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CRD-PaLA: A Great Way to Build Your Academic Library Career

June 18, 2015

Author’s note: I wrote a version of this article for the spring 2015 newsletter of the Western Pennsylvania West Virginia Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries ( I am pleased to be able to modify and share this with you. Thanks to CRD Board Chair Larissa Gordon for her review of my early draft and for her helpful suggestions.

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When I began working in Pennsylvania in 2004, the general impression I received from many librarians was that the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) had little to offer academic librarians. This surprised me. I had just arrived from Texas, where the Texas Library Association annual conference is one of the largest library events in the world–larger than most national conferences–and where academic librarians serve in key roles in planning, service, and programming. Because I lived in San Antonio, a major destination for conventions, I regularly participated in the annual conference planning group. In addition, because of San Antonio’s proximity and close relationship to Mexico, I also was a member of the Texas-Mexico Relations Committee, through which academic and public librarians in Texas and Mexico had the opportunity to meet, collaborate, and share information.

Nevertheless, it didn’t take me long to learn that maybe there was more for academic librarians in PaLA than my fellow librarians realized. I soon learned about the College & Research Division of PaLA (CRD-PaLA) and the information-sharing, funding, and even publishing it does on behalf of academic libraries in the Commonwealth.

For example,

  • In the spring, the CRD-PaLA board meets in person to review proposals submitted for the Pennsylvania Library Association’s annual conference. At this meeting, board members review proposals related to academic libraries and select 10 to 12 sessions to sponsor as part of an annual conference academic library track. In addition, at annual conference, CRD- PaLA hosts a luncheon featuring an often nationally known keynote speaker. At the 2014 conference, the speaker was Alison J. Head, Executive Director of Project Information Literacy (PIL).
  • Annually in the spring, CRD-PaLA hosts an all-day workshop on topics of interest to academic library personnel. In the past, workshops have focused on support for open access, e-books, the changing higher education environment for libraries, and digital and media literacy.
  • CRD-PaLA administers a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant that provides funding for a number of academic library-oriented professional development programs held throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This year, LSTA monies have supported programs on makerspaces, 3D printing, building community between academic libraries and their audiences, and bridging the gap between school and academic librarians in developing information literacy skills.
  • CRD-PaLA also periodically funds placement for an academic librarian at the PaLA Academy of Leadership Studies (PALS), an effort between PaLA and the Office of Commonwealth Libraries to offer leadership development for librarians.
  • Throughout the year, the division hosts several online educational programs through its “Connect & Communicate” series. Recent sessions have discussed open educational resources (OERs), digital learning objects and materials, diverse literacies, and circulating iPads through your library.
  • CRD-PaLA also is involved in sharing the voices and experiences of Pennsylvania libraries and library personnel. It is the sponsor of Pennsylvania Libraries: Research & Practice, aka PaLRaP, an online open access journal ( The journal is produced twice a year by a volunteer editorial team made up of CRD-PaLA members. Issues feature research and practice articles, editorials, commentaries, features, and news for, by, and about Pennsylvania librarians. While the focus of the journal has, heretofore, been on academic library topics, articles and news items about all types of libraries are welcome.
  • In addition, CRD hosts a blog, It’s Academic!, featuring news and opinions of academic librarians throughout Pennsylvania. Ten new bloggers were recently added to the crew (including yours truly); these bloggers provide fresh content regularly.
  • A column called “It’s Academic!” also appears regularly in the PaLA Bulletin, the quarterly newsletter of the Pennsylvania Library Association. Recent columns have presented views on open access, a wrap-up on academic sessions offered at the 2014 PaLA conference, and library use of Pinterest I just penned a column on scholarly communication (aka library support for research and publication) as a concern not just for academic librarians, but also for public and school librarians. See the PaLA Publications page on the PaLA website for more information and access,

Through CRD-PaLA, I’ve edited a journal, I’ve written columns, I’ve blogged, I’ve presented, and I’ve reviewed LSTA funding applications. In other words, I’ve gained valuable professional knowledge, honed my library skill set, and even rediscovered my career roots. (I used to be an editor in a previous, pre-library career life.) Hopefully, too, I’ve contributed my knowledge as well.

So if you’re looking for a place in the Pennsylvania academic library community, want to learn from it, and offer something in return, please give CRD a try. I’m confident that you–and your academic library career–will be glad you did.

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