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!

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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!