The beginnings of the Polish American Librarians Association are closely linked with the World Languages Info Fair at the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) and American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Chicago. On April 28, 2009, two Polish American Librarians – Aldona Salska of Prospect Heights Public Library and Elizabeth Marszalik of Indian Trails Public Library – met at the World Languages Info Fair and discovered that they both had similar idea about forming some sort of organization for Polish American librarians, as well as librarians working with Polish collections or serving Polish patron in the United States. A few months later, the ALA annual conference in Chicago gave more inspiration and opportunity to discuss this idea with Malgorzata Bylinska of Arlington Heights Memorial Library. They decided to meet again to see how three Polish American librarians, serving three neighboring communities in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, could make a difference.
The first meeting of Aldona Salska, Malgorzata Bylinska and Elizabeth Marszalik took place on August 8th, 2009 at the Red Apple (Czerwone Jabłuszko) Restaurant in Chicago. During the next few months, more librarians got involved in discussing and forming the founding committee of the Polish American Librarians Association (PALA). New members included Ursula Zyzik, librarian at Saint Xavier University; Helena Ziolkowski, librarian emeritus from Portage Park Library and well- known figure in Polish American librarianship circles; Malgorzata Kot, head librarian at the Polish Museum of America Library; Krystyna Grell, librarian at the Polish Museum of America Library; and Joanna Bohdziewicz-Borowiec, former librarian and former executive director of the Polish American Association. The Polish Museum of America Library has generously hosted regular PALA meetings since the group’s inception.
PALA established its first Executive Board in February 2010. Members included: President, Aldona Salska, Vice-President, Elizabeth Marszalik, Secretary, Ursula Zyzik, and Treasurer, Malgorzata Bylinska. On February 18, 2010 the Polish American Librarians Association was officially incorporated in the state of Illinois. In March 2010, PALA registered with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
On March 5, 2010 Aldona Salska met with Elzbieta Stefanczyk, President, and Marzena Przybysz, Secretary, of the Stowarzyszenie Bibliotekarzy Polskich (Polish Librarians Association) at the National Library of Poland in Warsaw. During this meeting and further correspondence, both organizations expressed interest in cooperation and mutual support.
The Earlier PALA
In the late 1970s, an earlier incarnation of the Polish American Librarians Association sparkled briefly with a base in the Hamtramck (Michigan) Public Library. A historically Polish community, Hamtramck was the logical home for PALA, but the force behind the association was Victoria Gala, librarian at the Detroit Public Library and resident of Northville, Michigan. Sketchy records of PALA 1 can be found at the Polish Museum of America (PMA) Library in Chicago—dating from 1977 to 1981, largely correspondence between Gala and Wojciech Zalewski, who was at the time Curator for Russian and East European Materials at Stanford University Libraries in California. The organization also issued a newsletter, a few copies of which reside in the PMA. Although the first PALA enjoyed an apparent flourish of activity, records appear to be scattered, and anyone with more information is invited to contact PALA.