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Volume 45, Number 1

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President's Column: Planning Ahead for 1999 and Beyond

by Sandra Heinemann

Inclusive, responsive, and relevant--words that describe what I envision the ideal Virginia Library Association to be. One of the ways to create the ideal VLA is through planning. Effective planning requires that we examine and articulate our goals and establish the objectives that will point us in the right direction to achieve them. This year, following a recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on VLA's Purpose, Goals and Structure, the Executive Committee decided to begin to develop a short-term strategic plan.

At its December planning retreat, the Executive Committee reviewed the report of the Ad Hoc committee, drafted a plan, and distributed it at the February Council meeting. The draft plan is a work in progress. It will be examined and refined over the next few months by the Executive Committee and Council with input from the membership-at-large. The plan embraces four primary goals for the association relative to advocacy and access, continuing education, financial stability, and membership. These goals were derived from the 1997 Biennial Membership Survey, the 1997 Continuing Education Needs Assessment, the 1998 VLA Finance Committee Report, and the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on VLA's Purpose, Goals, and Structure. They are fundamental to creating an organization that is relevant and responsive to the needs of the membership.

The 1999 Designated Agenda was developed from the draft of the strategic plan and emphasizes those areas on which the VLA leadership will focus in 1999. Advocacy for libraries, information services, and library personnel is one of the most important areas for VLA to address on a continuing basis. The association can never rest on past legislative successes, but must always be prepared to address ongoing concerns as well as specific issues as they arise. This year, in ddition to developing the legislative agenda for the year 2000, we will determine additional ways to recognize legislators who have supported legislation to enhance libraries and library services. The newly formed Administration and Management Forum will initiate a process to research and publicize information on salaries and comparable worth issues for library personnel. The roles of librarians, araprofessionals, and computer center personnel have changed and, in some instances, have merged. We need to examine current salary levels to determine if staff employed in libraries are compensated appropriately.

Continuing education was identified by the membership as one of VLA's most valuable services. An ever changing technology-driven environment coupled with declining institutional resources for travel, workshops, and conferences, have increased the demand for high quality continuing educational opportunities which are both geographically and financially accessible to library personnel and support groups. VLA must provide and publicize these opportunities for its members.

The Executive Committee and the Conference Committee will continue to study the form, content, and costs of the annual conference to ensure that it is effective in meeting the needs of the members. Site election must be done years in advance, which offers challenges to produce a cost effective meeting. This year the Conference Committee has selected the theme, "Virginia Libraries: Values and Visions for the 21st Century" for the October 28-30, 1999 conference at the Homestead. ALA President Ann Symons and authors David Baldacci, Lucinda Roy, and Donald McCaig will be addressing the attendees. The committee encourages member and non-member participation in the conference. Proposals to present programs and workshops are being accepted and reviewed by the committee. This is a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the association and show case the many talents of library staff in Virginia.

Sound financial management is critical to effective functioning of the association. As a result of successful conferences and judicious budgeting, VLA begins 1999 with a balanced budget. This provides the association with an opportunity to continue to build a reserve contingency equivalent to one year's operating budget. In addition, we will explore ways to create an endowment to provide funding to support scholarships and develop a strategy to sustain fund raising efforts to pre-fund VLA's legislative liaison one year in advance. We will also develop a coordinated effort to obtain advertising in VLA publications, the VLA web page, and conference programs.

A strengthened membership reflects a vital, active, energetic, and inclusive organization. VLA's membership has remained at approximately 1200 for several years. Since I believe that VLA is an organization which represents the entire library community and provides services to support all constituencies, we need to explore ways to encourage people to join the association and participate. In November I asked Carolyn Barkley, Vice President/President-elect, to convene a committee to explore both short-term activities and long-term goals for membership recruitment and marketing. The committee includes the region and section chairs, representatives of the Paraprofessional Forum and the Trustees and Friends Forum, and New Members Forum. The committee is in the process of gathering data and will present a report at the April Council meeting.

I look forward to working with all of you this year in creating a Virginia Library Association about which we can all be proud to say, "I am a member." Your insights and concerns are always welcome. Please let me hear from you.

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