DIRECTOR DEEP DIVES  |  Speakers  |  Registration  |  Why Attend?  |  VIew the Event Overview (PDF)  |  Event Policies


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 EXTENDED: November 8, 2021 
Early Bird Deadline EXTENDED: November 8, 2021 
Hotel Registration Deadline: November 12, 2021 
Registration Closes: December 1, 2021, or when class is full


  Early Bird Regular - After November 8
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.


Gloria Lara (she/her) 
Executive Director, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance 

Gloria Lara has extensive experience in leadership positions in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. A native of Los Angeles, California, she received a BA in business administration (accounting) from California State University, Fullerton and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. She held executive-level positions at major corporations during her over 20 years in the corporate world.

Since then, Gloria’s work has focused on nonprofit leadership and consulting. In September 2019, Gloria was appointed Executive Director of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (LEDA).  Prior to her work at LEDA, she served as CEO of Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore; CEO of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Executive Director of Michigan Career Hub. Most recently, she was contracted by the Council of Michigan Foundations to facilitate the Shared Education Vision Team, which brought together representatives from various sectors across the state to develop recommendations for the future of K-12 education in Michigan. As Principal Consultant for the LBR Group, she also advised nonprofits and their boards on governance, strategy, funding, and community relations. 

Ken James
Chief Diversity Officer, Muskegon Community College 

With nearly three decades of experience spanning a multitude of industries including non-profit, health care, and higher education, Ken is driven by his passion to initiate cross-cultural dialogue and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. As Chief Diversity Officer for Muskegon Community College, he combines his knowledge and lived experiences to deliver creative, intentional programs to students, faculty/staff, community members and businesses.

Ken is an alumnus of Kentucky State University and Grand Valley State University, from which he holds a master’s in public administration. Most recently, he earned Executive Certification in Diversity Coaching through the CoachDiversity Institute in partnership with Howard University School of Business and is recognized as an Associate Diversity Coach (ADC).

Jyarland Daniels, Esq., MBA (she/her) 
Founder & President, Harriet Speaks

Jyarland Daniels is an award-winning global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leader and Founder and President of Harriet Speaks. To this work, Jyarland brings clients over ten years of executive-level leadership experience in social justice and civil rights non-profit organizations. Prior to her work in nonprofits, she worked for several Fortune 100 companies in marketing, luxury branding, crisis communications, and public relations.

Her understanding of diversity also reflects having lived and studied in Japan, Germany, and having led global teams.

She holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration with a concentration in East Asian Languages and Cultures from the University of Kansas, an MBA in Marketing and Finance from the Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, and a law degree in Civil Rights and Education Law from Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. 

Marcellus “MT” Turner (he/him) 
Chief Executive Officer/Chief Librarian, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

With a storied career of opportunities, experiences and learned lessons working in libraries, Marcellus “MT” Turner wants all who meet him to know his passion for libraries as both institutions and community information centers. 

A highly esteemed orator and guest lecturer, MT started his new role as CEO and Chief Librarian of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in April 2021. Prior to his current role, MT served as the Executive Director of the Seattle Public Library for ten years. MT earned his master's degree in library science from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi University for Women.

Wonder what sparks joy for MT outside of libraries? Sharing his views and vision on the future of libraries and how social consciousness can become a rallying cry. In his spare time, MT is an avid reader who enjoys going to the movies, having dinner out with friends and traveling.

Ozy Aloziem (she/her) 
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager, Denver Public Library

Ozy Aloziem was initially hired at Denver Public Library (DPL) to lead and shape the direction of a national environmental scan of urban libraries to evaluate policies promoting EDI in the workforce. She managed a consultant and recruited participants in a qualitative survey of staff identifying as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) on their experience at DPL. She also supported the creation of and co-led a chapter of the Noname Book Club and a prison program. 

Since transitioning to the role of equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) manager in September 2020, Aloziem has formed an EDI advisory council, supported the creation and launch of DPL's new strategic plan, and is developing the library's Equity, Diversity & Inclusion plan. She is also in the process of developing a culturally responsive wellness resource model for DPL staff who are members of groups historically underrepresented in the library workforce.

One of her greatest accomplishments was convening and hosting the Advancing Racial Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace Symposium, originally planned as a one-day, in-person event with 125 participants. When the pandemic hit, Aloziem adapted the symposium to a virtual format, extended it to three days, identified technical support, and recruited presenters. More than 4,500 people registered, and more than 2,200 engaged from around the world.

Ozy Aloziem was named an Innovator on the Library Journal 2021 Movers and Shakers list.

Michele Harper
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Evident Change

Michele Harper is the former Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director of the Office of Race Equity, Diversity, and inclusion (REDI), the Co-Officer of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council and the State of Michigan Equity Inclusion Officer representing MDHHS. In these roles she provides overall guidance and support to the department to collectively achieve Race Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion goals. Michele’s commitment is to set the strategic direction for MDHHS to address issues of racial and health inequities, establish collaborative partnerships with other state agencies and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in both its practices and policies. She understands that this work will improve outcomes for both the employees and the citizens of Michigan, especially our most vulnerable. Her goal is to create spaces for courageous conversations and ways of being that challenge those around her to believe in becoming a better version of themselves. She lives into the understanding that never in our lifetime has it felt more pressing to do this work.

Michelle Cantor
Founder, Volar Consulting

For more than 20 years, Michelle Tenner Cantor has been a driver of thought leadership and strategic direction relative to organizational and talent development, including eight years of change management consulting with Fortune 500 companies. As Founder and President of Volar Consulting, LLC in metropolitan Detroit, Cantor has a demonstrated track record of designing and implementing successful Diversity and Inclusion programs, which integrate strategic planning, leadership coaching, and organizational culture development. She is the founder of Conscious Leadership℠, an interactive training experience that gets to the heart of understanding the power of unconscious biases and how we can both individually and collectively create a more inclusive and productive work environment. One of Cantor's key accomplishments was the successful development and implementation of a customized Unconscious Bias workshop that was delivered to 1,600 employees with 52 conducts over 3 months throughout North America.

Cantor earned BA and MBA degrees from the University of Michigan and Indiana University, respectively. She is also fluent in Spanish. When she isn't working with adults on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, she is focused on the next generation. She has three Gen Z's to raise alongside her husband of 20 years, and is currently an executive board member for Living Arts, a non-profit dedicated to providing transformative art experiences for Detroit youth.

Director Deep Dives


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

December Sessions and Events

Implicit Bias: What it is and How it Impacts Us

This introductory session is designed to promote critical thought and introspection while sustaining inviting spaces for conversation about various diversity and inclusion topics. Participants will develop a stronger awareness of their own implicit biases, racial sensitivities, and microaggressions through activities, small group discussions, and large group sharing.

Benefits of an Inclusive Workplace Culture 

Building upon what we’ve learned we will discuss the benefits that can be achieved by fostering and further developing a culture of inclusion in our libraries through activities and self-reflection. What can you do to make your library or co-operative a more inclusive organization? 

Countering Implicit Bias

How can our implicit biases be successfully counteracted in ourselves? Examine and discuss strategies for helping counter your biases and those of others, as well as common challenges experienced along the journey. Through research-based information, participants will discuss how and why diversity is important to achieve better outcomes for all. 

Conversations on Anti-Blackness in Libraries 

In order to understand where we are today and where we are going, we need to understand how we got here. Libraries played a major role in segregation and the fight for civil rights. We will discuss the lasting impacts of our industry's history and how they come into play in the libraries of today.

Group Reflection

We will conclude our first meeting with small group discussions giving everyone the chance to share meaningful takeaways and self-reflection.


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

Think Space begins at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, and concludes at 4:00 PM on May 19, 2022.

May Sessions and Events

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: A Call to Action: Strategies for Creating, Implementing and Sustaining DEI
Michele Harper, Evident Change

We will unpack how it is our collective responsibility to implement the strategies that promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in practice, policy and organizational culture. While understanding that dismantling race/racism is at the core of this work, we will focus on the importance of creating strategies that address ism’s that result in individuals experiencing the impact of marginalization. This conversation is about how we educate and agitate those in positions of power to invite marginalized groups to the table and ensure their voices are heard. This is our collective call to action.

Every Good Intention Must Have a Plan
Michelle Cantor, Volar Consulting

Verbalizing a commitment to DEI is admirable, but to make any kind of impact, it is critical to be strategic and plan your DEI journey. This interactive session will delve how to develop a DEI strategic plan and highlight some of the key change management challenges library directors may experience.

Leading and Managing: Representing the Interests of Others in a Moment of Change and Demand
Marcellus Turner, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

In a moment of change for our country, our libraries and our communities are faced with the issues of moving our organizations into a place of defensive and offensive response to the dynamics and expectations of equity, social consciousness, and inclusion. In this 2-hour session, we’ll have an opportunity to talk about such efforts through presentation, Q&A and a collaborative discussion and case exercise of how to manage such circumstances and to lead our libraries into and through this work. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Your attendance at Think Space shows that you are making DEI a priority and are willing to invest in the journey of equity and belonging, but where are we falling short? A panel of Michigan library directors will discuss the steps they have taken at their own libraries, the challenges faced in doing so, and where they see the most opportunity for improvement and growth. 

Transforming Ourselves to Transform our Organizations
Ozy Aloziem, Denver Public Library 

This session will provide an overview of how to apply and integrate The Cultural Competence for Equity & Inclusion Framework in practice, in addition to providing historical framing of how racism has been systematized in public libraries through laws and policies. This session will expose participants terminology, concepts, and frameworks to help develop their anti-racist lens and promote an organizational culture grounded in social justice values. Equity is a marathon, not a sprint which requires we develop an intentional anti-racist practice. As such, this session will also provide recommendations for maintaining and sustaining your equity efforts.

Group Reflection

We will conclude our first meeting with small group discussions giving everyone the chance to share meaningful takeaways and self-reflections.

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.

Morning Walk

Enjoy the fresh Northern Michigan air and get your mind and body ready to tackle tough subjects by starting our day out with a stroll through Boyne Resort.

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.

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