There is a Time for Everything Thursday, Jul 8 2010 

In the words of Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season” (Chapter 3, verse 1 New Living Translation page 506).

How does this relate to this blog?

On April 1, 2008 I started “Moorman’s Musings”. It was part of my effort to increase communication with library staff, the community and the world at large. At that time it seemed that blogging was the in thing. Thus, I gave it a try.

In the succeeding twenty-seven months I have posted thirty-four blog entries. This post will be entry thirty-five.

What have I learned in this process?

1. Finding something relevant to say or comment on is increasingly difficult as time progresses.

2. Preparing the posts takes up considerable time that could be better spent on  more important matters both job related and personal.

3. The blog is of little interest to other individuals and the world at large. It receives few hits. If thirty individuals look at it during a months time it has done well.

With the above in mind this will be the last post for “Moorman’s Musings”. As noted in Ecclesiastes there is a time for “every activity under heaven”. It is time for me to proceed to other things.

I have learned much from this experience and do not regret it in the least.

Good bye!

Virginia Library Association Update Tuesday, Jun 1 2010 

It has been seven months since I assumed the presidency of the Virginia Library Association.

What has happen during these seven months as far as the Virginia Library Association is concerned? Not a great deal, but then most  president’s really have little or no impact in the long run on the Association or its activities. This is probably for the best! The Association has changed it meeting location for Executive Board and Council Meetings from Charlottesville to Henrico County. We will see how that works. So far after one meeting it has been well received. However, if more members from Western Virginia become active in Association activities this could change. As one who has set up Council meetings over the years the tables at the Twin Hickory Branch of the Henrico County Public Library are substantially lighter than the ones at the Northside Branch Library in Charlottesville. These old bones definitely notice the difference!

The Association now has a new logo, thanks to the work of staff of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. It is clean and reflects the historic heritage of Virginia.  We are working on revising parts of the Association’s manual. This is a never-ending task as one change leads to another. An important change is removing the responsibility of chairing the Nominating Committee from the duties of the past-president. Now the past-president only appoints the chair and its membership. Not that I did not want these duties next year, but this will enable the Nomination Committee chair, in our schedule of office rotation, to have a better knowledge of those eligible for Association leadership.

One of the fun parts of the job is the ability to recognize individuals in new ways. While I would like to take credit for thinking up the idea, the concept of issuing presidential citations at each meeting of VLA Council came to me when a colleague asked if an individual could have some recognition at our Annual Conference  in October of last year.  My concept for the presidential citation is to recognize individuals who have contributed substantially to librarianship in Virginia over the years but who have not received much, if any,  formal recognition. Library directors such as myself are eliminated immediately! It has been fun to recognize Libby Lewis, Gene Damon and Susan Thorniley for their wide and varied service to the libraries and library users of our Commonwealth. I have several more recognitions to come. Whether this continues is up to my successor Matt Todd. Knowing him, he will probably come up with a new and even better way of honoring those who toil in the vineyards of librarianship.

The Association continues on a sound financial footing. I am hopeful that the recently completed VLA Para-Professional Forum Annual Conference is a financial success. While attendance dropped considerably this year the program schedule was a good one and I was delighted to participate in the opening session.

The first VLA  Library Leadership Academy was held in Charlottesville in April. This several day event brought over 20 selected individuals together with consultant Robert Bergin to learn about leadership and prepare themselves for future leadership opportunities. I was honored to participate in a panel discussion on the last day of the Academy and will be serving as a mentor for three of the participants as they work on their final project.

Another fun aspect of being VLA president is that I get to inflict my thoughts on the membership through four issues of Virginia Libraries. So far one issue has been sent out into the world.  Three of these columns are already completed and I hope will be relevant when they appear months after they have been sent to the editors. The last one will appear when I am no longer Association president. This is a project for the summer.

It has been a fast seven months. I am sure that the remaining five will go just as fast.  I look forward to an exciting Annual Conference in Portsmouth on October 21 and 22 as I close out my year as VLA president and return to normal obscurity.

So long for now!

Leadership Wednesday, May 5 2010 

This past month I was privileged to be a part of the first Virginia Library Leadership Academy. The Academy was the result of several years of hard work by the Leadership Development Forum of the Virginia Library Association.

On April 19 and 20 twenty-three selected individuals participated in a training and development program in Charlottesville, Virginia. Let by Robert Burgin a former instructor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at North Carolina Central University and a library consultant participants learned about leadership through lectures, networking and participatory exercises. Each participant is working on selecting a  project which must be completed in a year’s time.

I had agreed to mentor three individuals as a part of their project assignment.  With seven other mentors I attended the second day luncheon. During lunch I had time to meet and begin to know those with whom I would be working. After the luncheon there was a panel discussion where participants directed questions to the mentors.  I come away from such activities refreshed in both mind and spirit. It is wonderful to interact with such talented individuals who will be providing the next generation of leadership to libraries throughout the Commonwealth.

Events such as the Virginia Library Leadership Academy are important. Leadership is a difficult proposition at best and any help that a leader or prospective leader can receive along the way is to their benefit and to the benefit of the institution that employs them. After almost 35 years as a library director, I feel a strong obligation to work with  individuals as they proceed through the stages  of their leadership experience. Maybe, I can help them avoid some of the mistakes that I have made along the way.  Often all that is needed is a listening, sympathetic presence.

As I prepared for my presence at the Academy I thought of all the individuals who have helped me along the way. Some of these were librarians, some were trustees, others were community members who provided wise guidance in times of difficulty. Without their presence I would not have made it to where I am now.

The above event was followed by the annual meeting of the Virginia Public Library Directors Association. Our group has met for years at Graves Mountain for 24 hours of activities including annual business meeting, updates  from the Library of Virginia, a report from our legislative liaison, special programs, evening musical presentation and the awards presentation. In addition we have time to interact with each other in a very informal setting.

I find it nice to be able to put away my Blackberry (as it does not work in this remote setting) and chat and learn from my fellow directors as well as the staff of the library development division of the Library of Virginia. What did these chats tell me? That other libraries are also suffering in this economic climate; that advances in technology pose new challenges to library operations;  that none of us are getting any younger; and some of us have been in our positions for a good while. The longest serving public library director present at Graves Mountain had been in her position for 36 years. That in and of itself is a major accomplishment.

As I left Graves Mountain on Friday afternoon,  I was reminded again of the joy that the soul receives when the mind can idle and interact with others without the pressure of immediate deadlines, phone calls, e-mails and the other aspects of our technological society. You are also reminded that your institution can operate very well without your presence. This too is important.

So long for now!

Snapshots Thursday, Apr 1 2010 

I sit here in realization that another month has passed. Beyond being another month older and not much wiser, it means that another blog entry is due. What should I ramble on about this month? Maybe a yearning for the good old days when all I had to deal with was a typewriter, a notepad, and a phone. Now I have a presence on Facebook, Twitter,  and Linkedin, as well as this blog and the numerous e-mail that I receive and send on a daily basis.  Granted my Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin presence is minimal and I often go a week or more before checking in, still they are a presence in my life.

Seriously, would I want to go back to the “good old days”? Hell No! With electronic communication it is much easier to reach individuals and conduct daily activities in a timely manner. Anyone who has ever had to use correcting fluid on a typewritten document can attest to the wonders of word processing and spell check, although you still need to proofread before sending anything out.

While technology is wonderful it can be problematic when it does not work. This past month my office computer suffered a hard drive breakdown of monumental proportions. For almost a week I was without decent computer access at work. On one afternoon, I even went home where I had working computers to get basic work accomplished.

After getting the above rant out of my system, the concept of snapshots comes to mind. Why, you may ask?

The computer failure  of the past month is but a snapshot of a small period in my life. Each of our lives are full of snapshots encompassing the wide variety of experiences that each of us has as we journey through life.

Budgets are also snapshots, as I have had to constantly remind myself in the past month as I dealt with local governments concerning the library’s funding for FY11. While they are real and have an influential impact upon your institutions present and future, they are only a part of the total picture at any one time of what an institution is and what it can accomplish in service  to its user community.

During the month Ileen and I were blessed by having our family together. While the reason for this was a memorial service for her mother, it gave us time to catch up on happenings,  share remembrances, and observe the growth of our grandson who will be four in August.  A snapshot that is fleeting but one that will be cherished and remembered.

Another snapshot from March comes to mind. Two local non-profit organizations put together a “Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars” fund raising event. Nine brave local celebrities volunteered to dance as a part of the event. I had the opportunity to make observations as one of four judges. The event was a tremendous success as over $50,000 was raised and close to 800 people had a wonderful time hooting, hollering, and clapping for over two hours. Seeing such a widely diverse audience having a delightful time while supporting two organizations was wonderful. Again a snapshot to be remembered and treasured.

This month the Virginia Library Association will be conducting “Snapshot: A Day in the life of Libraries, Virginia’s Cardinal Asset”. Libraries will be choosing one day between April 19 and 30 to collect information and photos that illustrate the impact that Virginia libraries make on their communities on a typical day. I look forward to what this program will show about how residents of the Commonwealth use and treasure their libraries. When the New Jersey Library Association did their Snapshop day over 1,000 photo were collected showing people using their libraries in a wide variety of ways.

What snapshots do you value and remember?

So long for now!

Present Economic Times and Public Libraries Monday, Mar 1 2010 

Many commentators are indicating that the United States is in the worst economic decline since the depression of the 1930′s. As one looks at the local government financial picture this viewpoint is confirmed.

Public libraries are a service of local government. Depending upon where they are located, and how they have interacted with and served their user communities,  public libraries are viewed as an essential government service, something that is nice but not essential, or a frill that can be dropped without concern for the community’s health.

My personal career aside, I  view public libraries as an essential service of government. Without public libraries, individuals from every  Socioeconomic category would lack a place where information representing  all viewpoints is confidentially available without further cost. Using the information obtained in, or through, their public library individuals are then able to make their own decisions on what to believe and what to act upon. Access to information from all viewpoints free of doctrinal pressure or influence  is necessary for a democratic society to function and grow.

In these hard economic times public library use is increasing dramatically. As mentioned in earlier blogs, individuals without home computer access are coming in to file unemployment applications and apply for jobs. People are coming in increasing numbers to find materials to help them endure the tasks of daily living. Some individuals just want a warm, or cool, place to pass the day or a friendly voice to listen to their life story (another public library service often overlooked). Public libraries are also community centers where communal learning and social networking takes place on a daily basis.

Yet, many localities are in the process of decimating their public libraries. In Virginia  the strongest example of this trend is Fairfax County Public Library where the FY11 budget proposal for the Fairfax County Public Library includes a reduction of 81 positions and a fiscal reduction of $3,400,000. If approved, this budget will be 33 % less than the budget of FY09. In addition to the drastic staffing cuts, fourteen community libraries will be open 47 hours a week and 8 regional libraries will be open 51 hours a week. Disabled customers will no longer be able to order library books for home delivery and 35 deposit sites at senior living facilities, nursing homes and adult day care centers will no longer receive rotating collections of library books.

In a time of economic recession/depression all institutions must share in the pain. However, in many communities throughout America it is obvious that public libraries are being asked to shoulder more of the pain than other governmental services.

Has the country’s economic condition hit bottom? It depends upon where you live and which economic guru you talk to. In any case, once bottom is reached, local government fiscal health takes two or three years to begin to recover. This is longer than the general economy and is due to a variety of factors including revenue resources that take longer to reflect recovery than in the private sector.

What does this mean for public libraries? My prediction is several more years of severe financial pain that will include further decreases in staffing levels,  the ability to purchase current materials for public use, and increasing  pressure on service hours.

So long for now!

Observations Thursday, Feb 4 2010 

I have tried to have at least one blog post per month. January 2010 did not make it. Did anyone miss me? Probably not.

But here I am again, like that rusty windmill that continues to spin with the wind. Hopefully, as with the rusty windmill, I am bringing something to the surface that will be beneficial.

January 2010 saw my return to the American Library Association Council for a three year term as the representative of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table. For one year in the mid 1990′s I had served on Council as the Illinois Chapter Councilor. I remember that year as one in which Council meetings were long and contentious. This time at the Association’s Mid-Winter meeting in Boston, Council meetings were quick, routine and without major controversy. The third session of Council actually ended several hours before its scheduled time. I am sure that by Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. in June there will be enough issues to keep us fully occupied.

January also saw the quarterly meeting of the Virginia Library Association Executive Committee and Council. The Executive Committee meeting was held in Richmond and the Council meeting at the Twin Hickory Branch of the Henrico County Public Library.  This was different than our normal meeting location of Charlottesville. This change in venue enabled participants to attend the annual Legislative Reception held by the Library of Virginia on Thursday, January 28th. While I was disappointed at the number of legislators in attendance at the reception I am reminded that  it is always difficult to catch these busy individuals. However, good contacts were made and important information on the value of libraries shared with legislators and their staffs. The Executive Committee meeting was held in the Richmond Public Library’s main library. Harriet Coalter, Richmond Public  library director, has done a wonderful job in restoring majestic beauty to this historic structure. I am enjoying my year as president of VLA and am delighted to see individuals enthusiastically responding to the challenges facing our profession.

Budget matters took up considerable time in January. In December 2009, in recognition of the fiscal constraints facing our contractual funding bodies the Library’s Board of Trustees took a proactive position by approving a resolution reducing funding from these localities for the FY10 budget year. At its January 2010 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a funding request to these bodies  for FY11 that is a further reduction in funding for library operations.  If approved, these reductions will mean a loss of approximately 10% of our funded positions as well as less funds for operating budget items. Our challenge in this time of fiscal stress is to continue to provide the excellent service that has garnered the Library two 5 star library recognitions from Library Journal in the past year. I do not underestimate the difficulty of this task but look forward to working with staff, board, and the community as we employ our knowledge and skills in the provision of  quality service to all our users.

On a brighter note the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program, on whose Board of Directors I will serve as President until this coming July, is looking forward to occupying space in the new William and Mary School of Education facility. The building’s completion is scheduled for late spring or early summer. Furniture has been ordered and staff are excited about having quarters that will be more accessible to both learners and tutors. New cooperative ventures with the School of Education will be possible in our new location. As a part of this move the Program will be changing its name to Literacy For Life. On March 13, in cooperation with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program, there will be a Dancing with the Williamsburg Stars fund raising event held at Phi Beta Kappa Hall on the campus of the College of William and Mary. This will be an interesting and enjoyable evening. Tickets for the event are on sale through the College’s ticket office. In a moment of insanity (of which I seem to have many), I agreed to be a judge for this event. At least you can be thankful that I am not one of the dancers!

As I advance in age I tolerate even the normally mild Virginia winters less well each year. This past week’s snow storm has tested my tolerance more than I would care to comment on. Hopefully, by my March blog post spring will have begun to stretch its tendrils over the land.

So long for now!

Thoughts At Year’s End Tuesday, Dec 29 2009 

Ileen and I recently returned from a trip to Indianapolis to visit our daughter, son-in-law and grandson. In a state of recovery from the hassles of holiday air travel my thoughts now turn to the year fast passing.

After observing how much our 3-year-old grandson had changed since our last visit with him in October, I am reminded that change is more evident if you are not watching something on a daily basis. In the light of daily activities it is often difficult to notice change.  As a library administrator I often have to remind myself that patience is a virtue that I should try even harder to cultivate. Ileen, after seeing my impatience at airline difficulties during our recent trip, would encourage me in this pursuit!

As the year ends I am in the beginning part of  my term as president of the Virginia Library Association. It is a great honor to have been elected to this position by my peers and I hope to return their trust before my time ends next October. The coming year will bring many challenges to both the Association and to libraries throughout Virginia as funding at all levels is being cut  resulting in service and staff reductions. I prefer to look at this as a challenge that can be successfully dealt with. Now as to the four columns that I have promised to write for Virginia Libraries, only time will tell!

I remain ever grateful that I am part of a wonderful public library. Twice this year the Williamsburg Regional Library has been honored by Library Journal as a five-star public library. This recognition has been received by only 85 libraries out of the over 12,000 public libraries in our country. This honor was made possible by the excellent financial support provided by our contracting entities and by a talented, dedicated staff that continually seeks new ways of meeting user needs. On a regular basis, I receive positive comments by community members on the service that they receive from their public library.

As president of the board of the Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program, I have seen an increase in both community understanding of local adult literacy needs and in financial support for this essential community service. During the year the Program completed a fund drive to enable it to move into the new  College of William and Mary School of Education facility. This move, anticipated by summer of 2010, will enable easier access to program services and activities by clients and their tutors as well as giving staff needed space for operational activities. The Program looks forward to working more closely with School of Education students and faculty in its new location.

I have been a member of Rotary for over 25 years. My current club  the Rotary Club of James City County,  in which I serve as treasurer, has had a good and active year. Scholarships to assist local high school graduates to attend college were increased so that now $8,000 is given on an annual basis.  Fund raising efforts enabled over $25,000 to be provided to various non-profit agencies to assist them in providing essential community services, both here and abroad. Through interesting weekly programs (7:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning is early for some) and activities such as road clean-up, assisting with the construction of a local playground, and  social events club members became better acquainted with each other.

The year leaves me older, somewhat wiser and maybe a little more patient. I look forward with anticipation to what next year will bring!

So long for now!

Further Thoughts on Communication Wednesday, Nov 25 2009 

In my March 25, 2009 blog post I was meandering on a variety of topics as I rejoiced in the coming of spring. In the post I had a paragraph questioning how far should the library go in employing technology in communicating with our public. Now eight months later the question is still there. However, the answer I am prepared to give is somewhat different.

Since, March I have a better understanding of the need to reach today’s library user through formats that they use on a regular basis.  Recently the library established  a Facebook page where basic library information is presented and the user is directed towards  our main web presence for more detailed information on programs and services. In the near future the library will begin a Twitter presence where short messages may be sent on a regular basis alerting users to library programs and services.

Last week at the Williamsburg Library location the library’s first digital display monitor was installed.  We are currently learning about the digital display system and experimenting with presentation options.  As a user waits at the circulation desk or comes through the library plaza entry doors (one of three into the building, but that is another future blog entry) they may view local weather, national news and power point presentations of current library programs.  Our system will allow each monitor to present specific information relating to its placement within either library facility. Thus, a monitor in the youth area would have information on youth programs and services and a monitor in the adult area would contain information relating to offerings for adults. I anticipate adding additional monitors as funding permits.

A current incident is a painful reminder that good regular communication is essential. The Virginia Library Association completed its 2009 Annual Conference the end of October. This past week was the Annual Conference of the Virginia Educational Media Association. At that conference vendors discovered that next year both Associations will be holding their conferences on the same dates in communities less than 50 miles apart. As many vendors attend both conferences this would force vendors to choose between conferences or have a lesser presence at one of the conferences. There are also individuals who participate in both conferences and would have to make the same choices.  This is not good for either Association.

As president of the Virginia Library Association, I have spent time communicating during the past few days with our executive director to see what could  be done to rectify this situation. Due to her negotiations and the hotel’s willingness to accommodate Association needs the date of next fall’s Association conference was changed to a week earlier in October 2010.   I am delighted that the Virginia Library Association was able to adjust the dates of our 2010 Annual Conference to enable vendor and individual participation at both conferences in 2010.

This situation could have been avoided if there were better communication between these two organizations within the Commonwealth of Virginia. I can assure you that such communication will be better in the future!

So long for now!

Thoughts On Assuming A New Position Tuesday, Oct 27 2009 

Your first thought upon seeing such a title to this month’s blog entry might be “where is he headed now?”. However, I am not leaving the Williamsburg Regional Library.

Last year in elections held by the Virginia Library Association, I was elected to the position of vice-president/president elect. Since October of 2008 at the end of the Association’s annual conference held in Williamsburg,  I have had a year to become acquainted with Association activities, programs, budgets, concerns and fellow executive board and council members. Hopefully I have learned something and am now prepared for my year as president of the Virginia Library Association.

As I look forward to this week’s annual conference (again being held in Williamsburg) and the opportunities that this brings for networking, listening, learning and the sharing of ideas, I am struck with how short a time a year is. Maybe this is the result of advancing age.

In any case, what can I realistically hope to accomplish during my tenure as Association president? The president chairs both the executive committee and the council. These bodies meet four times a year. In addition I have already selected a conference committee chair for next year’s conference (in Portsmouth, not Williamsburg) and will be a member of that committee as it works during the year to plan the conference. Most committee chairs and committee members are appointed by the second vice-president so I have only suggestion opportunities here.

At our annual executive committee retreat to be held on November 12 and 13 we set a plan for the year and prepare a budget for the Association. As a part of this planning I have prepared, as have presidents before me, a designated agenda for the coming year. Much of this is boiler plate as the Association must continue to perform  routine maintenance  items in order to provide members with the expected publications, meetings and services. Where my emphasis will be is on seeing what can be done to recognize more members for service to our profession,  in continuing efforts to reach all segments of our library community and continuing the effort to educate all Virginians on the importance of libraries in their daily lives. This is vitally important as the coming year looks to be one of financial hardship for all types of libraries in Virginia.

In sum, a year is a short time and a president has limited opportunities to install new programs or ideas, even if they are warranted. What I hope to do during my year is be a good spokesperson for the Association when called upon, enjoy my time as its president, and leave the Association in as good shape as I found it. In short do no harm. Although, I do leave open the possibility for a little tinkering along the way!

So long for now!

Public Art Friday, Sep 25 2009 

Earlier this week, I attended the dedication of the sculpture “Hidden in the Pages” by Williamsburg area artist Cyd Player. This large sculpture consisting of a book with pages flying from it graces the wooded area across from the front entrance of the James City County Library.

The sculpture is a project of the Williamsburg Regional Library Foundation and was made possible through the Estate of Lawrence J. Bour and the generosity of Williamsburg Regional Library Foundation donors. It is  the result of a long process that included the efforts of a Foundation committee in soliciting concepts from sculptors, working with the Foundation Board in selecting a winner, determining with James City County the proper site for the work, contracting with Michael J. Hippel Builders to construct the base for the work and obtaining the assistance of the James City County Grounds staff for its installation.  Throughout the whole process Benjamin Goldberg, the Library’s Development Officer, spent many hours coordinating the project.

At the dedication ceremony several individuals approached me to express their appreciation for the Library having a piece of public art at the facility. I was delighted to hear their response.

In 2002 the Foundation coordinated through a similar process  the purchase of two works by Willy Ferguson for the Williamsburg Library. These works were made possible by a generous donation from Louisa F. France. The armillary sundial and the book sculpture have received many positive  public comments since then. The book sculpture has been highlighted in local publications.

Click here for a view of these sculptures.

As a library director, I view the library as a place for the presence of art on both a short-term and permanent basis.  Patrick Golden, Program Services Director, coordinates the use of the Williamsburg Library Gallery space. Each time I come through the area, my spirits are lifted. I am in awe at the wide variety of  media and artistic talent on display here throughout the year.

Art is an essential aspect of the human experience. Through its presence the lives of those who work here or use us are enriched in ways that we often can not comprehend.

I am thankful for the thoughtful generosity of individuals such as Louisa F. France and Laurence J. Bour and for the work of the Williamsburg Regional Library Foundation in providing permanent public art for our library locations.

So long for now!

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