PALA President’s Message: Libraries at the Crossroads

PALA President Leonard Kniffel

Libraries at the Crossroads,” a new survey from the Pew Research Center shows that library use has “ebbed downward” over the past three years, “although it is too soon to know whether or not this is a trend.” At the same time, Americans “believe that libraries are important community institutions and profess interest in libraries offering a range of new program possibilities.”

During PALA’s Annual Meeting, April 17 in Milwaukee, attendees talked about their successes with programs, materials, and services to the Polish American community, but they also talked about their challenges, the largest of which is universally recognized as funding. Cutting library staff and in some cases libraries entirely, is a trend, and a disturbing one, especially when what the community wants is new and innovative services and programs, in addition to the traditional books and story hours. Service to the Polish American community becomes more problematic as waves of new immigrants stop coming to the USA, return to Poland, or move to communities where assimilation is the byword.

A resolution PALA made last year in the face of declining membership and the lack of resources, is to concentrate our volunteer efforts on continuing education and on partnering with and supporting the efforts of related organizations by attending their programs, meetings, and conferences. Our goal is to further our mission through interaction with organizations such as the American Library Association and its round tables and state chapters, the Polish Museum of America, BookExpo America, the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, university libraries and Polish studies programs, publishers of Polish materials, and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, which is scheduled to hold its 2017 World Library and Information Congress in Poland. Involvment in PALA can be your doorway, as it is mine, to a new understanding of the world of library and information science and technology.