An Interview with Veronda J. Pitchford, Assistant Director of Califa Group


In this blog series, we speak with LIS professional development trainers and providers in the field. In this post, we interview Veronda J. Pitchford, the Assistant Director of Califa Group, a nonprofit consortium committed to unleashing the impact of libraries.

As part of her role, Veronda serves as strategic partner for national grant projects, and manages Infopeople, Califa’s national online library training arm for library people.  She is an active member of the American Library Association (ALA) and currently serves on the Advisory boards for the ALA Business Advisory group, the Public Library Association Board of Directors, and the Center for the Future of Libraries.  She consults and presents on the how and why libraries are the rockstars for the communities they serve.   In her spare time, she is a member of PBS POV Documentaries Library Advisory Group and the Reading Between the Lines executive board, a non-profit committed to supporting the justice-impacted community with facilitated discussion-based programming that inspires conversation, connections, and critical thinking. Above all, she is, and will always be a die-hard library chick.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Can you briefly tell us about your work and professional development interests?

Lucky for me, a good part of my work IS professional development.  I am the Assistant Director of Califa, a non-profit US based library consortium. I manage Infopeople, an online training program for library people.  I also serve as strategic partner for grant projects and do training and consulting for libraries on Califa’s behalf.

My professional development interests include anything and everything that ensures libraries are rockstars in the communities they serve;  this includes learning more about strategies that cultivate resilience to ready communities to thrive in these rapidly changing times.

For my own professional development, I have completed a design thinking certification and am now exploring more about participatory design including community led co-creation practices.

Next I want to learn more about futures work, specifically the strategic foresight framework training from the Connecticut State Library Futures School.

I always try to be on the lookout for what’s next in other disciplines and how libraries can be at the table for those conversations.


What do you think are the challenges in engaging library staff in professional development activities?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge for library staff is time and burnout. This is what I have been hearing from library staff everywhere.   They are doing so much more with less resources, staff and time that it is creating a culture of burnout for so many.

Frankly I think this burnout and lack of time is has been an issue all along and not solely a pandemic specific phenomenon.

At Infopeople we are working on more just-in-time training resources  through our Infopeople on Demand resource.  Here we provide recorded trainings for library staff that are available at the time of need.

I also think professional development organizations such as mine need to provide more training that features opportunities to learn from lived experience and leading practices from other industries such as The Poverty Truth Network which includes people who have struggled with poverty and people from organizations working together to address this critical issue.


What are some trends or areas in the LIS field for you?  


Like most things, the self-care movement includes has good, capitalist and toxic sides.

My favorite self-care resources include the Nap Ministry, which comes in the form of a manifesto, book, movement, and playlist.

I would love to see library people work together to create an international movement to address and mitigate library staff trauma through policies, funding, and identifying ways we can create and maintain cultures of care for library workers.

There is some great work being done in this area including the Urban Libraries Unite Urban Trauma Study,  which used emancipatory and participatory action research frameworks to explore how public library workers in urban centers experience trauma while providing library services and create a path forward for exploring institutional and individual solutions that will enable library workers and their institutions to continue providing vital library services to communities in need while still caring for the well-being of staff.

Infopeople also did a webinar on the topic of library staff trauma called, “We are not okay”  and developed a resource page for staff and library leaders on the topic.



Moving beyond the binary in its many forms including thinking; by learning to become comfortable with embracing uncertainty, affirming human beings right to fully express their whole selves regardless of assigned gender or our outdated perceptions of it and the many other forms of limiting ourselves to two alternative conditions or choices.

I found this article an especially inspiring reason to work on expanding my own thinking beyond the binary. How Dismantling the Gender Binary Can Help Eradicate Inequality

What resources or opportunities would you like to share to highlight the professional development activities for the LIS community?

As a former reference librarian, I leap at the opportunity to share my favorite resources.  In fact, I always tell people that sharing links is one of my love languages.

Here is what is on my radar these days:

Libraries and empathy

I am becoming very interested in Radical Empathy thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded Building Radical Empathy in Archives and Special Collections: Highlighting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (BRE), which my organization supports is designed to recruit HBCU undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs around the US, and early career archives and special collections professional for internships and additional training in radical empathy and other skills to ready them to make much needed change in the profession.

The grant is based on Terri Givens’ radical empathy work and book and research in the archives field including this seminal article co-authored by Dr. Cooke, entitled, “It Starts at Home: Infusing Radical Empathy into Graduate Education.”


The Empathetic museum The Empathetic Museum is a group of colleagues who propose institutional empathy (Words in bold italic at their first use can be found in glossary following the references at the end of this paper.) as a transforming force for museums. The article offers a  philosophy and a set of standards and tools that provide practical and iterative steps for resonance and relevance in the 21st century.


Link (and most recent work):

Many design thinking methods are based on gaining empathy.  The Beyond Sticky notes book and website is one of my favorites and I am dying to get into a course from them. Their work is steeped in respect, cultural care and authenticity.  I am a huge fan of them and Greater Good Studio, an awesome design firm which focuses on design thinking for social impact, from which I first heard about Beyond Sticky Notes.



Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t get to talk about?

Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this conversation on professional development.  Feel free to reach out to me with comments, feedback and resources that reflect what is keeping you at night and want to learn more about as a library worker.

And thanks, and library love to every library person reading this! It is such an honor to support your learning needs! I  am so proud of everything libraries to support the education, information, and lifelong learning needs of their communities.