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PA Library Association’s Leadership Academy Invests in Librarians, Staff 10 Years Strong

Association’s professional development tracks help librarians, staff and volunteers support library’s efforts in local communities

Mechanicsburg, PA (November 27, 2018)
For the last decade, the Pennsylvania Library Association has been helping to develop librarians into (library) leaders through their Academy of Leadership Studies (PALS). This effort was launched with support from the Office of Commonwealth Libraries and was established to develop and train professional librarians and staff on how to lead their organizations, connecting them with potential partners, maintaining staff morale and heightening community awareness of what all libraries offer.


“Since its inception in 2009, the Pennsylvania Library Association’s Academy of Leadership Studies has focused on investing in, mentoring and assisting librarians,” said Jessica Miller, Washington County Library System Coordinator and 2018 PALS Committee Vice Chair. “Ultimately, the program is designed to help participants develop their own individual leadership skills and learn how to apply those skills in their libraries and in their local communities. The driving philosophy behind what we do is that leadership is a choice, not a position.”  

During her tenure as Pennsylvania Library Association President, Mary Garm, conceived the idea for the creation of the Academy for Leadership Studies (PALS). Tina Hertel, current Association President, worked with Garm to implement the full program as of 2009. Their goal was for this program to teach librarian leaders how to use their personal and professional skills to enhance the value of their libraries in their communities.

What transpired was the development of a multi-day workshop for newly degreed librarians, providing them with leadership training and resources that could then be applied in their local libraries.


This session has since expanded and now includes a second 3.5-day workshop for directors as well as a one-day workshop for support staff. It is the hope of the PALS Leadership Development Committee to continue developing these programs, enlightening and empowering Pennsylvania’s librarians by giving them the needed tools and resources for them to become leaders both personally and professionally.


The workshop descriptions are below:


Choosing Leadership

This one-day workshop is specifically designed for any librarians and support staff who are looking for ways to hone their leadership potential. Anyone who works in libraries, regardless of their position, is welcome to attend. This workshop is also open to students.


Leadership Academy

This 3.5-day workshop is designed for Masters of Library Science (MLS) and Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degreed librarians whether they have just completed their studies or have been in the field a few years. Participants work closely with one another, on year-long group projects, along with an assigned mentor, and explore what it means to be a leader, as well as how they can make the choice to be leaders for their libraries. Participation in this workshop requires a one-year commitment to the assigned group project. All participants must hold an appropriate degree from an American Library Association accredited school at the time of nomination.  


Directors’ Institute

This 3.5-day workshop is designed for library directors and assistant directors. Participants will work closely with each other and with appointed mentors to explore what it means to be both a library director and a library leader. Special sessions with the Office of Commonwealth Library staff highlight state offered tools to help all directors lead their libraries no matter how big or how small. Participants must be either a director or an assistant director at their respective libraries. There is no degree requirement for this workshop.


Once the training sessions, which take place annually in June, conclude, Leadership Academy participants remain engaged as members of small-group project committees, working together throughout the course of the year on an initiative that will benefit librarianship throughout Pennsylvania. Directors’ Institute participants are offered webinars, discussion and networking opportunities on continuing topics of interest for the group. One-day workshop participants are encouraged to remain engaged with the Association through various workshops and regional activities hosted throughout the year.


Many graduates have benefited in their careers through participation with the leadership institutes. As of 2018, the Leadership Academy boasts 217 graduates, while the three-year-old Directors’ Institute has nearly 60 graduates to date. 


“I came away from PALS with a notebook full of hastily scribbled notes, punctuated by exclamation points; a virtual Rolodex of new friends and colleagues; my brain and heart refreshed; and my face lit up by a smile. My expectations were wildly exceeded in every way. I’ll hold on to these three days for a long time,” said Tess Wilson, a 2018 PALS Leadership Academy participant. 

The Pennsylvania Library Association’s Academy of Leadership Studies is made possible, in part, by Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) as administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education through the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Tom Wolf, Governor.

IMLS is celebrating its 20th Anniversary. As the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums, the mission of IMLS is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Their grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For more information about PALS, visit  For more information about the work of the Pennsylvania Library Association, visit


submitted by:
Christi Buker
PA Library Association Executive Director

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