Meet the Public Library Data Alliance: Kate Laughlin

Meet the Public Library Data Alliance: Kate Laughlin

Kate Laughlin is the executive director of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL), based in Seattle, Wash. She has worked in or with libraries on the front lines, in circulation and reference provision, branch management, staff training, strategic planning, and association management.

Board members from the Association for Rural & Small Libraries (ARSL) have previously been involved with Measures That Matter, and now that I’ve become the ARSL’s first executive director, I’ll be the one serving year to year. There’s a major benefit to having a continuous representative keeping our board aware of what’s being asked of us.

The importance of having ARSL on the Alliance is that, often, large urban library systems wag the dog but the vast majority of libraries in the country are small and rural. They’re often overlooked and voiceless, and that makes it all the more important we have a collective voice. On their own, they have limited abilities to get access to things, less staffing, and lower budgets. Together, our voice is mighty. To have an ARSL representative involved means we’re not overlooking the smaller but more plentiful voices.

In urban areas, libraries often have options we don’t have, such as multiple internet providers with competitive rates and stronger service. That’s not an option in smaller, rural places where there’s often only one provider and it’s expensive. You might have staff who are working from home who can’t get on Zoom meetings or be serving patrons who don’t have reliable connections and can’t take advantage of a libraries’ online programs.

I’m hoping to bring awareness and serve as a conduit between these communities [ARSL and PLDA]. As we gather through PLDA, what comes out of that are resources, relationships, learning, and networks we build that are of great use to the ARSL constituency. It was very gratifying to be a part of recruiting people from around the country who are now able to be part of the Alliance. Any time I can bring practitioners on the front lines into these discussions, it has huge value. For a long time this constituency was under everyone’s radar.

At a basic level, it’s about relationship building. We’re all on “team library” and we’ll be able to look out for each other’s shared and differing interests, and help each other by way of this mass collaboration. Only good things can come from that — that’s solid gold.