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!