Ray Baker, Director, Miami-Dade Public Library System

Ray Baker was appointed Director of the Miami-Dade Public Library System in June 2017, having served as Interim Director since February 2017 and Assistant Director prior to that. As director, Ray is responsible for the planning and implementation of library services for a 50 branch public library system serving nearly 2.5 million residents. Ray has been with Miami-Dade County for 24 years and has a wide range of experience and knowledge of Miami-Dade County government operations. 


Vickery Bowles

Vickery Bowles, City Librarian, Toronto Public Library 

Vickery Bowles is the City Librarian at Toronto Public Library, a 100 branch library system serving 2.7 million people. She believes passionately in the difference public libraries make in the lives of individuals, in communities and cities. Vickery has worked in a number of leadership positions, spearheading service development including with Toronto’s high needs and diverse communities to develop library-led solutions that support capacity building, civic engagement and settlement. She is currently working to advance TPL’s new strategic plan and its digital strategies that support new service models, mobility, e-learning, and innovation.



Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of Libraries, Houston Public Library 

Rhea Brown Lawson has served as Director of Libraries of the Houston Public Library since 2005. The Houston Public Library is the largest public library in the state of Texas, serving over 2.2 million people of diverse backgrounds through a network of 42 locations. Under her leadership HPL has earned over 30 prestigious local, state and national awards for service, innovation and building projects. The system is continuously evolving and moving forward a comprehensive platform of innovative library services and programs to meet the rapidly changing needs of customers and the virtual environment. A strong and passionate advocate for public libraries, Dr. Lawson is keenly focused on ensuring that public libraries remain highly visible and vibrant organizations that provide leadership for, and remain essential to the quality of life in their communities. Dr. Lawson serves on a number of professional and civic boards and committees.


Mayor Coleman

Christopher B. Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, MN

Christopher B. Coleman became the Mayor of Saint Paul in 2005 after several years serving on the Saint Paul City Council and doing integral work as a leader within his neighborhood and community. Immediately after taking office, the Mayor set forth on a journey to revitalize the City of Saint Paul, with the ultimate goal of making his hometown the most livable city in America. The people of Saint Paul have supported Mayor Coleman’s goals and initiatives, reelecting him twice and allowing for ground-breaking projects to unfold, including the creation of the “Green Line,” or the Central Corridor light rail line through downtown Saint Paul and University Avenue, as well as championing a downtown bicycle loop, bringing a brand new Minor League baseball stadium to Lowertown, budgeting over $30 million to improve the city’s roads and infrastructure, and taking a leadership role in advocating for new roads and infrastructure funding options for cities across Minnesota. Mayor Coleman is also a large proponent of lifting up the people of Saint Paul, focusing on strong police and fire departments to make residents feel safe, and on racial equity and educational programs to close the achievement gap and better prepare the next generation of residents. Understanding that the future and current success of Saint Paul depends on our ability to equip our students with the tools for success from cradle to career, Mayor Coleman has introduced revolutionary programs such as Sprockets that focuses on how our students spend their crucial time outside of the classroom. Mayor Coleman has assembled the best minds and resources to enrich the lives of children by extending social and academic opportunities beyond the school day, opening new doors of opportunity to a better life and creating a safe environment for them to live and play. He has also been an advocate for making sustainable living easy and attainable for Saint Paul residents. Just after taking office in 2006, Mayor Coleman signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and has hired sustainability, energy, environment, sustainable transportation and water resources coordinators. Having served as both Vice President and President of the National League of Cities, Mayor Coleman has been able to learn about what’s working in cities across the country, and has brought that innovation and revitalization to the City of Saint Paul, allowing his national outlook to truly make Saint Paul the most livable city in America. 


Brenda CombsBrenda Combs, Inspirational Educator & Survivor

Dr. Brenda Combs is a symbol of inspiration and perseverance to all who meet her. A little over a decade ago, she was a homeless crack addict, a petty criminal, a gaunt and hopeless wreck who had been shot and beaten and raped during the endless years she called “a freeway underpass in the worst part of Phoenix home.” It took hitting rock bottom for Dr. Combs to find the strength to turn her life around on a blistering summer day. Dr. Combs now spreads a message of hope wherever she goes. Her journey has not been an easy one, however.  As a single mother of a young son who suffered a stroke at birth, she juggled three jobs while earning a bachelor’s degree in human services. She taught at a school for children with special needs and continued to pursue her education at Grand Canyon University, where she earned a master’s degree in special education in 2007. She has since received a doctorate in organizational leadership with an emphasis in education under a scholarship presented to her by Grand Canyon University, becoming one of their first doctoral students. She travels around the country sharing her story as the university’s “ambassador of inspiration & achievement” with a variety of audiences, including youth groups, churches, and professional organizations. Dr. Brenda Combs now serves as an advocate for domestic violence awareness. She also lobbies for the rights of the homeless community and, in 2009, was named a national ambassador for the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's "Power to End Stroke" campaign. 


Anne Donworth, Development Officer, Lexington Public Library Foundation

Anne Donworth serves as Development Officer for Lexington Public Library Foundation, where she is part of the Library's senior leadership team in addition to orchestrating a comprehensive fundraising program on its behalf. She is committed to helping make her library system, and thus her community, a better place for everyone to learn, play, and grow. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Leadership Lexington, an active member of the Rotary Club of Lexington and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, and currently serves on the boards of the Downtown Lexington Corporation and Good Shepherd Day School. She and her husband, Richie, founded Scarteen Stud, an equine breeding and boarding operation, in 2014 while raising their two young daughters.


Emily Drew

Emily Drew, Collection Development Librarian, MyLibraryNYC 

Emily Drew is the Collection Development Librarian of MyLibraryNYC, a joint program between the three public library systems of New York City and the NYC Department of Education. This school-library partnership is currently in almost 500 schools citywide. The curated collection supplements and supports educators and school librarians and is geared towards popular curricular topics and independent reading.



Jane Eastwood

Jane Eastwood, Director, Saint Paul Public Library

Jane Eastwood has been the Director of the Saint Paul Public Library since 2015.  Previously, she served as the Education Policy Director for Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, where she staffed and led the Mayor’s racial equity initiative from its inception and also guided afterschool, youth employment, My Brother’s Keeper and school partnership initiatives.  Eastwood was Director of External Relations and Partnerships at the Minneapolis Public Library and held executive positions at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Scholarship America, a higher education service organization. 


Gordon Goodwin

  Gordon F. Goodwin, GARE Midwest Regional Project Manager, Center for Social      Inclusion(CSI)

Gordon F. Goodwin is the GARE Midwest Regional Project Manager at Center for Social Inclusion(CSI) Gordon brings significant experience to CSI working with senior leadership teams to help nonprofit organizations achieve mission and program alignment. His specialties include organizational strategy development, program delivery and impact, and governance and leadership. Gordon has worked for 30 years with and for foundations, community development organizations and public : private sector consortia in metropolitan and rural settings. He has worked extensively with organizations that have formed collaborative efforts to advance their advocacy and public policy objectives—specifically, designing and facilitating working group meetings, trainings, governance discussions and organizational strategic alliances. Gordon’s has contributed to poverty reduction and racial equity public policy efforts with PolicyLink, Northwest Area Foundation, WK Kellogg Foundation, Foundation for the Mid South, CFED and The Aspen Institute.


Dara Hanke Schmidt

Dara Hanke Schmidt, Cedar Rapids Public Library, Director 

Dara Hanke Schmidt is the Director of the Cedar Rapids Public Library, winner of the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. She worked for the City of Downey and Los Angeles County Public Libraries in California before taking a job as a librarian generalist for the then Rangeview Library District in Colorado. As Rangeview transitioned to Anythink, she served as a Teen Guide and later Branch Manager. Her book, Make it Here: Inciting Creativity and Innovation at Your Library was published by Libraries Unlimited in 2014. Schmidt was chosen as a Public Library Association Leadership Fellow in 2017. She has a BA from Baldwin-Wallace College, a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California, and an MLIS from San Jose State University.


Maggie Jacobs

Maggie Jacobs, Director of Educational Programs, The New York Public Library 

Maggie Jacobs was appointed Director of Educational Programs for The New York Public Library in January 2013. In this role, Maggie directs P-12 educational and public programming services, as well technology training and English for Speakers of Other Languages for adults, throughout the Library’s 92 locations. Before joining the library, Maggie served as Vice President of Development for an education advocacy organization, Director of Youth Initiatives at the American Museum of Natural History, was the founder and Executive Director for Brainstorm After-School, Inc., and taught middle and high school history at The American School in Switzerland.


Julia Karell, Manager of Programs, Arlington Public Library 

Julia Karell is the Manager of Programs and Partnerships at the Arlington Public Library in Virginia. She has been working in Arlington for the past 6+ years and loves finding new and creative ways to foster community and increase the library’s role as a place where local residents can connect with each other and learn new things. Julia is always looking for new programs and ideas to inspire and delight the residents of Arlington County.


Lois Langer Thompson

Lois Langer Thompson, Director, Hennepin County Library

Lois Langer Thompson is Director of Hennepin County Library, which is recognized as one of the top public library systems in the United States. The Library’s mission is to nourish minds, transform lives and build community together. She oversees 41 public libraries, the Hennepin County Law Library, a collection of more than 5 million items, an award-winning website (www.hclib.org), and services to county residents who are homebound, or in senior residences or correctional facilities. Her focus on innovative, sustainable and accessible library service has helped to ensure county residents have the opportunity and resources they need to read, graduate, engage, work and learn. She currently serves on the Hennepin County and Library Diversity teams and the Public Library Association’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.


Sarah Lawton, Neighborhood Library Supervisor, Madison Public Library 

Sarah Lawton has worked in public libraries in Colorado, Vermont and Wisconsin. As a Neighborhood Library Supervisor at Madison Public Library and a leader within the City of Madison's Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative, Sarah's work focuses on collaborating with diverse communities, community organizations and local government agencies to build inclusive communities and promote equitable access to opportunity. Sarah has conducted numerous racial equity analysis processes and developed and led training programs for library workers and city staff. She helps coordinate GARE's Libraries Interest group and serves on the PLA Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce. Recent presentations include Applying Racial Equity Analysis to Library Policies, Programs and Processes and Engaged & Inclusive: Libraries Embracing Racial Equity and Social Justice.



Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University

Eric Liu is an author, educator, and civic entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of Citizen University, which promotes and teaches the art of powerful citizenship through a portfolio of national programs (citizenuniversity.us), and the executive director of the Aspen Institute Citizenship and American Identity Program. His books include the national bestsellers The Gardens of Democracy, and The True Patriot, co-authored with Nick Hanauer. Eric’s most recent book is You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen. His first book, The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker, was a New York Times Notable Book featured in the PBS documentary Matters of Race. His other books include A Chinaman’s Chance: One Family’s Journey and the Chinese American Dream; Guiding Lights: How to Mentor – and Find Life’s Purpose, the Official Book of National Mentoring Month; and Imagination First, co-authored with Scott Noppe-Brandon of the Lincoln Center Institute, which explores ways to unlock imagination in education, politics, business and the arts. Eric served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President’s deputy domestic policy adviser. After the White House, he was an executive at the digital media company RealNetworks. Eric served as a White House speechwriter and policy adviser for President Bill Clinton. He hosts the award-winning TV show Citizen University TV, and is a regular columnist for CNN.com and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com. Eric lives in Seattle, where he teaches civic leadership at the University of Washington and hosts Citizen University TV, an award-winning television program about civic power. In addition to speaking regularly at venues across the country, Eric also serves on numerous nonprofit and civic boards. He is the co-founder of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. A board member of the Corporation for National and Community Service, he is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. A regular columnist for CNN.com and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com, Eric can be found on Twitter @ericpliu.


Heather Lowe, Adult Services Administrator, Dallas Public Library 

Heather Lowe serves as Adult Services Administrator for the Dallas Public Library where she oversees system wide library services to adults including ESL, high school equivalency, and homeless engagement programs. Previously, as the Director of the Visual Resource Center at California State University San Bernardino she was responsible for visual and information literacy instruction for art students. Heather Lowe serves as the Events Coordinator for Outlast Youth, an organization dedicated to the prevention and alleviation of LGBT youth homelessness. She earned a Master of Library and Information Studies from University of California Los Angeles and a Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art.


Peter MacLeod, Co-Founder and Principal of MASS

Peter MacLeod is the co-founder and principal of MASS, and one of Canada's leading experts in public engagement and deliberative democracy. He is a former researcher at Britain's Demos think tank, and a long-time friend to Denmark's Kaospilots, a school for business design and social innovation. He writes and speaks about the citizen's experience of the state, the importance of public imagination, and the future of responsible government. He currently serves on the board of Tides Canada, an environmental charity, and chairs Toronto's Wellesley Institute, a leading think tank dedicated to improving health equity and the social determinants of health.

Greg Mickells, Library Director, Madison Public Library

Mickells started as Library Director for Madison Public Library in 2012. He oversaw the completion of a $29M renovation of Madison’s Central Library which opened to the public in September 2013. The new Central Library features The Bubbler, a program philosophy to create a platform for makers’ projects and other creators. Mickells is a member of the City of Madison’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Initiative Strategic Planning Committee and has introduced the use of an equity lens in the Library’s planning and decision making. He has emphasized the importance of community engagement and equity as part of Madison Public Library’s culture, which has led to community inspired projects such as the Hip Hop Architecture Camp and Teen Media Academy.


Eva Mitnick, Children's Librarian, Los Angeles Public Library 

Eva Mitnick started out as a children's librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library long enough ago to remember card catalogs, phone books, Thomas Guides, and the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature (the print edition!) and worked as a branch manager, youth services coordinator, and (for about 5 minutes) Central Library director before landing her dream job - Director of the Engagement and Learning Division at LAPL.


Charles Pace, Executive Director, Gwinnett County Library 

Charles Pace became Executive Director of the Gwinnett County Library on January 6, 2014. Prior to this he served as the director of public libraries in St Louis County, Mo. and Fargo, N.D. A native of Texas, he received his M.L.S. and B.A. at the University of North Texas. He served as a reference librarian at the Brooklyn and Dallas Public Libraries. After that, he served as branch manager at the Houston Public Library and then served in the same capacity at the Chicago Public Library. He was named by the Library Journal as one of 2006’s Movers & Shakers, a term which is described as “the people shaping the future of libraries.” In 2017 Pace was awarded the John Ilif Award for innovation in technology and service delivery by the Public Library Association. He has also been a presenter at numerous conferences and other library events. Pace, a native of Texas, is married to the former Wendy Karlin and has two teenage children.

Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Secretary/Treasurer, District of Columbia Public Library

Richard Reyes-Gavilan was appointed Executive Director of the District of Columbia Public Library in January 2014. He oversees a campus of 26 libraries, a staff of 600, and an annual operating budget of $57 million. In Fiscal Year 2015 over 4.2 million people visited public libraries in the District, a number that exceeds the combined home attendance of Washington D.C.’s professional baseball, hockey, and men’s basketball teams. He is responsible for oversight of an ambitious capital improvement plan that includes almost $300M budgeted over the next six years for branches designed by renowned architects Bing Thom, TEN Arquitectos, and others. Most important among the projects for which he is responsible is the full modernization of the landmarked Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the District of Columbia’s only building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Mies’s only realized library in the world.


 Manya Shorr, Director, Fort Worth Library

Manya Shorr is the Director of the Fort Worth Library in Fort Worth, Texas.  Before becoming a part of the City of Fort Worth team, she was the Director of Public Services at the D.C. Public Library. There she managed all aspects of public service delivery and was responsible for the experience offered in 25 branches and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. She has an extensive library experience, holding positions at Multnomah County Library, Omaha Public Library and Sacramento Public Library. Shorr holds a Masters of (Library) Science degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Oregon. Besides her love of reading, Manya enjoys spending time with her husband, their 2 dogs, 3 cats and practicing yoga.


Kristen Sorth, St. Louis County Library, Library Director 

Kristen Sorth became St. Louis County Library’s first female director on November 19, 2013.  Ms. Sorth has a Masters of Public Administration degree from University of Missouri and has worked for the library since 1998 in an administrative capacity. Before her appointment as Director, Ms. Sorth served as Assistant Director of Administration. In this role, she oversaw St. Louis County Library's (SLCL) administrative operations including human resources, building systems and facilities, finance, budgeting, procurement, transportation and security. Before being named Assistant Director, Ms. Sorth was the Senior Manager of Human Resources for SLCL, overseeing some 650 employees. Sorth was selected to participate in FOCUS St. Louis' 38th Leadership class. Ms. Sorth was one of ten selected from a wide array of St. Louis' most accomplished women to be a member of the YWCA Academy of Leaders. The St. Louis Business Journal named Kristen Sorth one of 2015’s Most Influential Business Women. Under Ms. Sorth’s leadership, the Library District has received numerous accolades–including an innovation award from the Urban Libraries Council for the summer lunch program; consecutive years as a Top Place to Work by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; a What’s Right with the Region award in 2016 for demonstrating innovative solutions specifically for early literacy programming.  The Missouri Library Association named SLCL the 2014 Missouri Library of the Year. As the leader of St. Louis County Library District, Sorth guides the library's building and expansion program.  This building plan is an undertaking unheard of in the 70-year history of the library, tackling the renovation or replacement of the library’s 20 facilities.  Now in Phase II, with three branches currently closed for construction and four in design, the building project has replaced or remodeled 11 of the District’s 20 branches throughout the 584-square mile district. Ms. Sorth volunteers for several organizations, including FOCUS St. Louis and the YWCA.  She serves on the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri as the Chair of Board Governance. 


Bo Thao-Urabe, Founder and Network Director of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL)

Bo Thao-Urabe is Founder and Network Director of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders which harnesses the collective power of Asian American leaders from across sectors, generations and ethnicities to improve the lives of community. Bo is also Founder and Chief Operating Officer of RedGreen Rivers, a social enterprise connecting women artisans in Southeast Asia to global markets in order to preserve indigenous art forms and increase economic well-being of women and their families. Previously she served as Senior Director at AAPIP, a national philanthropic group, where she led the design and implementation of innovative social justice philanthropy initiatives. Bo has held a variety of positions, including serving as executive director of national and local nonprofits. Bo's work focuses on creating community-centered, asset-based solutions that ensure meaningful outcomes and lasting change. Her commitment to improving community conditions so that all people thrive has birthed local, national and international organizations, a giving circle and several businesses. She currently sits on the Boards of Springboard for the Arts, Minnesota Historical Society, Nonprofits Assistance Fund and The Minneapolis Foundation. Bo has received numerous awards including being one of the few people in Minnesota with the honor of having the same day named after her in both the City of Saint Paul and the State of Minnesota.


Kelvin Watson

Kelvin Watson, Director, Broward County Public Library 

Kelvin Watson is the Director of the Broward County Public Library system and Immediate Past President of the Black Caucus of ALA. 38 branches make up Broward County Libraries, circulating over 10.5 million items annually, with over 1 million library card holders. Prior to Broward County, he was COO, Senior VP for the Queens Library.  His responsibilities included HR, Capital/Facilities Management, Risk Management, Logistics, Security, Technical Services, and leading the development and implementation of system-wide library technology development (IT), and content. Kelvin was named the 2016 inaugural winner of ALA’s Ernest A. DiMattia Award for Innovation and Service to Community and Profession, which recognized him as a public librarian who demonstrates leadership in anticipating emerging trends in services, products and technologies that will enhance the library’s position in its community. Prior to coming to Queens, he served as the Branch Head, Acquisitions & Collection Development at the National Agricultural Library (NAL), directing the formulation of current and long-range national resource collection policies, plans and programs, and coordinated those efforts within the organizational units of NAL and other Government agencies, land-grant institutions and related organizations. Prior to the NAL he was the Director of Business Development for The Library Corporation, a library automation company, and was the product owner for the Online Selection Assistant.  Prior to TLC, he held several leadership roles in sales & marketing with Borders Group, Inc., Ingram Book Group/Ingram Library Services, leadership roles in sales, marketing, collection development, warehouse management (logistics) and library technical services. Kelvin has also served as a Commissioned Officer in the Active US Army and Army Reserves. Kelvin has a BS in Business Administration & Minor in Military Science from Lincoln University (MO). He also has his Masters Library Science from North Carolina Central University. 


Tena Wilson, Executive Director, The Smart Store

Tena Wilson, Executive Director of The Smart Store, where everything is free®, changed course in the middle of her career. After working in marketing and sales for Matthews Specialty Vehicles of Greensboro, North Carolina, and OBS Specialty Vehicles in Canton, Ohio, she returned to school for her Masters of Library Science. She quickly rose through the ranks in libraries, serving first as the Young Adult Programmer for the Stark County District Library Lake Community Branch, then moving to Cleveland Public Library where she served successively as a Branch Manager, Marketing and Communications Administrator and Public Services West Team Manager, before leaving to become director of the Winnetka-Northfield Library District in Winnetka, Illinois. She returned home to lead the Stark County District Library as executive director in September 2012, where she hit the ground running, leading the library through a successful political campaign to pass a new operating levy and secure the library’s funding. She is a member of the Ohio Library Council, American Library Association, and Public Library Association. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Secondary Education from Tennessee Temple University and a Master of Library and Information Science from Kent State University. She volunteers in the community as a member of Kent State University Stark Dean’s Advisory Board. She is a member of the Canton Rotary. She is a founding member and board member of Women’s Impact. She is a graduate of the 27th Signature Class of Leadership Stark County and serves on the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Stark County board, the Canton Tomorrow Incorporated board, and The Women’s Board of Aultman Hospital.

Chris Woodall, Long-Range Planning Manager, City of Lexington

Chris Woodall, AICP, is the Long-Range Planning Manager for the City of Lexington, where he guides policy decisions to support Lexington’s long-term needs.  Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, he graduated Cum Laude from the University of Kentucky and received his Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University.