Opening General Session
Virginia Libraries: Values and Visions for the Twenty-first Century began on Thursday, October 28, with an Opening Session featuring Ann Symons, Immediate Past President of the American Library Association and a school librarian from Alaska.
VLA President Sandy Heinemann began the general meeting with a recognition of the importance of the Conference theme. "We must have a vision for our professional future," Heinemann asserted, and she praised the VLA Executive Committee, especially Conference Chair Mary Meyer-Henley, for putting together a provocative set of programs in "the best place to meet in all Virginia."
Sandy then announced the winner of the Jefferson Cup Award, given by the Youth Services Forum. This year's committee reviewed 422 books and selected Soldier's Heart by Gary Paulson as the best book for young readers. Paulson combines careful research and powerful story telling in this novel about a boy who lies about his age to enlist during the Civil War.
From this fitting recognition of a fine book, the program turned to Ann Symons presentation. She began by describing her trip to a public library to find suitable quotations from Thomas Jefferson to embellish a talk to Virginians, and reminded us of his role and those of other Virginians in fighting censorship over the years. Symons feels a kinship with the early advocates of free speech who had to endure hardships in founding our country. She has been branded a "porn queen" by proponents of censorship in simply because she led ALA during a time when the organization resisted efforts to limit Internet access. This experience led her to reflect on the role of librarians in linking patrons to the wealth of information on the internet without losing the respect American society has developed for libraries.
Symons noted that research by the Annenberg Center for Public Policy indicates that most parents with internet access at home are worried about its impact on their children, that the media constantly emphasize the danger associated with the internet, but that most Americans have a high opinion of their local public library. Add to this the marked difference between public reservations about freedom of expression and laws that favor the least possible restriction, and libraries are finding it quite difficult to connect patrons with the information they need. Still, Symons notes that "For me being a librarian is better than being president of a bank. I get to share the wealth."
From the perspective of history, access to information has often been a problem in the United States. Censorship battles over children's books have ranged from "Little Red Riding Hood to Harry Potter." In the nineteenth century children of twelve could not get into libraries, but the could put in long days working in factories. In spite of the complexity of the Internet access situation, Symons believes that "time, experience, and new technology will successfully address the issues." In the meantime, libraries should emphasize their role in bridging the "digital divide" and continue to show our patrons that "we care deeply about children.
Virginia interests Symons because of its focus on children and pornography long before access is available to all citizens, and she indicated that court decisions such as the ones involving Loudoun County will have an impact on libraries around the country. In spite of the Federal Communications Commission's apparent push to get filters on home computers, most parents do not filter home access, and there is still no software that only filters material that is illegal for children. According to Symons, parents can best protect children by learning about the Internet themselves and setting rules for their children.
In closing, Symons reminded us that today's young children will not remember a time without the internet or e-mail, and she called us to a vision of Virginians visiting their public libraries to see how internet resources can be best used.
After her talk, Ann Symons patiently answered a number of questions about current problems for libraries related to Internet access and free expression issues. She pointed out that in some states access decisions are already out of librarians' hands, especially in school libraries. Filtering may well be a threat to teaching because "You can't teach kids how to think critically if they can't have access to a wide variety of materials." Finally, she agreed that librarians have a fear of censorship of books, too. A controversy over Daddy's Roommate was very troublesome in her public library district.-By Cy Dillon
Expanding Electronic Communication: Preprint Archives and Scientific Journals
Ellen Wertman of the Annandale Library of Northern Virginia Community College presented the results of her fascinating study of new methods of scholarly communication to a small but appreciative audience on Friday morning. According to Wertman, the high costs and excessive delays associated with traditional methods of publishing the outcomes of scientific research�particularly in the discipline of physics�have recently led to significant challengers to the 300-year-old tradition of peer reviewed journal articles.
Traditionally scientific journals have provided a forum to reach a consensus in the scientific community, they have served as an archive of knowledge, they have given accepted theories the stamp of approval, they have conveyed prestige and recognition to scientists, and they have established priority of discovery.
Wertman explained preprints, the early drafts of papers circulated for comment before submission, as they developed at Johns Hopkins in the 1970s. This method of self-publication got refereeing from a community of scholars, overcame the lag time of traditional publishing, established priority, and reflected dissatisfaction with the journal system.
It is easy to see how this practice led to "e-prints" once the Internet was available. The first archive of self-published e-prints had 2,000 readers in the first 16 months, and dating and numbering articles imposed an order that presented a very real threat to the traditional publishers. Some journals reacted by accepting nothing circulated as an e-print, and others treated e-prints an if they were conference presentations. Not all response from journals has been negative, however. The Lancet plans to experiment with an electronic archive for articles on biomedicine.
Professional organizations also have had a variety of responses. The American Chemical Society condemns the practice, though chemists have begun using personal Web sites as an alternative. Physicists and biomedical researchers, on the other hand, have found e-print archives to be an answer to the problem of timeliness. Electronic peer review can often occur in only three weeks, compared to months for the traditional process.
With the growing acceptance of e-print archives in the scientific community, library staff will have to learn to locate and use these resources to meet their patrons information needs. So far, the potential economic advantages have not materialized for libraries, but the rise of e-archives may well change the way we purchase scientific information within the next few years.-By Cy Dillon
In a conference filled with memorable programs, Donald McCaig's reading stands out as an hour of pure enjoyment for the attendees. Introduced by VLA Treasurer Terry Sumey as "a master storyteller" and "something of a character," the Highland County author proved to be the best of both. Beginning with a recollection of his childhood reading in Butte, Montana, McCaig's clear, slightly nasal delivery and vivid descriptions were like listening to an old friend around the stove in a country store. Time ceased to matter for a while, and we let his imagination feed our own.
McCaig's description of the Butte library and its formidable librarian, Molly McGuire, was an obvious and welcome tribute to the power of a public library for a child who craved reading. Granted an adult card at age eight, McCaig found the librarian to be a fount of knowledge on the books that would most appeal to him, and he found that she would allow him to check out as many volumes as he could carry in the basket of his bicycle. She even allowed him access to the many years of back issues of magazines such as Harper's and The Strand shelved in a secluded basement. McCaig clearly links the development of his imagination to this early reading, and thus to open library access for young people.
Next he read a description of lambing on his nearby farm. The richness of setting and imagery in this short piece was both striking and indicative of the nature of most of what followed. McCaig read from Jacob's Ladder, a new novel about a group of black soldiers during the Civil War, and the passage describing a reading by one of the soldiers of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address kept the listeners nearly breathless for a quarter of an hour. This was followed by more passages about farm life, all reflecting an attention to detail and a sensuality that lift an author a level above the ordinary.
McCaig's down-to-earth manner and willingness to give time and attention to his audience were evident throughout the reading and the lengthy signing session afterward. The long line for signatures was the best indication of his appeal to our group.-By Cy Dillon
VIVA Users Group Meeting
The third annual VIVA Users Group meeting was opened by Roy Strohl, Chair of VIVA's Steering Committee, and Kathy Perry, VIVA Director. Signs along the room walls indicated new databases that were added throughout the year--America: History and Life, CIS, ACM Digital Library, CINAHL, BIP with Reviews, ERIC, MLA, PsycINFO, HarpWeek--The Civil War Era, Historical Abstracts, and Sociological Abstracts.
Kathy and Roy summarized the year's activities including the recent reorganization and downsizing of committees, new timetable for budget requests, VIVA's review by the Resources Committee of SCHEV, and the status of Britannica, currently under review by VIVA. Jane Schillie, of the Resources For Users Committee, announced that VIVA conducted a survey of training needs, held a statewide Training Fair in March, collected use statistics at the end of semesters, and offered trial access to several databases.
Product vendors representing Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, Chadwyck-Healey, Dow Jones Interactive (Bell & Howell), FirstSearch, the Gale Group, HarpWeek, OVID, Project Muse, and CIS were introduced. Each had time to describe their resources, introduce new developments, and answer questions about Z39.50 standardization, direct access from citation to full-text, and increasing timeout functions.
Future projects include the addition of selected full text journals from Highwire Press, which was just approved; a forum on diverse approaches by institutions' access to electronic journals from aggregator sources; and sharing cataloging of electronic resources. Everyone was reminded to review the VIVA pages at: http://www.viva.lib.va.us/, and members were urged to post questions as needed to VIVA's discussion list.-By PatHowe
An Author Speaks Out: Intellectual Freedom
(Sponsored by the VLA Intellectual Freedom Committee)
Sally Reed, director of the Norfolk Public Library, presented a lively talk on the history of intellectual freedom in America and the writing of her new book, Speaking Out! Voices In Celebration of Intellectual Freedom (American Library Association, 1999). She described the writing of Speaking Out! as a reaffirmation of personal and professional principles. An unexpected but very welcome addition to the program was the presence and participation of co-author Ann Symons, immediate past president of ALA and the first ALA president to choose intellectual freedom as a presidential year theme.
The speakers reminded the audience that "language is power," and has special protection under the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The book is a compilation of commentaries on intellectual freedom by well-respected individuals from librarianship, government, publishing, and other fields, who all submitted favorite quotations on the book's theme. Ms. Reed and Ms. Symons shared some of their favorites with the audience, reflecting that much of the book's content echoes how often the 1990s have brought challenges to intellectual freedom, and how many times librarians and others have faced up to and held firm against attempts at censorship. (Virginia libraries have a very good record on responding to challenges).
Ms. Reed reviewed some historical highlights related to intellectual freedom in the United States, including the 1870s Comstock movement against "inappropriate speech," which produced some enduring restrictive legislation; the political censorship of the World War I era, supported by ALA and the Librarian of Congress; the case of James Joyce's Ulysses in 1933, which moved us away from always using children as the common denominator in defining obscenity; the establishment of the ALA Bill of Rights in the late 1930s; censorship resulting from the 1942 Taft Amendment; self-censorship in film, publishing, and libraries during the Cold War; and the social and political tensions of the 1960s and 1970s. The relative quiet of the 1980s changed with the advent of the Internet and the many new questions about free and open access it has engendered during recent years.
Ms. Symons asserted that the more court cases affirming intellectual freedom, the better, as it is really case law that supports our principles. Responses from the audiences generated a spirited back-and-forth discussion for the remainder of the program. Following the presentation, the authors signed copies of their book, with part of the proceeds going to the Freedom to Read Foundation.-by Starr E. Smith
Inspired by the history-laden Homestead, Barbie Selby's presentation, Virginia Vignettes, examined Virginia's past by looking at official state publications. Beginning with an examination of educational practices in Bath County, as gleaned from the Superintendent of Public Instruction's Annual Report of 1885, she moved on through Annual Reports of the Eastern and Western Lunatic Aslyums, General Assembly laws, turn-of-the-century promotional brochures, Board of Censor's reports, and Commission of Constitutional Govenment publications.
A few highlights:
- Causes of insanity as reported in the 1851 Annual Reports of the Eastern and Western Lunatic Aslyums: "domestic troubles," "disappointed love," "jealously," "religious feeling," "study," "masturbation," "desertion by husband," "bilious fever and desertion by husband," and "unrequited love."
- Description of Virginians from Virginia: Information for the Homeseeker and Investor published in 1904: Our people are a homogenous people - a law-loving and law abiding people - a reading people - a religious people - hospitable, kind, generous, neighborly - and they are now aroused to the fact that we need more help - fresh energy - a new life infused into our rural districts. To accomplish this we must have new settlers. There are therefore prepared to welcome with open arms those who can fill the measures of their needs. [p.17]
- Description of Virginia's climate from the same publication: The rainfall, while liberal, and well distributed throughout the year, reaching nearly 50 inches per annum, gives us nearly 6 inches for July and the same for August, and falls largely between the hours of 6pm and midnight. This is not the result of accident or chance, but is the result of fixed laws, beyond the control of man, and yet so manifestly in his favor as to attract attention, and make us feel profoundly grateful and thankful to the "Hand of providence" which is so kindly stretched out towards us. [p.54] [emphasis added]
- A law from 1910 indexed under "Railroads" with the tag line of "Promoting order and comfort of passengers at stopping places of ..." which in fact made it a crime for someone to sit in a seat other than the one assigned by the conductor based on race. This law also empowered conductors as special policeman to enforce this law.
- A 1793 law in which the town of Hot Bath in Bath County was incorporated. While the town is now known as Hot Springs according to the indexes to the Acts of Assembly the name may never have been legally changed!-by Barbie Selby
How Do You Manage - Intellectual Freedom?
Modeled after the popular Library Journal series, three case studies were presented for a panel discussion of thorny intellectual freedom issues with audience participation. Panelists, each leading the discussion of one issue were Edwin S. Clay (Fairfax Public Library), Ruth Arnold (Staunton Public Library), and Linda Farynk (Radford University.) The session was moderated by Tim Coggins of the University of Richmond. School of Law.
Issue 1. The Wild World of the Internet.
Linda Farynk presented the case study of a library at a mid-sized public university that has no formal Internet policy. A female student approaches the reference desk with a complaint about another student accessing sexually explicit pictures. Suggestions included acquiring privacy screens, developing a clear Internet policy for use, and building upon the Library's existing circulation and resources use policies.
Issue 2. The Donors
Sam Clay presented the case study of a large public library system serving a culturally diverse population that has an offer from a Christian related community group, offering to "fill gaps" in the library collections. The donor group states that the OPAC reveals an "unfair" balance between Christian and non-Christian materials in the library. Suggestions included relying on a carefully crafted gift policy and reviewing the template for general selection. The questions of balance should be essentially seen as a "red herring." The thrust of the discussion was largely to be faithful to the Library's collection development policy, upholding the collection integrity.
Issue 3. PCU
Ruth Arnold presented the case study of a small university library which has accepted a 19th century children's literature collection. The collection reveals its time of authorship and has many items which can only be seen as racist in 1999. A college group discovers an offensive title and with some faculty support is demanding the collection be removed from the Library collection. Suggestions included involving faculty and campus groups early during the acquisitions process to build consensus and explain the research value of the collection. Perhaps an opportunity for teaching exists in working with students explaining "what is a library." Again, being faithful the Library's collection development policy is a must.-By Ted Hostetler
Second General Session
This Friday afternoon program began with Sandy Heinemann's recognition of the outstanding job done by the VLA Conference Committee, and proceeded to the introduction of this year's VLA Scholarship winners, Carolyn Gardner and Louise Taylor. An announcement was made that both Blackwell North America and Information Access Company had committed to funding scholarships for three more years. The generosity and dependability of the corporate donors to VLA can hardly be exaggerated, and perhaps no sponsorship is more deeply appreciated than these scholarships which have a long and rich history of promoting career development.
Next the Intellectual Freedom Committee presented the biennial SIRS award to Douglas Henderson, Director of the Loudoun County Public Library. Doug, who was nominated by his staff, received a standing ovation in recognition of his dedication to upholding the values of the profession during the controversy and court battle over the filtering policy passed by the county's politicized library board. His ability to keep the library system functioning for its patrons and to avoid outright battles with the board give us at least one example of staying focused on mission in spite of the heat of the filtering debate.
The session speaker, Carol Tenopir, is known to most VLA members as a Library Journal technology columnist and a professor in the University of Tennessee Library and Information Science program. Tenopir began with the welcome announcement that the University of Tennessee's distance education program would begin taking students again in the fall of 2000, and admit of to 35 students per year. The program will gradually rely more on Web-based instruction, making it even more attractive to Virginians. She also announced the creation of the John Tyson Minority Fellowship, named for the former Virginia State Librarian.
Tenopir, who said John Berry convinced her to try writing a column for a month or two�seventeen years ago�began with a description of a typical research session for her at the University of Tennessee library. She challenged us to count along as she recited 28 different systems and databases she consulted in that one ninety minute period. Research such as this, impossible only a few years ago, is, according to Tenopir, something we now take for granted just as we do the power company or cable television. In fact, she stated that this level of dependability for electronic data is the most dramatic change in library research in the past twenty years. Computers and Internet research are as ubiquitous and as accepted as automobiles: "There are one or two in every garage, and every teenager drives."
Responding to this state of affairs, Tenopir made predictions for the future concerning five areas of impact for libraries.
First, patrons will have higher expectations for interaction with librarians and for help in navigating the Internet. Currently 43% of households have access, but only about one third of the United States population uses the Internet regularly. Tenopir predicts that libraries will be called upon to help patrons who are at home and want to use Web based information resources.
Because libraries have been so successful in providing access to networked information, the public has developed a taste for instant gratification. Expectations are high, and staff members themselves are usually confident they can provide answers on the spot. This climate will keep pressure on libraries to provide appropriate hardware and resources to keep up with the rapidly progressing computer environment.
A third area of impact is information overload. Libraries have become so good at providing information that patrons can be easily confused about which items are best. This is a battle we have won for years in collection development, but we have to fight it again with the new media. Too much information can be worse than too little, and the staff is also burdened with maintaining old materials and methods as we learn the new. Selection of resources and practice in using new materials are concerns that cannot be neglected in scheduling staff time.
Computer systems begin to take on a personality for their users, and libraries have the chance to create humanized spaces in the Web. Through appropriate design and interaction with users we can prove the "importance of a librarian's touch in a successful search," and libraries' systems can become part of the daily lives of patrons.
Finally, having resolved the question of providing a variety of means to access information, we have to address issues that have become problematic recently. They include copyright, filtering and setting standards for appropriate use, and working with patrons outside the library walls. Tenopir sees our roles shifting toward education and training, toward qualitative analysis of information, toward working with patrons at a distance, and toward fighting for fair prices for resources. We can expect backlash on any and all of these issues, but the prospects for libraries as institutions are bright.-By Cy Dillon
The annual business meeting began on a positive note with word from Treasurer Terry Sumey that the association had met its annual budget, and that the organization's reserve fund was back above the target amount. He indicated that both the Paraprofessional Forum Conference and Annual Conference had operated in the black this year. Executive Director Linda Hahne followed with a report that membership stood at 1180 as 1999 ended, and that the Annual Conference had 425 registrants, 354 of whom signed up for the full conference.
After Tom Hehman announced the results of the election for the 2000 VLA officers, Sam Clay gave us an update on the activities of the Legislative Committee. This group of twenty-one held two meetings and five conference calls, participated in both the Virginia Legislative Day and the federal Legislative Day sponsored by the American Library Association, and worked with our legislators and legislative liaison to produce a good year for libraries in the General Assembly. Local control for internet filtering was affirmed, $2.8 million was set aside for State Aid to Public Libraries, $500,000 was added for Infopowering the Commonwealth, and VIVA funding was maintained at a high level. Sam and the Legislative Committee were presented a commendation from the VLA Council by President Sandy Heinemann.
In addition to the awards and scholarships listed elsewhere in this issue, the business meeting included the recognition of the Paraprofessional of the Year, Patricia White, as well as a recognition of the contributions of the Paraprofessional Forum to the association over the past twenty years.-By Cy Dillon
Robin and Linda Williams Concert
Friday evening's concert by Robin and Linda Williams "and Their Fine Group" was a conference highlight worth far more than the ten-dollar ticket fee. Set in the Homestead's intimate meeting room, the event matched a quartet of exciting musicians and a patient and enthusiastic audience for ninety uninterrupted minutes of traditional American music at its best. The group played a diverse selection of old time and traditional country music, but the hits of the show were new songs written by Robin and Linda and just released. Poetic lyrics and sincere delivery combined to give the conference audience a memory worthy of association with the mountains and the history of the old resort.
Closing General Session
President Sandy Heinemann began the Closing Session by presenting two awards. The first recognition went to Linda Farynk, Director of the Radford University Library, who was lauded by the Executive Committee for her role in hosting the successful VLA Web site and for her work on the conference committee. The Virginia Library History Award, sponsored by the Library of Virginia and carrying a $1,000. prize, was then presented to Kevin J. Hainer for his book The Library of William Byrd of Westover.
Carolyn Barkley, VLA President for 2000, then introduced the novelist David Baldacci, the speaker for this final session. Baldacci is a Richmond native who graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia School of Law. He is at work on his fifth novel, has written four screenplays, and has seen his work translated into 29 languages and 70 countries.
Baldacci proved to be a personable and good-humored speaker who entertained us with personal anecdotes without seeming at all self-centered or arrogant. In fact, many of the anecdotes he told made fun of his status as a very successful author. He said that his family helped keep him humble. "My daughter, until she was three and a half, thought I made my living as a professional book signer."
On the other hand, Baldacci reflected a sincere respect for the craft of writing, and emphasized the struggle he had before realizing any success. "It took me twelve years before I sold anything," he asserted. The author told of writing from 10:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. for nine years while practicing law full time during the day. He also explained the challenge he faced in writing screenplays after years of concentrating on short stories.
Additional anecdotes about titling books, going to a kindergarten class, and dealing with Hollywood personalities retained the tone of humility. Perhaps the best of his stories explained that he had to choose a pen name to publish in Italy because "Italians don't think other Italians can write." Settling on "Ford," he was able to introduce his real name gradually as his other books were translated. His closing line for this episode was "Thank God we didn't own a Hundae when they called me for a last name."
Baldacci explained his current life as a celebrity, emphasizing that he enjoys the chance to do volunteer and charity work when he has time. He also discussed his new novel, Saving Faith, and explained that he was at work on a book about the Southwest Virginia his mother remembered from the 1930s. The work, which he hopes will be similar to To Kill a Mocking Bird will be a challenge for him because it is different in character form his novels so far. His audience left with the conviction that Baldacci was just beginning to realize his potential as a writer--and as a Virginia treasure.-By Cy Dillon
Incoming VLA President Carolyn Barkley addressed the Conference, sharing her thoughts on libraries and the human need for information.
National Public Radio's Morning Edition, this past Monday, cited a U.S. Census Bureau report which stated that information is now America's business. This fact, scribbled hastily on a 7-11 napkin while at a stop light so that I wouldn't forget it before I got to work, brought together the as yet unorganized thoughts I wanted to share with you--made me ponder our collective journey from a nation of farmers to one of information brokers, providers, organizers, and seekers. Heady thoughts for 6:30 a.m.
An individual's need for information is no greater today than it was 1000 years ago. We may now need information more to improve and enjoy our lives personally and professionally, than to survive, but need information we do. I believe that the entire course of human history has been a journey propelled by the need to share, record or access information: cave paintings, the Rosetta Stone, the printing press and other such milestones in world history come to mind. Roads in the colonies were created less as a means of transportation than as a way for King Charles to move mail, and thus information, more rapidly up and down the eastern seaboard on the King's Highway. The Pony Express moved mail--and information--more rapidly across the West. Railroads, the invention of the telegraph, the telephone and other communication discoveries increased the speed with which information could be made available to individuals across this country and around the world. Our more recent history with its proliferation of Internet service providers and the explosion of Internet users and online information is the latest manifestation of both the need to provide information and the need to access it quickly and conveniently.
Over the doors of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., is the phrase "Past is Prologue." This phrase reminds me of the concept shared with us by the Benton Foundation speaker at last year's VLA conference in Virginia Beach when he shared with us research indicating that our library users want "their grandmother's library...and more".
To me, libraries are about information, about service, and about people. If information is the business of this nation, then we are the heart of that business. We are the facilitators of the process, the vital links between individuals and information. As such, the demand for our expertise will increase. Our unique position impels us to preserve the past, our grandmother's library, and to move forward assertively to provide the library of the future. In doing so, we must preserve the balance between our visual love for the printed word, our tactile enjoyment of a much-loved volume, and our fascination with the seemingly unlimited possibilities of digital information. I cannot think of a more exciting time to have the opportunity to work with each of you and to celebrate the fact that Virginia's libraries make a positive difference in the lives of her citizens.
Vendors and the VLA Annual Conference
While the hard work of VLA officers and the Conference Committee is publicly recognized during our sessions, the contributions of participating vendors can be easily overlooked. We are fortunate to have a faithful core group of sponsors who fund scholarships, pay exhibit fees, sponsor events, and invest many hours in talking to our members. A list of exhibiting vendors and a shorter list of eleven major sponsors is included in our conference issue so that VLA members have the opportunity to thank and patronize the businesses and organizations that support our activities.
The VLA Executive and Conference Committees are exploring ways of making more time available during Annual Conference for vendor-member interaction. We realize that this contact is important to both parties, and we want to demonstrate a willingness to give our sponsors good return for their fees and donations. Individual VLA members can also play a role in keeping our current sponsors and recruiting new ones. If you thank a participating vendor, you have helped VLA preserve the level of quality we expect from Annual Conference. If you ask a vendor to consider beginning to participate, you have helped us prepare for a better future. It is as simple as that.