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Designed by library directors for library directors.

Being the director or dean of a library, regardless of size or type, is a unique job with unique needs that often only another person in that position can fully comprehend or appreciate. Designed to meet the unique professional development needs of Michigan library directors, Think Space will showcase innovations in key areas of library management, leadership, and technology via compelling and cutting-edge sessions presented by well-respected experts, all while giving attendees the opportunity to build deep, lasting relationships with a cohort of directors and deans of libraries throughout Michigan. 

Each year the Think Space cohort will focus on one specific topic of importance to Michigan library directors and explore that subject in-depth. Read on for complete details and register today to join your colleagues for time to THINK deeply in a safe SPACE. Attendance is limited so reserve your seat today!

2021-2022 Think Space

The first Think Space cohort will meet in person this December for the first two-day gathering, followed by a virtual check-in session in February, the second gathering in May, and concluding with a breakfast reception during the MLA 2022 Annual Conference that is exclusively for members of the Think Space cohort.

Each year, Think Space will focus on one specific issue of importance to Michigan library directors. Think Space is led by noted statewide and national experts and provides cohesive and interactive sessions that allow for focused, in-depth exploration.

Our inaugural Think Space will focus on equity, diversity, accessibility, and belonging, including:

  • Understanding your starting point in the journey towards equity
  • Hiring practices through the lens of EDI
  • Racial equity-based approaches to workforce development & training
  • Legal aspects that are important to consider when drafting EDI policies
  • Social Justice in America today

Educational Goals - What will participants take home?

  • Advance the cause of equity in Michigan libraries
  • Provide a shared starting point for library directors from across the state
  • Create more inclusive workplace cultures
  • Strengthen the voice of BIPOC directors and employees

Why Should You Attend Think Space?

Throughout my career, I’ve always searched for educational opportunities to heighten my professional skills. I looked for learning opportunities in librarianship and outside the field. I found out that attending these events had the added value of developing a network of professionals. After the sessions, I would take the time to network with other attendees. I would specifically reach out to attendees who made comments in the sessions that intrigued me. In the safe environment of the hallway or a food court, I could delve deep into issues with my new friend. 

I believe Think Space will be a great opportunity for the library leader looking for advanced training. The ability to have cutting-edge training in an environment where it is safe to talk. Think Space will be designed with a cohort so, the opportunity is there for discussions on topics into the future.  

Kelly Richards
Director, Muskegon Area District Library


I think participation in Think Space is critical for the advancement of public library service and library service generally. There is a well-tread cliché that steel sharpens steel. I have found this to be true. While the Michigan library community is chock full of extraordinary minds and innovative thinkers, it is useful to see what best practices and cutting-edge innovation looks like in other parts of the country and within other industries. I think conference participation is fantastic, and I truly enjoy connecting with my colleagues around the state. However, I’ve found myself in the last couple of years struggling to find inspiration. I think the endless variations and direction on common themes help us grow and refine library service, but seeing and hearing what is happening outside of our home turf will act as a booster rocket and lift the entire library community. Our experience with out-of-industry conferences and retreats has been transformative and has helped KDL stay on the cutting edge. It is for all of these reasons that I highly recommend attendance in Think Space. It is the antidote for complacency and burnout. I can’t wait to begin!

Lance Werner
Director, Kent District Library


In her latest book Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts, Brené Brown shares the importance of creating spaces in which people can show up as their authentic selves. She emphasizes the need to create spaces in which people feel “safe, seen, heard, and respected.” As library directors, we need to cultivate a culture that invites vulnerability, creativity, and diverse perspectives.

I can think of no better way to develop this culture of learning, visioning, and supportive collaboration than Think Space. Gathering with fellow library directors in a space that encourages us to bring our whole selves, grapple with today’s challenges, and imagine the future of public libraries is vital to growing as leaders. I look forward to participating in Think Space and using that experience to better serve my library team and community.

Heather Wood-Gramza
Director, Howard Miller Library and Community Center


I have been so inspired by my colleague, MLA President Kelly Richards, and his vision for professional development for experienced library leaders. Kudos to MLA for listening and meeting this need—I am excited to see Think Space come together, and I cannot wait to attend.

As library leaders, we know our communities—including our library users and our library employees—rely on us to serve them with competence and caring, inspire them with fresh ideas and vision, and leverage our networks to ensure our library is the best it can be. As Kelly observed, when you are a library leader, it is the message that brings us together—our library size and type rarely matter. Think Space was inspired by conversations with Class 4-6 public library leaders, but the issues and opportunities Think Space is designed to address are relevant to all library leaders. This new professional development option is a tremendous opportunity for library leaders from libraries of all sizes and classifications to grow together, build community, and learn from some of the best thinkers in our profession and beyond. We are #strongertogether!

Speaking personally, I have the good fortune to work in the heart of Detroit at the University of Detroit Mercy, Michigan’s largest Catholic university, and the only university in the world that combines the centuries-old commitment to education shared by the Society of Jesus and the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Our Jesuit and Mercy founders urge us to consider moral and ethical issues as we pursue our academic and vocational goals and to foster competent, compassionate leaders ready to serve a vulnerable world. My experience at Detroit Mercy has taught me that rest, reflection, and good companionship are essential in carrying out this important work. Think Space offers the opportunity I need to retreat, reflect, and engage so that I can be ready to serve our students and faculty and all those who rely on me with competence and compassion. I look forward to engaging with you in MLA’s Think Space.

Jennifer L. Dean – PhD, MLIS
Dean of Libraries, University of Detroit Mercy


As directors of public libraries, we can sometimes feel isolated in our positions because of the level of involvement required at our libraries. It’s difficult for our staff to understand the duties, obligations and organizational approach that is required of us as directors. One thing I’ve found beneficial to help with this feeling of isolation is talking and collaborating with other directors from around Michigan. Through talking with all of you, I find that I’m not the only one dealing with a specific problem or approach to library services or staffing, and you have ideas and solutions that I can take back to my library. 

For professional development, when attending national conferences, I can piece together sessions that help me as a director. But, having a structured event like the “Think Space”, with sessions that are specific to our roles as directors, is what makes this event truly unique. After the past two years that required so much of us as directors, I am looking forward to this event which will allow me to reconnect and reenergize in my role as a director. I hope to see you there because we’ll all benefit from having a wide range of directors from around the state attend.

Scott Duimstra
Executive Director, Capital Area District Libraries


Being the director of a library—regardless of size—is a unique job with unique needs that often only another person in that position can fully comprehend or appreciate. Having a safe space for formal and informal networking opportunities to get support, advice and at times brutally honest feedback from my peers has been critical to my career success. I am very much looking forward to attending MLA’s new Think Space to become part of a learning and motivational cohort of library directors that will provide professional development and inspiration along with encouragement and collaboration to make meaningful, positive change in me and my library for the future.

Larry Neal, Director
Clinton Macomb Public Library


Your registration at Think Space includes all educational sessions, breakfasts, lunches, receptions, special events, parking, and overnight accommodations in Grand Rapids on December 9, 2021, and Boyne City on May 18, 2022.

Scholarship Deadline: October 29, 2021 
Early Bird Deadline: October 29, 2021 
Hotel Registration Deadline: November 12, 2021 
Registration Closes: December 1, 2021, or when class is full


  Early Bird Regular - After October 29
Member $1,595.00 $1,895.00
Non-Member $3,190.00 $3,790.00



Financial Assistance

Funds are available! We want to bring together library directors from libraries of all types and sizes throughout Michigan to share their experiences and learn from one another. If you are an MLA member with an organizational membership and complimentary director membership or an unaffiliated library director member and would like to attend but need financial assistance, please submit a scholarship application to MLA as soon as possible. The form is quick and easy to submit, learn more and apply.

Not an MLA member? Join with an organizational membership today and as library director, you will receive a complimentary individual membership AND be eligible to apply for an MLA Education Fund Scholarship. Learn more and join today. Questions about joining MLA? Contact Rachel Ash, Membership and Communications Director at [email protected] or (517) 394-2774 ext 2.

Director Deep Dives


December 9-10, 2021
Amway Grand Plaza, Grand Rapids

December Sessions and Events

Introductory Lunch
Get to know your colleagues in new and creative ways.

Implicit Bias and Inclusive Practice 
This two-part workshop is designed to promote critical thought and introspection while sustaining inviting spaces for conversation and will focus on helping participants develop an awareness of their own implicit biases and provide them with strategies on how to counteract those biases in all aspects of their lives. 

Dialog by Design – Courageous Conversations in Safe Spaces 
Unleash the power of appreciative inquiry to create a culture of inclusion.

Leveraging Intergenerational Strengths 
Bringing the generations together, we invite connection in an open forum where the generations explore their differences, build empathy for each other and most importantly, identify what they need from each other for our libraries to succeed. We’ll guide leaders to build strategies that allow each generation to teach the other.

Panel: Cultivating Equity and Inclusion in Library Leadership Roles 
Hear from multiple library leaders on how to cultivate the next generation of leaders.

Welcome Reception
We will gather at Founders Brewery for a private welcome reception and entertainment.

Local Tours 
Check out a local library and learn about innovative technologies.

December Schedule at a Glance

Think Space begins at noon on Thursday, December 9, and concludes at 3:30 PM on Friday, December 10, 2021.

**Tentative Schedule, Subject to Change**

Thursday, December 9
11:30 AM Registration Open
12:00 - 1:00 PM Welcome and Networking Lunch
1:30 - 3:30 PM Implicit Bias and Inclusive Practice Part 1
3:30 - 3:45 PM Break and Refreshments
3:45 - 5:00 PM Dealing with the Discomforts of Change through Appreciative Inquiry
5:30 - 8:30 PM Welcome Reception at Founders Brewing Company with optional brewery tour
Friday, December 10  
8:00 - 9:00 AM Breakfast
8:15 - 9:00 AM Tours of GVSU Steelcase Library
9:00 - 9:30 AM Group Photo at Blue Bridge
9:30 AM - 12:00 PM Implicit Bias and Inclusive Practice Part 2
12:00 - 1:00 PM Lunch
1:00 - 2:30 PM Leveraging Intergenerational Strengths
12:30 - 2:45 PM Break and Refreshments
2:45 - 3:45 PM Cultivating Equity & Inclusion in Library Leadership Roles
3:45 PM Adjournment


May 18-19, 2022
Boyne Mountain Resort, Boyne City

Think Space begins at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, and concludes at 3:30 PM on May 19, 2022.

May Sessions and Events

Diversity As Strategy 
This workshop is designed to take the mystery out of implementing a sustainable diversity and inclusion strategy and help develop a systematic approach to diversity and inclusion that drives buy-in, sustainability and metrics for success.

Reshaping Your Workforce so it Reflects the Diversity of Your Community 
Denver Public Library (DPL) recently received an IMLS grant to conduct a comprehensive assessment project using an equity framework to better understand effective strategies to reshape its workforce so it reflects the diversity of the community. This session will feature a preliminary summary of findings.

Biases in Artificial Intelligence 
Learn how human biases are amplified by AI and the impacts of these amplifications on disadvantaged communities.

Panel: Recruiting and Retaining BIPOC Staff and Librarians 
Hear from multiple library leaders on how to create inclusive and supportive workplace cultures and help create pathways for marginalized staff members to advance.

Navigating Culture Change
How to deal with the discomfort of change culture, conflict & difficult situations.

Think Space Reflection
Group discussion reflecting on key takeaways from Think Space.

Zipline Reception 
Enjoy a strolling dinner reception in the resort’s courtyard with private access to the win zipline track that stretches overhead. Race your friends safely through the air and enjoy the beautiful views of northern Michigan.

Group Wellness Activities 
Multiple opportunities will be offered for wellness including group hikes and yoga class.

May Schedule at a Glance

**Tentative Schedule, Subject to Change**

Thursday, May 19, 2022
1:30 PM Registration Open
2:00 - 3:15 PM Building EDI into Your Organization’s Structure and Strategic Goals
3:15 - 3:30 PM Break and Refreshments
3:30 - 4:30 PM Reshaping Your Workforce so it Reflects the Diversity of Your Community
5:30 - 8:30 PM Cocktail Reception and Strolling Dinner
5:30 - 8:30 PM Zipline Races at Cocktail Reception
8:30 - 10:00 PM Afterglow Bonfire
Friday, May 20, 2022
7:45 - 9:30 AM Morning Activity and Breakfast
9:30 - 10:30 AM Biases in Artificial Intelligence
10:45 AM - 12:00 PM Panel: Recruiting and Retaining BIPOC Staff and Librarians
12:00 - 1:00 PM Lunch
1:00 - 2:30 PM Developing a EDI Strategic Plan
2:30 - 2:45 PM Break and Refreshments
2:45 - 3:30 PM Conclusion: Facilitated Reflection
3:30 PM Adjournment

February Check-In

February 24, 2022
Virtual - Zoom

The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance will facilitate an optional Think Space check-in between the December and May meetings. This session will provide participants with opportunities to ask questions, express concerns, share ways they have encountered bias and worked to counter it. This check-in will provide those in attendance with the chance to collaborate on strategies they could implement to become a more inclusive organization and reaffirm your commitment to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion, and allow you to stay connected to fellow library directors throughout this experience.

Think Space Breakfast Reception

MLA 2022 Annual Conference 
October 19-21, 2022
Port Huron, Michigan

All Think Space participants that attend the MLA Annual Conference October 19-21, 2022 in Port Huron will be invited to attend a private breakfast reception. Note, Annual Conference registration is not included in Think Space registration.


Cancellation Policy

Cancellations must be received in writing by e-mail no later than ten (10) business days prior to the program in order to qualify for a refund. Within ten (10) business days of the event, no refund will be issued. No-shows will be invoiced. A $150.00 processing fee will be applied to refunds for multi-day workshops with overnight accommodations included. There are no refunds for missed sessions or for declining the use of overnight accommodations. If the event is cancelled due to low registration or inclement weather, participants will be notified and fees, if applicable, will be refunded. 


Registration and attendance at, or participation in, MLA meetings or other activities constitutes an agreement by the registration to the use and distribution of the registrants or attendees' image or voice in photographs, videotapes, electronic reproductions of such events and activities by MLA. Please contact MLA at [email protected] if you'd like to be removed from any list.

Code of Conduct

MLA is committed to providing a safe, productive, and welcoming environment for all participants and MLA staff. Each participant, including attendees, speakers, volunteers, exhibitors, staff, service providers, is expected to understand and follow MLA policies and report any violations. These expectations apply to all MLA activities including those held in conjunction with MLA conferences, events and meetings, as well as online venues and social media.

Speakers are asked to frame discussions as openly and inclusively as possible and to be aware of how language or images may be perceived by others. Exhibitors in the exhibit hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or at accompanying activities are also subject to the policy.

Full Code of Conduct can be reviewed here: MLA Code of Conduct

COVID-19 Policy

Based on the recommendations from the CDC regarding small and large gatherings, and with our guests' safety in mind, we strongly recommend that you be fully vaccinated to attend. At this time, we also recommend that masks be worn in all indoor spaces for the safety of all attendees. These recommendations are subject to change based on recommendations in place at the time of the event. MLA will alert you of any changes to this policy.

If any government orders restrict us from gathering we will reassess the event dates and reimbursements at that time. If you have a positive COVID-19 test or exposure within 14 days of the event you are expected to alert MLA staff and are entitled to a refund. 

We ask you to be courteous and conscientious of others while meeting in-person at the event, especially when it comes to health and safety. 


Uniting the Michigan Library Community

MLA is proud to partner with organizations serving the library community.

Friends of Michigan Libraries logo