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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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!

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!