As I approach the mid-point of my term as VLA President, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on the first six months, and then briefly note the focal points for the remainder of my time in office. While the Executive Committee has necessarily focused on the internal organization and management of the Association, I am pleased to note that we have also continued to sponsor quality programs and worthy initiatives. A designated agenda for the year was discussed and formulated at the January Council meeting. We have begun to respond to the major concepts in the agenda: advocacy, access, communication, partnerships, continuing education/mentoring, and member services.
At the April Council meeting, Phil Abraham, the VLA Legislative Liaison, gave a report on the 1997 General Assembly Session. He emphasized the need for year-round library advocacy. He recommended that librarians/library advocates organize activities to meet with legislators in their home districts. We need to move beyond the single-day state and federal advocacy events and to cultivate new library advocates at all levels of government. Several members of the Library of Virginia staff, including Nolan Yelich, the State Librarian, and Serf Guerra, Vice-Chair of the Library of Virginia Board, attended the April Council meeting in order to hear about the Association’s advocacy plans and to offer their support. The Library of Virginia has also agreed to sponsor a VLA listserv (in addition to the VLA Council listserv) in order to facilitate Association communication.
In the areas of partnerships and access, I am pleased to report that Josh Wheeler, who is on the staff of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression in Charlottesville, attended the "Lawyers for Libraries" Institute sponsored by the American Library Association and the American Bar Association. His participation was underwritten by VLA, the Virginia Association of Law Libraries, and the Virginia Coalition for Open Government. Josh is planning to present a program at our 1997 Annual Conference on first amendment issues.
In early June, VLA and the Library of Virginia sponsored a PBS Video conference on making the most of the proposed discounted telecommunications rates for libraries and schools as mandated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Federal Communications Commission ruled unanimously in favor of the discounts in mid-May. These efforts will facilitate the development of online services in all areas of the Commonwealth.
The VLA Paraprofessional Forum has successfully concluded its 5th annual two-day conference. During her keynote speech, Carolyn Tate, VLA Council member, asked the audience to give examples of reasons for attending the conference. Comments received included "to have fun" and "to network." Judging by my personal experience, I would say that these goals were met. On a related note, the Association’s annual conference and continuing education activities will be the focus of the June Council meeting.
The Executive Committee is continuing to review the management requirements of the Association and to develop relevant documentation and policies. The Finance Committee has been working with the Treasurer to secure accurate budget information in order to make recommendations for future operations. The main action item at the September Council meeting will be a discussion of future directions for the Association. VLA should build on its current strengths and continue to evolve in response to the new challenges and opportunities of the future.