Committees Fuel the VLA Fire
By Sandy Heinemann
When asked to serve on a committee, most of us inwardly groan. We want to know "How much time is it going to take?" "What are we supposed to do?" "When do we have to have it done?" and so forth. We assume that a committee is being formed because there is a problem to be solved, a task to be completed, or a study to be undertaken; and we have a talent, skill, interest, or past experience that will get the job done. It is flattering to be asked, but most committees have a downside--they demand a lot of work. The upside is an opportunity to exercise intellectual skills, change a situation for the better, and interact with others with similar concerns or interests. On balance, shouldn't we say "yes?"
Fortunately, many competent people have said "yes" to the Virginia Library Association. The Association runs on the energy, commitment, and time of its volunteers. The appointed committees and their chairs address issues of importance to the VLA membership and to the profession. At present, VLA has ten standing committees and one ad hoc committee. A total of 120 members participate in these committees, approximately 10 percent of the membership. The work they do is vital to the organization.
Without VLA's Legislative Committee, we would not have secured the support of members of the General Assembly in sponsoring and passing legislation to provide $2.8 million to increase state aid to public libraries in 2000 and $500,000 to fund the technology plan, Infopowering the Commonwealth. This was the result of a focused, organized effort on the part of committee members under the leadership of Janis Augustine and Linda Krantz with the advice and counsel and efforts of VLA's legislative liaison. This same group influenced the direction of Internet use legislation that resulted in passage of HB1043 which provided for local control of Internet use in Virginia's public libraries.
Without VLA's Continuing Education Committee, the Association would not have sponsored a plethora of continuing education and training programs for the membership. C. E. opportunities are always among the top three services that members expect from the Association. Louveller Luster, 1998/99 Chairperson, and her committee members annually plan a continuing education training workshop for forum and section chairs which generates program ideas and guidelines for successful meetings. They monitor continuing education programs through a liaison system which provides additional support for the program planners.
Without VLA's Conference Committee, there would not be a stimulating, challenging annual conference. Hours of planning, telephoning, negotiating, and soliciting are needed to develop a conference with appeal to a broad spectrum of interests, to secure first rate speakers, and to develop worthwhile programs. With the assistance of the Executive Director and Chairperson Mary Mayer-Hennelly committee members also plan social events, determine schedules, contact vendors, and decide on program brochures. All of this serves to attract people to the conference and support the needs of members to network and learn in a stimulating environment.
Without the efforts of the Publications Committee, VLA would not have state of the art communication tools for use by the membership. During the past few years, a web site was developed and a listserv begun. These two services complement the VLA Newsletter and Virginia Libraries, insuring that we have an informed, involved membership. This year, co-chairs Barbie Selby and Sue Trask and their committee have worked to secure revenue to support publications through advertising.
Other VLA committees monitor intellectual freedom issues, select individuals and groups to receive recognition and awards, choose VLA scholarship recipients, and develop organization manuals. Committees form the underpinning of VLA. They provide an opportunity for individuals to develop leadership skills which will be needed in the future. Professionals, paraprofessionals, and other library supporters are able to work together and learn from one another. VLA emphasizes inclusiveness and regional participation within all committees so that people from all areas of the Commonwealth can contribute. Members who work on committees are often the unsung heroes of the association. They all deserve a round of applause for their contributions to strengthening the association and the profession in Virginia.