Canadian Urban Libraries Council/Conseil des Bibliothèques Urbaines du Canada

Public Library Leaders Program

Public Library Leaders

formerly the Public Library Leadership Fellows program

Application Period: Opening on March 1 – Fourth cohort will start October 2, 2018 in Calgary.

In the 21st Century, public libraries and their leaders will face unique issues that warrant focused thought, research, discussion and visioning. The Public Library Leaders (PLLeaders) program is about the future of public libraries and the changing communities they serve.

The goal of the PLLeaders program is to contribute to the vitality and success of public libraries and the diverse communities they serve well into the 21st century, by positioning public library professionals to be proactive, effective voices in the global information environment.

This program is designed to expose and engage library managers who have the desire and potential for highest levels of leadership in public libraries to themes, experiences and current leaders to augment their preparedness.

Here is what the current library leaders are saying about the PLLeaders program:

“The PLLF program was created to support the development of strategic senior library administrators who can better identify, understand and manage the issues that public library systems will face in the coming years. With the role of public libraries at a crossroads, the need for this type of professional development program is even more critical than ever.” – Sandra Singh, Chief Librarian, Vancouver Public Library

“Finally, a program that offers the right balance of instructional learning, hands-on library experience, mentoring, and peer interaction. The PLLF program is worth the investment.” – Wendy Newman, Senior Fellow, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

“The PLLF program teaches public library leaders succession planning techniques and equips them with the necessary tools to help ensure the vitality, relevance and growth of Canadian public libraries in the changing communities they serve.” – Catherine Biss, Past Chair, Canadian Urban Libraries Council and CEO, Markham Public Library


The Public Library Leaders (PLLeaders) program is an executive leadership program designed by an Advisory Team, delivered in partnership with the iSchool Institute at the University of Toronto and sponsored by CULC/CBUC. The Canadian Library Association’s 8Rs Human Resources Summit identified that public library leadership is facing a critical crossroads. Since the release of the 2008 Summit report the situation has become all the more critical as the majority of public library Chief Executive Officers and senior administrators will be looking to retirement within the next five years. The possession of managerial skills and leadership potential are two of the most important and difficult to fulfill competencies. Current Chief Executive Officers have a wealth of insight and experience to share and this program will offer high impact meaningful mentorship opportunities, at the executive level. The PLLeaders will facilitate mentorship as well as provide participants with focused professional development and networking opportunities.

The program curriculum will be based on self-assessment, discussion, analysis and exploration. Sponsoring public library CEOs, and library leaders will facilitate a program designed to integrate the fellows’ learning goals with the “big picture” issues that will impact the future leaders of public libraries. The deliverable outcomes will be tied to actual library case studies and require planning for solutions to implement measure and evaluate potential resolutions. For the inaugural group of Fellows, 24 hours of instruction over the course of the eighteen months of the program will be offered. Fellows will be required to submit a final project for evaluation and participate in four or the six site visits offered. Within the program structure, the participating fellows will:

  • extend their professional skill and experience base;
  • engage in discussion and learning around the major challenges and pressures currently facing public libraries with public library leaders;
  • gain a better understanding of the dynamics and politics of municipal and public service in leading public libraries across Canada and the United States;
  • create a network of colleagues to discuss and debate the critical issues and current trends facing public libraries;
  • identify and explore research and innovation needed to support the future direction of public libraries;
  • develop an understanding of what it takes to be a successful Chief Librarian/CEO and Senior Administrator of a public library.

Learning Objectives of PLLeaders

This part-time professional certificate program is designed for working professionals looking to enhance their knowledge and professional skills. By the end of the program the participant will be able to:

  • Reflect constructively on the nature of leadership and the role of leaders in the building of organizational capacity and resilience;
  • Understand the role of leaders in shaping and engaging teams that advance institutional vision and mission and the knowledge to use that understanding effectively;
  • Identify key concepts, directions, and expert resources in finance, human resources, facilities, collections, partnerships, community development, and technology;
  • Develop and manage effective relationships and collaborations with boards and governments;
  • Develop and manage relationships and partnerships with staff, community, partners, and members, and foster appreciation of value, benefits and risks of strategic initiatives;
  • Identify and understand their personal leadership strengths, their growth and mentoring needs, and their potential and responsibility to mentor others;
  • Knowledgeably engage in communities of practice with other professionals and research leaders.


The courses will be aligned with the site visit themes. Each course will draw on research and case studies to focus on the planning, financial and other leadership responsibilities of senior level positions in a rapidly-changing environment. Instructors will be drawn from the ranks of acknowledged leaders in the sector. Altogether 24 hours of instruction (4 hours per topic), in addition to assigned readings and peer discussion, are represented in the following courses:

  • Leadership in technology visioning, collaboration, and implementation. Includes environmental scanning; selected legal and regulatory issues in licensing and other contractual arrangements; technology in strategic planning; emerging service design issues; development of sectoral and other relevant collaborations.
  • Leadership based on personal strengths. Includes identification of unique personal strengths; principles for investing in other’s strengths; recruitment and development of effective teams.
  • Issues in human resource development. Includes issues and trends in collective bargaining; selected legal and regulatory topics; issues in succession management.
  • Governance and government relations. Includes recruitment and development of library boards; key relationships with municipal governments; government relations in provincial and federal jurisdictions.
  • Issues in finance. Includes key issues in municipal operating and capital budgets; budget planning, preparation, communication, and negotiation; capital facilities planning.
  • Partnerships, collaborations, and advocacy. Includes identification and development of key partnership opportunities within communities; strategic collaborations to advance mission and equity; evidence-based advocacy.


Every effort is being made to pair site visits with library conferences to assist in minimizing travel expenses for participants. Instruction hours will be offered in conjunction with site visits as well as online. The full instructional schedule will be provided after registration. The preliminary schedule has been established for 2018–2020:

  • Autumn 2018 – October 2 & 3 - Calgary
  • January 2019 with OLA Super Conference – GTA
  • Spring 2019 – Halifax, NS (TBD)
  • June 2019 with ALA – Washington, DC Area (TBD)
  • Fall 2019 – Lower Mainland BC
  • January 2020 with OLA Super Conference – GTA


  • Lita Barrie, Director, Collections and Digital Technology, Hamilton Public Library
  • Wendy Newman, Senior Fellow (retired), iSchool, University of Toronto
  • Rebecca Raven, CEO, Brampton Public Library
  • Ken Roberts, consultant and former CEO, Hamilton Public Library
  • Maureen Sawa, CEO, Greater Victoria Public Library
  • Glenn Cumming, CAO, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Ideal Candidate Profile

  • Nomination of employer (formal requirement)
  • CEO or executive-level aspirations
  • Management experience
  • Personal confidence
  • Self-awareness
  • Ability to identify personal learning and mentoring needs
  • Ability to research and write on library issues
  • Commitment to confidentiality and frankness within the Program

How to Apply

The PLLeaders program is designed for senior managers with a strong interest in pursuing Chief Executive and senior administrative positions in public libraries. Applicants should have the support of their current employer to participate in the program. The application submission must include:

  • Application form
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Statement of intent: describe in 500 words or less what you hope to achieve in participating in this program. What past experiences have prepared you to be successful in this endeavour and what unique qualities will you bring to the program?
  • Letter of support: provide a letter of support from a senior administrator/board member of your institution. The letter should indicate a full understanding of the time and financial commitment, if any, your home library is willing to undertake on your behalf. Additionally, the letter should provide an endorsement of your eventual candidacy to move into the ranks of senior library administration.

Tuition Fee: The fee for the 4th cohort will be $1,995 (plus HST). Multiple payment plan options are available. Please feel free to contact Jefferson to discuss what suits.
Application Period: Applications are now closed.  New cohort to start October 2, 2018 in Calgary. 
Apply online: Registration Form (PDF)

For more information about the program please contact CULC/CBUC’s Executive Director Jefferson Gilbert. 416-699-1938 or