Historic Milwaukee to Host PALA Annual Meeting 2016

Librarians will gather in Milwaukee on Sunday April 17 for the Annual Meeting of the Polish American Librarians Association. The Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee will host the event, which will feature presentations by noted author-historians Dominic Pacyga and John Gurda as well as a panel discussion and Q&A about how librarians can provide the best service to the Polish community and Americans of Polish descent in every type of library.

While Milwaukee ranks as the 30th largest city in the U.S., it ranks fourth in the size of its Polish population (more than 57,000 or almost 10% of the total). The day’s activities will also include an opportunity to explore the Library’s extraordinary collection of photographs, maps, documents, and memorabilia related to Polonia.

“More than two hundred thousand Milwaukeeans trace their family roots to Poland,” says Gurda. “That is enough to make Milwaukee one of the capital cities of Polish America, a place where Pope John Paul II is revered, the polka is mastered at an early age, and you’re never far from cold beer and good kielbasa. Milwaukee’s Polonia is larger than those in Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh, and in proportional terms, it is on par with the colonies in Chicago and Detroit.”

“We are especially eager to welcome attendees from outside the Milwaukee area. If you have not explored Milwaukee’s Polish history, this is an ideal opportunity, and we are offering our assistance in finding transportation or even housing for those who would like to make a weekend out of the trip,” says Library Director Ewa Barczyk, who is serving as local arrangements coordinator. “Milwaukee is roughly an hour away from Chicago,” she notes, “but it is an entirely different world of Polish-American history waiting for you to discover.”

“This year we want to place more emphasis on the attendees and what we all can learn from one another,” says PALA Director Leonard Kniffel. “There will be ample opportunity to network and to talk with experts about best practices in serving the community.”

“This is a great opportunity for us to come together and learn from one another’s successes and challenges,” says PALA member Diane Srebro, organizer of the panel discussion. “We want to use the day to advance PALA’s mission, which is to positively impact services provided to library patrons of Polish descent and individuals interested in Polish culture.”

This is PALA’s sixth Annual Meeting and its first since adopting a new set of organizational goals in 2015 that focus the association’s energy and resources on networking and career development through four primary activity areas:

  • Planning and conducting the Annual Meeting and participating in other national, state, and international conferences, and in other networking forums.
  • Improving communication and resource sharing with members through the PALA Mine quarterly newsletter, the PALA website, and survey and evaluation forms.
  • Recruiting and retaining members through the efficient and effective use and maintenance of the email mailing list.
  • Partnering with and supporting the efforts of libraries, library associations, and other related organizations.

Members who would like to become more professionally active and would like to put forward their ideas for future initiatives and proposals within the framework of these activity areas are urged to begin by attending the Milwaukee meeting.

In order to make food and space plans, PALA needs to know whether or not you are coming. Please check the box on your membership dues return form to indicate that you plan to attend or RSVP at palalib@gmail.com. Admittance and lunch are free to members; otherwise a donation of $10 is requested, payable at the door. Attendees can become PALA members or renew their membership at the meeting.

The schedule:


Annual Meeting, Sunday, April 17, 2016

University of Wisconsin, Golda Meir Library, 2311 E. Hartford Ave., Milwaukee

10:00-11:00 Registration, coffee/tea/bagels, networking, library exhibits

11:00-11:30 Convene

  • Welcome to UW Milwaukee & Day’s Agenda, Ewa Barczyk, Library Director
  • Greetings from Polish Consulate, Konrad Zielinski, Vice Consul
  • Membership Meeting, Leonard Kniffel, PALA Director

11:30-12:30 “A History of Milwaukee’s Polonia
Morning Keynote: Historian & Author John Gurda, with Audience Q&A


Courtesy of the Consulate of the Republic of Poland

1:00-1:45 Panel Discussion with Audience Participation: “Serving the Information and Programming Needs of Polish Americans @ Your Library” Iwona Bozek, Polish Museum of America; Elizabeth Marszalik, Oak Park (Ill.) Public Library; Susan Mikos, Polish Center of Wisconsin; Ewa Barczyk, Moderator


2:00-2:45 “Polonia: Preserving the Record,”
Afternoon Keynote: Historian & Author Dominic Pacyga, with Audience Q&A

2:45-3:00 Announcements from the membership, closing


3:15-4:30 Complimentary Admission to the Members Preview of the Annual Library Book Sale PLUS an Inside Look at Treasures of the American Geographical Society Library and the Kwasniewski Photograph Collection