After observing Caroline Parr and her capable administrative skills for this past year, I have taken a deep breath and begun my tenure as the elected leader of this association. As I mentioned in my general session remarks at the Annual Conference, I very much view this as an opportunity and a learning experience.
I believe that the Association's primary role to be that of an advocate for the libraries in Virginia in their efforts to develop and maintain quality library and information services. I would like to lead a collaborative and creative effort to achieve several goals. To begin the new year, in February the VLA Council developed the 1997 VLA Designated Agenda with a focus on the following concepts: advocacy, access, communication, partnerships, continuing education/mentoring, and member services.
In the area of continuing education/mentoring, I would like to see Association provide leadership development opportunities for new and mid-level librarians and library staff members. The Executive Committee will discuss VLA sponsorship of a mentoring program in the coming year. This program might be developed in partnership with graduate library schools in the region.
Several members attended VLA Legislative day in Richmond last month and met with their legislators to lobby on behalf of full-funding for public libraries, funding for the VIVA and VLIN projects, tax-exemption for Friends of Library fund-raising sales, and the Library of Virginia budget. VLA's legislative liaison, Phil Abraham, worked with the VLA Legislative Committee to organize our legislative efforts this year. Phil has indicated that the Association should view library advocacy as a year-round effort. We need to move beyond single-day events in order to enhance the possibility of legislative success in the future. At its April meeting, the VLA Council will review the 1997 legislative session with Phil Abraham and develop an advocacy plan for remainder of 1997 as well as 1998 General Assembly session. Tom Hehman, VLA President-elect, and Sally Reed, Director of the Norfolk Public Library, will also share strategies gleaned from their participation in ALA's "Library Advocacy Now" program.
The VLA Conference Committee is already busy planning for the 1997 Conference, which will be held in Crystal City in late October. The conference theme will be "Bridging the Boundaries: Partners in Knowledge." We hope to develop conference programming around the four key concepts of "bridges," "boundaries," "partners," and "knowledge."
The conference is being jointly sponsored with the District of Columbia Library Association. We have DCLA representation on the Planning Committee and expect to have additional DCLA participation at the Conference Program Planners Workshop. The Conference Committee is reviewing the traditional structure of VLA conferences with a goal of providing stimulating and enriching activities/experiences for conference attendees. There will be a discussion and review of the structure and content of the annual VLA Conference at the June Council meeting.
In the areas of communication and access, the Association has an attractive digital presence on the World Wide Web (www.vla.org) thanks to the efforts of Steve Helm, our Webmaster. I expect that use of the website will increase as more information is posted. We have already successfully moved the VLA Jobline to this medium. Members are encouraged to visit the site often to read the latest Association news, view the events calendar, and join in online discussion groups.
In 1996, VLA became a charter member of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. This is an advocacy organization that strives to build greater public commitment to free speech, open government, and a free press by providing information, education, and training services. By partnering with such an organization, VLA is furthering its commitment to the promotion of barrier-free access to information. In the coming year, the Association will also need to monitor the actions of our state regulators in response to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which completely reconstitutes the way Americans access communications and information technology. Libraries can play a leading role in determining how best to serve the public interest in the information society shaped by this law, particularly in the area of universal service.
I would recommend that each VLA member read the November 1996 report titled "Buildings, Books, and Bytes: Libraries and Communities in the Digital Age."The report, which was prepared by the Benton Foundation in Washington, DC, focuses on the public's opinion of library leaders' vision for the future. It is suggested that librarians need to think creatively to secure their future with a younger and more acquisitive generation. The report recommends that library leaders must "chart a new role for themselves, giving meaning and message to their future institutions and their profession." In keeping with this recommendation, there will be a discussion of the evolution of VLA and the development of a vision for the Association in the next century at the September council meeting. The council meeting discussions will be reported on in the VLA Newsletter and in later editions of this column. I look forward to a productive year and welcome the input of all VLA members.