as publications that have been written or produced for another audience but would be of interest to the broader PLA membership.

Rights of first refusal

PLA has the right of first refusal for the work of any PLA unit. This means that potential publications must be offered to PLA first; if turned down by PLA, then they must be offered to ALA. If turned down by ALA, outside publishers may be sought. If an outside publisher accepts the material, the PLA office will work with the publisher and the committee to see the manuscript through to completion.

This right of first refusal extends to information presented at PLA-sponsored programs. If the presenter has not been contacted by a PLA representative by the end of the thirty days immediately following such a program, the information may be released to another publisher.

Role of the PLA office

The PLA office manages the publications program. This work includes facilitation of the acquisition process, oversight of the editorial and production process, inventory control, and warehouse/distribution and financial management. The PLA office also provides promotion for new titles, according to the outline found in this document.

Guidelines for evaluating potential publications

The following criteria are general in nature and will guide the assessment of manuscripts/media submitted. These should also be kept in mind as proposals are developed.


  • Is the topic clearly defined?
  • Is the conclusion clear?
  • Is the subject of current interest?
  • Is the subject addressed significant to public libraries?
  • Does the manuscript provide new information or insights?
  • Does it build on previous work?
  • Does it duplicate existing works?
  • Does the purpose of the manuscript, i.e., historical, reference, etc., fit within the PLA publication priorities as defined in this document?


  • Is the manuscript clearly directed toward a specific audience?
  • Who is this audience?
  • What is the size of the potential audience?
  • Is the audience clearly identified in the work?
  • Scholarship/credibility
  • What are the author's/editor's/compiler's qualifications to write on this topic?
  • If the work suggests a thesis or argument, does the evidence presented support it?
  • If the tone of the work is scholarly, do the points made in the manuscript have supporting documentation such as footnotes, statistics, references, etc.?
  • Is the methodology described clearly? Is it appropriate to the topic?

Organization and written expression

  • Does the treatment of the material suit the intended audience?
  • Is the work well organized and coherent? Does it have, for example, an introduction, helpful breaks (chapters, subsections, paragraphs), and a conclusion?
  • Is it clear, logical, and interesting?


  • What is the most appropriate format for this work? Monograph, journal article, booklet, AV, other?
  • What is the current format of this work?
  • Is the material camera-ready or will camera-ready material be available?
  • Does the manuscript follow conventional rules for spelling, punctuation, hyphenation, and footnote style?
  • Are tables, graphs, and illustrations effectively used and adequately explained?
  • What is the size and physical complexity of the manuscript?
  • What resources are needed for publication?

Bibliographies as separate publications

  • Is the objective of the bibliography clearly stated?
  • Is the basis of selection stated and adhered to?
  • Is the format consistent and easy to understand?
  • If annotated, are the annotations in a consistent style and format?

Submitting your PLA publication proposal

Our consideration of new projects begins with your written proposal (or a brief query). The ideal proposal would contain the following elements, totaling about 2 to 3 pages, plus background attachments as necessary.

  1. Project Description. A brief (300 words or less) overall description of the project, including its subject, scope, content, and approach. State what is distinctive and compelling about the project
  2. Intended Market. Who (use job titles if possible), approximately how many, and why they need this work.
  3. Authorship. A one-paragraph biography describing the credentials of each of the authors/editors for preparing the work, highlighting editing, writing, and other relevant experience. Also include a curriculum vitae/resume.
  4. Preliminary TOC or Main Topic Outline. An outline of the major topics or a detailed preliminary table of contents.
  5. Length of Manuscript. Projected length of the work in word count or double-spaced manuscript pages (at 275 words per double-spaced page). Also describe the type and approximate number of figures and/or tables you plan to include.
  6. Schedule for Completion. Provide a realistic date of project completion. Allow time for all the parts (including illustrations and materials borrowed with permission) to be gathered, edited, revised, and reviewed as appropriate by your editor. Do not shortchange yourself on needed time, nor stretch out projects that are time-sensitive. If possible, also provide a timetable of the major phases in the project.
  7. Writing Sample. This may include a sample chapter of the proposed work or an article representative of the writing style for the proposed work.
  8. Special Considerations. e.g., illustrations, permissions, etc. that will be required.

PLA will also consider completed manuscripts, but please query before sending them. Send proposals and queries to (Kathleen Hughes, PLA Manager, Publications) and allow six-to-eight weeks for evaluation.