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Executive Director, Public Library Association (PLA)

American Library Association
Illinois, United States
Salary Commensurate with experience
Closing date
Dec 4, 2020

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Position Type
Other Fields
Employment Type
Full Time
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The Public Library Association (PLA), division of the American Library Association (ALA) seeks an Executive Director to lead the association for public librarians and public library staff.


With an eleven-member Board of Directors, thirty committees and work groups, and fifteen staff members; PLA develops programs, products, and services to help those working in public libraries learn, innovate, and lead to better support the communities they serve. The nearly 7000-member group represents rural, suburban, and urban public libraries.  PLA strives to help its members shape the essential institution of public libraries by serving as an indispensable ally for public library leaders. For more information about PLA see: .


The Executive Director will play an important role in strengthening the future position of the division as a key partner and collaborator with other divisions and the larger ALA organization, helping to reimagine and ensure a healthy, vibrant institution.  PLA is dedicated to visionary leadership; proactive member engagement; integrity and transparency; equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice; as well as excellence and innovation. Other significant focus areas for PLA include:  leadership development that builds and supports leaders who reflect the needs of their communities and the profession; advocacy, that helps libraries demonstrate and quantify the value of library services, increases library funding, and expands partnership opportunities; positioning public libraries leaders and partners for national advocacy efforts including closing the digital divide, e-book lending, and increasing democratic engagement such as voter and census participation; promoting equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice as core public library values that address historical racial inequities, challenge oppressive systems, and eliminate barriers to equitable services; and championing literacy including family, digital, health, and financial literacy.


Reporting to the ALA Executive Director and the PLA Board of Directors, the position  provides vision and leadership for advancing PLA’s core purpose, goals, and strategic objectives as defined by the PLA Board of Directors in its strategic plan; represents the interests of PLA and public libraries  to a range of stakeholders and constituencies, forging partnerships and alliances as appropriate; provides long-range planning, both strategic and operational; effectively manages the resources of the division, including hiring and retaining a strong team; manages and builds PLA’s fiscal resources, with responsibility for a $4 million annual operating budget and over $10 million in programmatic grants; facilitates the delivery of programs, research, and services (including a biennial conference) that advance the work of public libraries; provides oversight, review, and direction for all PLA professional development and product activities; and serves as a member of ALA’s senior leadership team.


Because of its complexity, this position requires a national spokesperson and thought leader, an effective team member who can serve as an advocate for libraries the PLA division and ALA.  As this position works closely with and reports to the elected PLA Board of Directors, there is a high premium placed on the ability to work well with PLA leaders and to understand current association and governance best practices. Additionally, being a member of the ALA senior management team requires a commitment to collaboration, excellent listening skills, a spirit of innovation, effective time and project management, and an ability to balance risk and reward. The need to balance and assess demands and priorities—sometimes competing ones—has real urgency in this environment.  


The PLA offices are in Chicago, a city bursting with world-class, big city culture. Despite its size, at its heart, Chicago is a welcoming Midwestern city known for genuine hospitality and dynamic cultural offerings set against a backdrop of expansive lakefront, iconic architecture, over 300 parks and green spaces, and 77 vibrant, ethnically diverse neighborhoods, along with one of the nation’s most inclusive LGBTQ+ communities that together form the heart and soul of this energetic city.



Starting Salary:  Negotiable from the low 100s, based on relevant experience. 

Benefits:  ALA offers a comprehensive and valuable benefits package that includes generous paid vacation and matching retirement annuity.




Application Process


In addition to your resume, please provide a cover letter outlining the strategic value that you will bring to PLA, drawing upon past successes and experience.


Closing Date: Review of candidates will begin on or around Dec 1, 2020 and continue until the position is filled.


You may apply online including your cover letter and resume.




Send your cover letter and resume to:


Mary Pullen

Sr. Human Resources Manager
American Library Association

225 N Michigan Ave

Suite 1300

Chicago, IL 60601

Ref: execdirPLA


Fax: (312) 280 5270


The American Library Association is an equal opportunity employer: Disability/Veteran





  • A strategic and collaborative thinker with a proven success record
  • Ability to simultaneously develop and maintain effective working relationships with the elected Board of Directors, members and volunteers, staff and colleagues, funders, vendors, and other stakeholders.
  • History of strong leadership that is inclusive, collaborative, and service oriented with proven ability to lead through a time of change and uncertainty.
  • Ability to advance the association by exercising strong managerial skills and leadership including mobilizing and inspiring individuals and teams to build regional and national networks and articulate the power of libraries to non-library stakeholders.
  • Experience in building and leveraging partnerships with other civic and community organizations.
  • Ability to balance competing demands and priorities in a complex organizational environment to effectively manage resources including time, money, and attention, in fiscally challenging circumstances. 
  • Entrepreneurial aptitude and ability to think creatively and to take appropriate and strategic risks.
  • Demonstrated commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion and social justice.
  • Outstanding communication skills.
  • Flexibility, adaptability, and a commitment to learning and continuous improvement.
  • A four-year college or university degree.


Desired Qualities:

  • Visionary yet pragmatic
  • Reflective and resilient
  • Comfort with ambiguity and change
  • Graduate-level degree with relevance to the position
  • ASAE Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential or commensurate executive management experience


Desired Experience:

  • Seven or more years management experience in an association environment strongly preferred.
  • Other non-profit or library management experience a plus.
  • Knowledge of the “big picture” values and issues in public libraries
  • Experience supervising staff and working with teams
  • Experience leading in an entrepreneurial context.
  • Experience working with volunteer boards and managing complex revenue-based budgets
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