By Amber Kent
Thanks to a continuing education scholarship from the Arizona State Library, I participated in three Certified Public Library Administrator (CPLA) courses from the American Library Association over spring 2021. The purpose of the CPLA program is to enable library administrators to further their education and experience, improve their future career opportunities, and “improve the quality of library service through the provision of practical knowledge and skills essential to successful library management.” The courses I took: Budget and Finance, Marketing, and Management of Technology were filled with real-world tools and advice shared by experienced library leaders. Each course had plenty of opportunities to network and learn from classmates across the country, in all types of public libraries.
The Budget and Finance course encouraged participants to explore their budgets in different ways. We learned that different types of libraries prepare and track their budgets in different ways. Looking at our budget through a different method revealed insights that we may not have seen with our traditional budgeting model. One of the most useful assignments I completed as part of this course was an interview with a Library Director in another system of a similar size, to find out how they operate. In some ways, our libraries were similar. In many ways, they are very, very different. Because of this class, I will be better prepared to work in various types and sizes of libraries as I learn how we are different and the same.
The Library Marketing course focused on general marketing practices, including using technology and commercial marketing practices to bring awareness to our library services. We explored different library websites and marketing campaigns and discussed what made them successful. It’s important to make sure our services are accessible and frequently updated to meet the ever-changing needs in our community.
Management of Technology was a very in-depth course and one that I will long remember. Technology pervades all aspects of our libraries and managing it all is a huge challenge. We learned how to create a technology plan and, more importantly, we learned why it’s so important to have a plan. I am easily distracted by the new and exciting tech, but it can be hard to decide whether the investment is necessary or even wise. Having a plan in place gives you criteria against which you can measure your idea to see if it fills a need. If it won’t help your library reach its goals, then it’s unnecessary.
To anyone looking to further their professional development with more than just a quick webinar, I highly recommend the CPLA courses from ALA. Even if you’re not interested in pursuing the certification, the courses are well worth your time. I greatly appreciate the State Library for providing the funds that allowed me to participate in these courses and I look forward to attending more in the fall.