March 16, 2018

Larry Neal | Movers & Shakers 2007

Building the Future


Larry Neal, director of the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, helped former director Christine Lind Hage build the library from nothing into three facilities serving 170,000 residents. Starting from scratch meant they could hire people who shared their vision of continuous improvement and institute ongoing training for them. All they demanded of employees was a ‘fearless approach to learning new technology.’

That experience made Neal realize how important it is to identify such fearless people and bring them into librarianship – and how abysmally librarians have marketed the profession they love to those who might love it, too.

As chair of the Public Library Association’s (PLA) Recruitment of Public Librarians Committee from 2003 to 2005, Neal helped design, a jargon-free web site that explains why the career would appeal to people with a variety of interests and skills, the kinds of libraries and positions they might fill, and how to become a librarian.

Hage says Neal also supports young librarians by ‘obtaining funding for their participation in conferences, mentoring, career fairs, and conference presentations.’ He created a showcase called ‘Tomorrow’s Professionals,’ a regular program at the Michigan Library Association annual conference. To demonstrate the profession’s commitment to diversity, he obtained funding so that five Spectrum Scholars could attend PLA with ‘full red-carpet treatment,’ including places of honor at PLA events.

The son of a teacher and a nurse, Neal believes his taste for public service might be genetic. He could have parlayed his MBA into a more lucrative career, but librarianship gives him a chance to ‘make a living making a difference.’ He hopes to lure at least one equally idealistic young person to the profession to replace him eventually.




CURRENT POSITION Director, Clinton-Macomb Public Library, Clinton Township, MI

DEGREES MS in Information, University of Michigan, 2001; MBA, Oakland University, 1991

KEYS TO SUCCESS Says being a ‘hopeless adult piano student’ keeps him humble