Library Journal Directors' Summit


Directors’ Summit - Nov. 9-10, 2023


Library Journal invites director-level leaders at public libraries to join us for our 2023 Directors’ Summit, being held Nov. 9-10 (Safety pre-con on Nov. 8th) at Houston Public Library.   


This annual day-and-a-half of interactive thought-leadership, learning and networking, titled Thriving Together, will address ways that library leaders - often isolated in their work – are connecting, collaborating and resource-sharing to better tackle the complex and difficult challenges of library management.   


Topics for the event’s sessions and breakouts are curated by LJ’s editorial team based on a survey of event registrants, as well as input from the event’s advisory board of library directors.    


While the program is still under development, topics under discussion include:   

·       Supporting staff – trauma, resiliency, moral, mental health   

·       Resources to support directors - coaching, leadership, organizational skill building, burnout,  peer support  

·       Defending against censorship  

·       Developing and writing policy   

·       How to be more politically savvy to achieve goals  

·       How to rediscover and create joy in the job  


Who should attend: This event is exclusively for director-level leaders at public libraries. If you work in a different type of library and/or are in a leadership position with a different title and would like to request an invitation, please email us at


If you have questions or topic\speaker suggestions, please email them to 


Library Safety & Security Pre-Con - Nov. 8, 2023 


This one-day convening for library directors will precede Library Journal’s Directors’ Summit and will build on the learnings from our April 23 Library Safety Summit and Fall online library safety courses.  


This peer-led program will explore equity-centered and trauma-informed safety and security solutions for libraries, and will prioritize tangible, actionable information and networking, including facilitated breakout groups where attendees can discuss and workshop safety policies and procedures. More details to come! 


Who should attend: The pre-con is designed for director-level leaders in public and academic libraries but is open to any library professional with a stake or interest in library safety and security.  


Advisory Board Members:




First Name

Last Name


Austin Public Library, TX



Director of Libraries

Belvedere Tiburon Library, CA




Califa, CA



Assistant Director

Central Arkansas Library System, AR



Executive Director

Hoboken Public Library, NJ




Tulsa Public Library, OK




Wilmington Public Library, DE 





LJ is aware of Texas' decision to cut ties with the American Library Association. Over the years we have run into similar situations where a particular state in which LJ was planning to host an event adopted policies or laws that were in opposition to library values.  


LJ strongly believes that our colleagues in these states need our support the most, and the content and conversation at this year’s Summit in Houston will reflect that—along with other critical issues for challenging times. The show of solidarity with our Houston colleagues is particularly important right now, and we hope that attending library leaders will be able to offer their encouragement as well. 



Interested In Sponsoring? Please contact Advertising Director Roy Futterman:

 LJ Directors Summit Program 

Thursday, November 9, 2023 


9:00 – 10:00 AM                   REGISTRATION, BREAKFAST, and NETWORKING



10:00 – 10:25 AM                 WELCOME


Hallie Rich| Editor-in-chief, Library Journal 

Amandeep Kochar| President & CEO, Baker & Taylor 

Dr. Rhea Lawson| Executive Director, Houston Public Library, TX 


10:30 – 11:15 AM                BUILDING POLITICAL CAPITAL 

Advancing the library’s goals and policy objectives requires deep relationships with a variety of stakeholders. Our panelists will discuss effective strategies for connecting with influential leaders, elected officials, and policymakers as well as their perspectives on the library’s role in civic engagement and leadership. 

Lance Werner|Executive Director, Kent District Library, MI 

Jamar Rahming| Executive Director, Wilmington Public Library, DE 

Kathy Zappitello| Executive Director, Conneaut Public Library, OH 

The Honorable Ashley Hudson| State Representative (D-Little Rock), AR 

Moderated by Nate Coulter| Central Arkansas Library System AR 


11:15 - 11:35                         AM GROUP DISCUSSION: BUILDING POLITICAL CAPITAL 


11:35-12:00 PM                    BREAK




12:00 – 12:35 PM                 KEYNOTE:

TIM O’BRIEN, Author of America Fantastica, HarperCollins in conversation with Lisa Peet, Executive Editor, Library Journal 


12:35 – 12:45 PM                 INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: hoopla 

Corey Etterling| Regional Sales Manager


12:45 – 1:45 PM                   LUNCH & BOOKSIGNING



1:45 – 2:30 PM                     TAKING ACTION ON CENSORSHIP 

Anti–freedom of information legislation and policy at state and local levels threatens library values and service delivery. Panelists will share their experiences with proactive advocacy and legal battles over censorship legislation and their ideas for ongoing engagement when it comes to battling book bans. 

Nate Coulter| Executive Director, Central Arkansas Library System, AR 

Rory Steele| Executive Director, Freedom to Learn Advocates 

Lisa Varga| Executive Director, Virginia Library Association, VA 

Roosevelt Weeks| Executive Director, Austin Public Library, TX 

Moderator: Hallie Rich| Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal 



2:30 – 2:50 PM                     GROUP DISCUSSION: CENSORSHIP & ADVOCACY 


2:50 – 3:00 PM                     INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: communico

Paul Quelch | Founder & Chief Executive Officer 


3:00 – 3:25PM                       BREAK




Providing effective support to staff in challenging times is a balancing act: How do directors offer guidance, advice, safety, and encouragement while putting on their own proverbial oxygen masks first? Panelists will discuss peer support, networking strategies, and tools to help keep both staff and leadership healthy. 

Stephen Jackson| Director of Equity & Anti-Racism, Oak Park Public Library, IL 

Courtney Stevens| Executive Director, Warren County Public Library, KY 

Sara Slymon| Executive Director, Thomas Crane Public Library, MA 

Moderated by Lisa Peet| Executive Editor, Library Journal 


4:10 – 4:30 PM                     GROUP DISCUSSION – SUPPORTING STAFF 

4:30 – 4:40 PM                     INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: bibliotheca

Lynn Yandal| Director, Solution Consulting 



4:40 – 5:00 PM                     CLOSING REMARK & SPECIAL READING 

Aris Kian Brown| Poet Laureate of Houston 





Friday, November 10, 2023 





Hallie Rich| Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal 


8:50 – 9:20 AM                     KEYNOTE-


Dr. R. David Lankes| University of Texas at Austin, TX 


9:20 – 9:30 AM                     Q&A WITH DR. LANKES 


9:30 – 9:40 AM                     INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: BAKER & TAYLOR 

Tarita Murray| Enterprise Sales Manager, Baker & Taylor 


9:40 – 10:10 AM                  EXPERT DEEP DIVE: CRISIS COMMUNICATION 

Jennie Pu| Director, Hoboken Public Library, NJ 

LaDonna Weems| Deputy Assistant Director of Communications, Houston Public Library, TX 

Mary Benton| Director of Communications-Mayor’s office, City of Houston, TX 


10:10 – 10:20 AM                 INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: OCLC

Andrew Harbison| Director, WebJunction 


10:20 – 10:40 AM                 BREAK LOCATION: TUDOR GALLERY 


10:40 – 11:25 AM                 SMALL GROUP BREAKOUTS 

Directors will lead small-group breakout sessions where participants can come together to share their thoughts, experiences, and questions on topics that have been discussed throughout the Summit. 



Facilitated by: Jo Giudice| Director, Dallas Public Library, TX 




Facilitated by: Sara Slymon | Executive Director, Thomas Crane Public Library, MA 





Facilitated by: Kathy Zappitello| Executive Director, Conneaut Public Library, OH 




Facilitated by: Dr. David Lankes| University of Texas at Austin, TX 




Facilitated by: Jennie Pu| Director, Hoboken Public Library, NJ 




Facilitated by: Veronda Pitchford| Assistant Director, Califa, CA 


11:30AM – 12:15 PM          CREATING A CULTURE OF CARE and JOY


Sonia Alcantara-Antoine| Executive Director, Baltimore County Public Library,MD 

Crystal Duran| Executive Director, Belvedere Tiburon Library, CA 

Dr. Rhea Lawson| Executive Director, Houston Public Library, TX 

Stephanie Chase| Constructive Disruption 

Georgia Coleman| Chief Customer Officer, Richland Library, SC 

Moderated by: Veronda Pitchford| Assistant Director, Califa, CA 


12:15 – 12:30 PM                 GROUP DISCUSSION: CREATING A CULTURE OF CARE and JOY 

12:30 – 12:35 PM                 REFLECTION/CONCLUSION

Hallie Rich| Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal 


12:35 – 1:30 PM                   GRAB-N-GO OR STAY-N-NETWORK SNACK 

Tour of Houston Public Library or Houston History Research Center (optional) 



      Sonia Alcántara-Antoine is the CEO of Baltimore County Public Library (MD) and is the president of the Public Library Association.  She was named as one of the Top 100 Women in Maryland.  Previously she was director of Newport News Public Library (VA).  Sonia is an American Library Association Spectrum Scholar, and holds a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Florida State University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Old Dominion University.      


Mary Benton is an award-winning communications strategist with experience leading public affairs initiatives for the nation’s fourth-largest city. She writes key messaging documents in her current role, including press releases, statements, speeches, and policy talking points. She helps oversee the Houston Municipal Channel and manages a team responsible for ceremonial documents and social media platforms. Mary also served as press secretary for the mayor of Houston. 



      Aris Kian Brown is a Houston enthusiast and student of abolitionists. Her poems are published with Button Poetry, West Branch, Obsidian Lit, The West Review and elsewhere. She ranks #2 in the 2023 Womxn of the World Poetry Slam and is the 2023-2025 Houston Poet Laureate. She received her MFA from the University of Houston as an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor Fellow and currently serves as the Narrative Change & Media Manager at Houston in Action.   


      Stephanie Chase is the Founding Principal of the Constructive Disruption consultancy and the Executive Director of the Libraries of Eastern Oregon, a resource sharing cooperative covering over 55,000 square miles in rural Oregon. Previously, Stephanie was the Director of Libraries for Hillsboro (OR) and the Director of Library Programs and Services for The Seattle Public Library. Stephanie is the founder of the Green Mountain (VT) Library Consortium, a founding member and inaugural chair of the LibraryReads Steering Committee, has served on the Public Library Association Board of Directors and the ALA Council, and is a member of the American Library Association’s Executive Board.   


      A leader in the use of human-centered design in public libraries, Georgia Coleman is a champion for library services that enhance community connectedness. She currently serves as Chief Operating Officer at the award-winning Richland Library in Columbia, SC, where she is responsible for public services, collections, technologies and facilities. Georgia is passionate about customer experience and intellectual freedom.   


      Nate Coulter is a native of Nashville, Arkansas. He graduated from college and law school at Harvard University, then later earned a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. In March 2016, Coulter became the Executive Director of the Central Arkansas Library System. CALS has 15 libraries, an annual operating budget of approximately $27 million, and more than 300 employees. Nate is married to Nathalie, who is an assistant principal at Roberts Elementary School in Little Rock. They have four adult children, one grandson and their rescue pup, Theo.   

      Crystal Duran is the Library Director of the Belvedere Tiburon Library, a small public library in the Bay Area with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before moving to northern California in 2022, Crystal oversaw the county library system in rural Imperial County, where she spearheaded a countywide early literacy initiative and programs for Autistic youth and their families that continue today. She serves on the California Library Association Board of Directors and is a proud AmeriCorps ‘05 Alum, UCLA Bruin, and ALA Spectrum Scholar. Crystal doesn’t have free time; she has two little ones under five.   


      Jo Giudice has been director of Dallas Public Library for 10 years of her 19.5 year career at DPL. Starting as a branch manager, and working all aspects of public service around the system has given her great insight into the challenges staff face daily. She is proud to have received her MLIS from the University of South Carolina and her BS from the University of Florida. She is an avid hiker and would rather be outdoors with her two grandsons, Oscar & Wells.  


Ashley Hudson serves in the Arkansas House of Representatives representing District 75 in West Little Rock. Now in her second term, she was the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected to her seat since the district was drawn in 2010. She sits on the Judiciary Committee and the City, County, and Local Affairs Committee and is the Vice Chair of the Courts and Civil Law Subcommittee. She’s been recognized by both the Arkansas Judicial Council and the Pulaski County Bar Association as Legislator of the Year. 




Stephen Jackson is a motivational speaker, consultant, licensed professional counselor, and Director of Equity and Anti-Racism at Oak Park Public Library (IL). He values public service and contributing to people’s lives through utilizing both Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices to create positive and safe cultures for organizations and communities. 


      R. David Lankes is the Virginia & Charles Bowden Professor of Librarianship at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information. He is the recipient of ALA’s Reference and User Services Association 2021 Isadore Gilbert Mudge Award for distinguished contribution to reference librarianship. His book, The Atlas of New Librarianship won the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. Lankes is a passionate advocate for librarians and their essential role in today’s society.   

      Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson’s impressive career as a library professional span over 30 years serving as the executive director of the Houston Public Library since 2005. Dr. Lawson ensures that HPL is continuously evolving while moving forward a comprehensive, innovative platform of library services and programs that reflect the diverse needs and interests of Houston’s residents. Under Dr. Lawson’s leadership, HPL has earned over 40 prestigious local, state, and national awards for services, programs, innovation and building projects. Active on the local, state, and national levels, Dr. Lawson serves on several professional and civic committees and boards. She holds a BA from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, an MLS from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in Madison, Wisconsin.   

      Tim O'Brien received the 1979 National Book Award for Going After Cacciato. Among his other books are The Things They Carried, Pulitzer Finalist and a New York Times Book of the Century, and In the Lake of the Woods, winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize. He was awarded the Pritzker Literature Award for lifetime achievement in military writing in 2013.   


      Lisa Peet joined Library Journal in 2014 as Associate News Editor after earning her MLS from Pratt Institute, NY. Previously she served as Editor and Researcher at the American Museum of Natural History's Darwin Manuscripts Project, and Editor and Archival Assistant at The New Leader. She is a Senior Writer and cofounder of Bloom, a website highlighting authors who first published or switched gears at age 40 or older.   



Veronda J. Pitchford is the Assistant Director for the Califa Group, a California based public library consortium.  On behalf of Califa, she supports national grant partner projects, and manages Infopeople, Califa’s national online library training program.  She is an active member of the American Library Association (ALA) and currently serves on the ALA Business Advisory group, and the Center for the Future of Libraries Advisory Group.  In her free time, she serves on the board of Reading Between the Lines, a non-profit that holds space for just impacted people to exercise critical thinking skills via literature and other arts. She is a die-hard library chick. 



      Jennie Pu is the Director of Hoboken Public Library in Hoboken, New Jersey. Under her leadership the Library eradicated late fines, launched a new strategic plan, significantly expanded its community outreach and engagement initiatives, and reopened a fully renovated youth services wing and makerspace as part of the multimillion dollar historic restoration of the main library. Prior to this Jennie was Dean of Libraries for Hudson County Community College, an ARCL award winning urban library. She currently serves on the board of directors at Urban Libraries Council and chairs the New Jersey Library Association Public Policy Committee. Jennie holds a bachelor’s degree in American Ethnic Studies from University of Washington, a master’s in library science from Queens College, and is a certified New Jersey School Media Library Specialist.   

      Jamar Rahming is a native of Denver CO. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Black Studies and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Rahming has worked in the library industry for twenty years in 8 different states including a fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Wilmington Institute Free Library, an award winning institution – Recipient of the 2022 National Medal for Museum and Library Services, 2022 John Dana Cotton Award, and recognized by the Fodor’s travel as one of the most beautiful libraries in the nation.   

      Hallie Rich is the editor-in-chief of Library Journal. Prior to her role with LJ, she served as chief communications and external relations officer at Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library, where she was responsible for marketing, fundraising and government relations for one of the nation's top-rated public library systems. Rich graduated magna cum laude from the College of Wooster and earned an M.S. in Positive Organizational Development from Case Western Reserve University. She holds an M.L.I.S. from the University of South Carolina. An active library advocate, Hallie has served as an American Library Association (ALA) policy fellow, member of ALA's Committee on Library Advocacy, and as a member of the ALA Policy Corps.   

      Sara Slymon has spent her entire career as a librarian, working for 29 years in various capacities in both public and corporate libraries. She was recently appointed Library Director for the Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, Ma. She most recently worked as the Director of the Public Library of Brookline, and previously served in the same role in Randolph at the Turner Free Library -- one of the first public libraries in Massachusetts. Slymon has also worked as an Assistant Director at the Thayer Public Library in Braintree.   


      Courtney “Court” Stevens is an accidental librarian who cares intentionally about joy, leadership and mattering. She's the executive director of Warren County Public Library in Bowling Green, Kentucky by day, an author for HarperCollins by night, and a hobby goat farmer whenever there's time. Last Girl Breathing, her latest novel, came out Tuesday (November 7th.) and she's pretty bummed about the recent banning of Dress Codes for Small Towns from a Mississippi library. To keep her origin story at peak geek interest, you should also know she is a former professor, youth minister, Olympic torchbearer, and bookseller at Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN.   


      Rory Steele serves as the Executive Director of Freedom to Learn Advocates, a C-4 non-profit organization that works to ensure universal access to books and educational resources for all communities. Our goal is to guarantee that books and education are available to everyone.  A native of Seattle, Washington, and proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Rory has spent over two decades at the highest levels of political organizing, non-profit advocacy management, and legislative affairs work.   

      Dr. Jennifer Tullos (she/her) is a content developer, researcher, and educator in English and the Humanities working to advocate for equity-centered programs and practices. She has over 13 years of experience teaching and developing curricula in educational, nonprofit, and corporate contexts. Jenn holds a PhD in English from Illinois State University with an emphasis in queer young adult literature and pedagogy, and she currently serves as the Director of Online Courses for Library Journal and School Library Journal.   


Lisa Varga is the Executive Director of the Virginia Library Association, representing more than 5,000 librarians and library staff in Academic, Public and Special libraries throughout the Commonwealth. She is a member of the International Council of Library Association Executives, the Virginia Society of Association Executives and the American Library Association Policy Corps. She has presented locally and nationally on a variety of library and association topics, and is a mom to three young men who all went through a “reluctant reader” phase. 



      Roosevelt Weeks is the Director of the Austin Public Library where he leads a dynamic team and library system. His responsibility includes 20 branch locations, the History Center and a new Central Library. Weeks joined the Austin Public Library team in September of 2017. Prior to joining the Austin Public Library, Weeks was the Deputy Director and Chief of Staff at the Houston Public Library.   

      LaDonna Weems serves as the Deputy Assistant Director of Communications for the Houston Public Library. Her career began at a global marketing firm, which laid the foundation for her journey, seamlessly integrating marketing, technology, and strategic communications. A graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from Eastern Michigan University, LaDonna also holds a Strategic MBA degree in International Business from the University of Houston – Victoria. Under her leadership, the library has undergone a period of transformation, marked by her unwavering commitment to advancing the reach and influence of library services.   






Lance Werner is the Executive Director of the Kent District Library in western Michigan. He is a librarian, attorney, former registered lobbyist, former administrative law judge, and son of a school librarian. He loves to chew gum, take people fishing, defend civil rights of all Americans, and fight fascism.   




Kathy Zappitello is an accomplished public library director with a diverse background and education that demonstrates the intersectionality of rural librarianship and leadership. With over 20 years of experience, she has displayed courageous commitment to leadership paired with a genuine passion for empowering others, all within the framework of rural America.




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