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Suggestions for Future Conference Topics

The Pennsylvania Library Association Conference will offer 60+ breakout sessions on topics of interest to Pennsylvania librarians.  If you are, or know someone that is, an expert on a topic that is included on the list below or that you feel will be of interest to librarians, the conference programming committee invites you to submit a session proposal. 

Topics of interest, as submitted by 2018 conference attendees, include (in no particular order):

Academic Libraries

  • More on Open Educational Resources
  • Community/campus engagement, and creating connections that will help our students/patrons explore their interests and develop skills in a real-world context.
  • Assessment and outreach for academic libraries
  • Lightening talks on outreach ideas, activities for first-year students, or digital humanities
  • Better administrative support for academic libraries in terms of budgeting
  • Open Access Scholarship


  • Using Data to make the case for libraries
  • Political economics in development of libraries, 
  • The impact of Libraries in the changing education and social construct.
  • Crucial Conversations training
  • Services in this political climate
  • More advocacy--maybe a panel of state legislators who can talk about legislative priorities
  • Anything that prepares libraries for the 2020 election.
  • More on how to get money out of the government and much more on what the government is doing to fund us. Political action including non-electoral should be first and foremost. 

Board/Staff Management

  • Training front line staff
  • Managing Volunteers
  • Employee Benefits on a Budget
  • How to hire/fire
  • Continue to offer HR management topics
  • Redefining  the library's mission statement
  • Continue to have an HR component presented by an attorney. Philip Miles was very clear to understand - and succinct - and the format of his sessions allowed for numerous questions.
  • A session on change management would be very beneficial, as libraries are changing so rapidly, managers need a lot of resources to help guide staff through these changes.
  • The Board Rx session is definitely something that should be considered as part of every conference!
  • More on boards - it's an issue for every director
  • Dealing with staff in various situations
  • As a director of a smaller library, sessions that address Human Resources (laws, effective staffing models) or management best practices would be very helpful.  Those of us with no HR department, no business management staff, or facilities managers, we are on our own to solve problems that are complex.  Help us!

Budgeting & Fundraising

  • More fundraising and grant-writing
  • Grants and grant writing
  • Introduction to grants
  • "Think Tank" session on how to address some common budget concerns and pay inequity
  • Facilities budgeting (long term planning for facility needs)
  • Selling books online through Amazon. Saw a PCBL presentation on this recently and would be good for a new fundraising stream session.


  • Career transition from academic to public or vice versa 
  • Self-care & burnout
  • Time management
  • Reputation management talk by Tracy Pawelski was professionally-presented and interesting information from an outside consultant, and on point for what we need to know.
  • Continuing education for librarians/directors for 10+ years that involves more in-depth, data-driven, and research-driven content.
  • Time and stress management
  • Leadership development

Children's/Teen Programming

  • Actual hands on STEM or STEAM programming for toddlers to pre-teens
  • More speakers/ sessions on young adult services
  • Meaningful teen volunteer programs/teen intern programs
  • More sessions that take youth services and reference services beyond a beginner's level
  • Cheap youth programming (with more balance between STEM and other types of programming)
  • More sessions on youth services that are applicable to more libraries based on budget, staff, etc
  • Display and expert's discussion about books recently published for children. (Similar to the program that Susan Pannebaker did in Wexford Pa in spring 2018.)  


  • Creating a culture of collaboration in Pennsylvania
  • Relationships Gone Wrong
  • Partnerships with school districts
  • Collaboration between different types of libraries

Customer Service/Patron Issues

  • Customer Service for desk and front line staff
  • Serving underserved populations - unprepared students
  • Repeat the session on Use of Opioids
  • Serving the homeless and/or mentally ill patrons
  • Patron/Staff boundaries (what's healthy, what's not)
  • Continuation of the opioid epidemic with a focus on the legal issues libraries may have with staff having narcan or other assistance with dealing with this issue.
  • Serving patrons with mental or physical disabilities
  • How to deal with Service Animals, Therapy Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Pets (liability and laws)


  • More diversity in the speakers, POC, LGBT, etc.  Kathryn Deiss; retired from ALA but is continuing as one of the two facilitators of the ALA Leadership Institute. She is AMAZING. Check her out on twitter @kdeiss.
  • Diversity in librarianship, speakers April Hathcock? Or Emily Drabinski? Or Courtney Young? 
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Diversity (of collections, programs, staff, etc.)
  • More regarding equity and inclusive practices

Office of Commonwealth Libraries

  • More cooperative programs with the OCL. 
  • Supplying Board Manuals and training that they have developed
  • Outcome from the Harwood Institute Turning Outward program
  • Leadership topics, and maybe a session from one of the libraries participating in OCL's Harwood Initiative
  • Q&A with OCL staff about statewide initiatives

PA Forward

  • More connection of programs to PA Forward using partners and libraries- like the Financial Literacy panel
  • Have libraries present their most innovative PA Forward programs as Lightening Talks


  • How to adapt reference sections to our increasingly digital-focused times
  • More programming for adults
  • Programming  for older adults on aging in place (retirement info, preparing a home in which to age, etc.), connect to community resources, continue learning, be less isolated in the community, provide a safe place to go, etc.  We need to help staff provide good customer service, not subscribe to ageism, and recognize how to help older adults.  
  • Technology Literacy for Patrons and Staff
  • Safe Spaces
  • Entrepreneurship, Patents & Trademarks
  • PLA Outcomes session. PLA was at ARSL and that session was excellent.
  • How to Increase the number of library cardholders
  • Sessions that are more applied/hands on and less like lectures. 
  • Take the building and grounds programming one step further and teach how to do some of the preventive or minor maintenance to save time and money.
  • Discussion about bigger issues in librarianship-where are libraries going and how to get there, why libraries are still relevant and what that looks like in the future.
  • How to balance programs from multiple points of view. What is true neutrality?
  • Readers' Advisory 
  • More advanced topics
  • More programs specific to the challenges faced by rural libraries. Rural libraries often have unique problems, or issues that are magnified by their rural nature.
  • A program about PCBL and Friends groups
  • Passive program ideas
  • Prisoner outreach
  • Meeting room policies
  • Media (crisis management)
  • Outreach Services - Ideas for venues; services offered; program ideas, etc.
  • More legal guidance from actual lawyers
  • Safety and Security
  • Facilities Issues

Look for the Call for Proposals in January 2019!

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