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PaLA 2011 – Reorganizing the future

October 7, 2011

PaLA 2011

I’m still coming down from the high of attending the 2011 Pennsylvania Library Association Annual Conference earlier this week. Gathering with friends and colleagues from around PA always results in opportunities for networking, learning, and fun. I found the pace of this state conference to be very pleasing – it was much less hectic than a larger conference (like ALA for example) with more time to linger between sessions and chat with new acquaintances.

I’ll probably be posting my session notes on my personal blog Library Scenester, but I wanted to take a moment here on the CRD blog to post about one particular #pala2011 event: a focus group. I recently found out that a PaLA Ad Hoc Committee on Reorganization has been formed to investigate options for the future structure of PaLA. During the conference, committee members held a number of focus groups (mainly with graduates of the PA Academy of Leadership Studies – PALS) to gather feedback on ideas for re-visioning. Some thoughts:

  1. I think it is incredibly forward thinking of the organization to be investigating viable options for the future. Many professional library organizations are seeing a decline in membership as new/potential/existing members consider the benefits versus costs. In order to continue existing in a meaningful way, associations need to take the lead directly from their membership body. They need to investigate new options for the changing professional realities within libraries (new jobs, etc)  and evolving needs regarding professional development. So hats off to whoever within PaLA decided that this was going to be a priority.
  2. I’m not sure what other types of activities the committee has planned, but seeking input from new library leaders is a great starting point. The PALS graduates are a highly-capable bunch of motivated individuals who have been librarians for five years or less. They have the enthusiasm and creative thinking necessary to restructure traditional organizations into leaner, more flexible entities.
  3. I am pleased to report that the 15-person committee includes 6 academic librarians. Academic librarians have an opportunity to participate in the reorganization discussion and mold PaLA into an association that responds to and supports the needs of higher education. This is a chance for everyone who has ever said “PaLA is for public libraries” to contribute ideas.

Should we keep chapters? Divisions? Roundtables? Should certain aspects of PaLA be more transparent, and if so, how? Should the website be different? What has been challenging? What has been rewarding? What future directions should we be investigating as a state-wide group? These are all questions that intrigue me. Particularly when thinking about the responsibilities of academic librarians – how can we help PaLA and how can PaLA help us? The sky is the limit.

What barriers have you encountered? Ask your colleagues why they are not members. How can we strengthen our association through reorganization? I would love to hear your thoughts and I hope that someone from the PaLA Ad Hoc Committee on Reorganization will post a comment regarding their future plans for gathering feedback so that all of our voices can be heard.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2011 4:40 pm

    Thanks, I missed this. Great post, Erin!

  2. debmalone permalink
    October 7, 2011 7:25 pm

    I’m the co-chair of the PaLA Ad hoc Committee on reorganization, and we actively looking for venues to host additional focus groups. Any suggestions? We are also considering an online survey of PaLA members as well as activating a forum discussion which would be available from the PaLA web site. I will certainly follow comments on this post.

    Thanks, Debbie

  3. October 9, 2011 12:39 am

    @ Amy – Thanks!

    @ Debbie – Thanks for commenting! I wasn’t sure if the committee membership was public knowledge, so I didn’t want to call anyone out by name here :) What if we tried to do some kind of focus group specifically for academic librarians? I feel like they are a group of members and potential members who sometimes feel overlooked by PaLA (whether that is realistic or imagined). Just even making an effort to seek input, like the focus groups at PaLA, makes people feel appreciated and helps with buy-in, in my opinion. CRD administers LSTA funding for professional development activities for academic librarians – perhaps we could hold an event using those fund (virtual, in-person, both?) focused on gathering ideas specifically from academic librarians? I also think your group would be able to glean some valuable data from the surveys that some PALS groups are working on (re: members and non-members). I will certainly let you know if I think of other ideas! Thanks for your hard work on this, and congratulations on your PaLA Presidency!

    • Paul Proces permalink
      October 10, 2011 5:51 pm

      I also applaud the decision to form this committee and listen to the results.

      @Erin I think getting together academics to talk about what they want from PaLA is a smart idea. I see a lot of young and new academics getting involved in PaLA right now, which I think is partly due to PALS and it’s important for the future of the organization to retain that enthusiasm and channel it.

      I think that one of the important issues that has already come out of the focus groups is that we need more people to help bake the PaLA website bread, so to speak. Keeping our online content fresh is so important.

  4. October 10, 2011 6:25 pm

    @Paul – I agree re: the website. It could be so much more if it was open and collaborative. Dynamic, fresh content and design would send the right message about PaLA as an organization, particularly for new members. Great suggestion & thanks for the comment!

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