By Ashley Flynn
One short year ago, my group mates and I were immersed in a professional development workshop unlike any other. We graduated from PALS, the PaLA Academy of Leadership Studies, with the 2015 class. On the surface, this workshop is designed to increase the leadership abilities of participants and build networking connections while promoting PA Forward. In our experiences, the program was much more.
All PALS participants were placed into groups with a particular project focus. Our group’s focus was to write articles for the Compendium focusing on PA Forward programs and initiatives happening around the state. This project challenged us to hone our writing skills, create connections with other librarians to promote their work, and celebrate PA Forward. This was a tall order to complete through a long-distance group project, but all of us have found the experience extremely beneficial and rewarding.
Each of our members has shared their outlook on the experience in their own words.
My PALS experience was the most positive, enriching, and amazing experience I have had in my library career. Coming to Harrisburg last June for a week of Leadership training I was nervous, to say the least. I was also unsure of exactly what to expect but I had heard from colleagues who attended previous sessions that I would not regret this experience. They were right.
From the organization of the events, to the quality of the speakers, to the thoughtfulness of the organizers, to the attention of our mentors I couldn’t have asked for more. Getting to know my group and realizing how well we all work together was a gift. Our commitment to our project grew throughout the year and I am proud of the work we submitted to the Compendium.
I came away from PALS with more confidence. Confidence in my writing, suggesting my ideas to a group, and taking more roles with a leadership capacity. I am finding myself looking for ways to catapult PA Forward!
One of the big ideas they encouraged at PALS 2015 was to be ready and willing to say “yes” to opportunities and people in our field of work. That is something that many of my fellow PALS graduates will probably have remembered and are trying to do. It is also what described most of my PALS experience and the past year for me. I’ve applied for more career-related committees and groups, as well as tried a few new workshops and seminars that I wouldn’t typically have thought interesting to me. Because I said “yes” when my group asked me to attend and write an article on the Civic and Social Literacy Summit that was held at Dickinson Law earlier this year, I was able to learn some really fascinating new things and ideas about intergenerational programming and began considering how the library can play a role in helping those suffering from abuse. I’ve also gotten many great ideas from my fellow group members’ articles and learned that some of my own ideas aren’t half-bad. While this is most definitely not true for all of the articles I’ve written or all of the things I’ve said “yes” to, I’m still glad I’ve tried them and it’s because of the days I spent at PALS that I did.
As a member of PALS, this past year has provided me with more than I ever expected. The experience started off with a whirlwind conference of inspirational speakers who really brought out the leaders in all of us. But it was more than just a few days. Everyone I met through PALS has remained an important contact I will know for the rest of my professional career. My team and mentor have also been my library allies and inspiration for always trying to do my best. I could not be more grateful for the opportunity PALS has provided for me and am even more excited to see what the future holds.
Participating in PALS inspired me to connect with other people and help them to find confidence in their own skills and abilities. As an academic librarian, this has served me well with both colleagues and students. The insight PALS gave me about myself and about the profession will serve me throughout my career.
To echo my groupmates, I feel that the most valuable part of PALS has been meeting and working with an amazing group of librarians from across the state. Our group gelled quickly, and our project writing articles for the Compendium gave us a venue to share ideas with each other. I know I borrowed liberally from my group members and used their ideas in my own library! Our project also helped me develop the habit of writing regularly to communicate with other librarians, a practice that will definitely be useful as I continue to develop as an academic, and as an academic librarian.
The best part of PALS, though, wasn’t just all that we accomplished; it was how much fun we had doing it!
PALS gave me an opportunity to connect with a group of peers who really “get” what it means to be a librarian and to face both the challenges and successes that come with this line of work. It was invigorating to discuss the programs and services being offered at different types of libraries from all over the state and gain a new perspective on what libraries can be. For me, that was definitely the highlight of spending 3 days together for the PALS training. Our project has proven to be much more rewarding than I would have expected as well. Coming from a background in newspapers, I was thrilled at the opportunity to try my hand at library-centric articles. My group has been an absolute delight to work with, and I can honestly say I have never enjoyed a group project before this one!
As our PALS year comes to a close, we’re grateful to look back on the things we’ve accomplished as a group. The 2016 class of PALS graduates will continue this worthy project, and we proudly pass the torch on to them. Thank you to everyone who has read our work, and best of luck to the new PALS who take our place. We hope your experience is as positive as ours has been!