The Polish American Librarians Association has existed for five years, and I was one of the founders. The main reason I agreed to return to the presidency this year was to encourage us all to take a fresh look at our goals and determine why enthusiasm has waned following the initial surge of interest that took us to a high of 140 members in 20 states.
When the goal of an organization becomes simply to keep itself going, we have to start questioning what the future holds. Perhaps the best way to do that is to recognize how far we have come. Our five Annual Meetings have been held at major institutions that support Polish studies: Dominican University, Loyola University, and the Polish Museum of America. In 2016 we plan to move beyond Illinois and meet at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. Our Annual Meetings have earned the financial support of the Consul General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago. We awarded the three-year Vera May Zubrzycki Scholarship for librarianship, administered in cooperation with Dominican University. We have campaigned for Poland’s inclusion in the Via Waiver Program, established the Third Tuesday Polish Book Club, and partnered with a number of organizations, including the Polish Museum of America Library, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, the American Library Association, the Polish Film Festival in America, All of Polonia Reads to Kids, and the Jan Karski Educational Foundation to bring the Karski traveling exhibition to libraries around the country. Thanks to our team of volunteers, we have published a collection development bibliography and a list of great websites for Polish Americans. Projects currently under development include the compilation of a guide to essential books about Poland’s role during World War II and the Holocaust, and a series of professional-development Weekend Workshops for librarians. Our Annual Meeting and Career Development Day and our participation in the ALA Annual Conference have offered members an opportunity to network with some of the top leaders in the library profession.
Perhaps we have accomplished what we were established to do and our declining membership is an indication that we should close up shop and rest on our laurels. I’d like to think not; there is so much more to be done. One of our stated goals is to become an affiliate of the American Library Association, but there is little point if we do not see a long range future for PALA.
What am I asking you to do about it? First, membership is the best way to indicate your faith in our future, but beyond that, your active participation will make PALA even more vital. Any service you can give to the Polish library community will be stronger if you do it as a member of PALA. The board and I value your ideas, your connections, your leadership, and your loyalty. Please let us know what you think through the “Contact” option above.