Give and Take in VLA
by Carolyn Barkley
I've just returned from the Public Library Association's conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. While there, I was struck on several levels by the connections that we make in our lives as librarians and by the changes in our profession during the span of our careerss-for me a span of over 25 years. Most visibly, our profession has changed dramatically as evidenced by the variety of vendors who exhibited at PLA. While the standard book, furniture, architect, supply, and library automation vendors were represented in the exhibit hall, I noticed that other vendors presented booths with information on library moving and relocation, security cards and systems, vacuum cleaners, video publishing, fundraising programs, web publishing, debit card technology, and more-Elvis Presley even presented Checkpoint information. Genealogy companies represented our customers' growing demand for family history materials, and one announced the groundbreaking availability of full image census records from 1790 to 1920 for all states on the Web by subscription by Summer 2000.
Even more than the evidence of growth and diversity within the library-related market, as I attended conference sessions and talked with other conference attendees, I was struck by how much association membership has to offer: new information about-and insights into-library issues, the opportunity to network with library staff from other libraries with similar issues or experiences, the camaraderie that results from several days of proximity in sessions and social activities, and the renewal of friendships from earlier parts of one's career or from other areas of one's interests. While I am clearly describing personal experiences while in Charlotte, I could as easily be describing my personal experiences at Virginia Library Association continuing education or conference activities.
We individually take away from VLA participation a renewed sense of energy, an enlarged support group of individuals, and a memory of shared experience and new knowledge. I strongly believe that the wealth of our gain is paralleled by an obligation to return to the organization our energies, support, experience and knowledge. What better way than by our individual membership? Actually, I do not intend that question to be entirely rhetorical. A better way may include our active participation in the life and growth of the organization and a better way may also be found in our active support and recruitment of new members. Each of us gives to and takes from our association differently. We all must balance our personal and our business needs. The balance is altered as our lives and careers grow and change. One factor affecting the balance may be our support for other organizations. I noted in Charlotte that VLA's own Fran Freimark was Conference Chair and Harriet Henderson, former Library Director in Newport News, was the PLA President. Regardless of our personal choices, however, it is that balance between the taking away and the offering back to VLA that enhances us as individuals, enriches the overall quality of librarianship in Virginia, and ultimately increases the quality of the library experience for each customer coming through the door of a library in Virginia, whether that door opens into an academic, public, special, or school library.
I invite you to preserve the balance in your life by taking the opportunity to attend a spring continuing education program and the Paraprofessional Conference in May. Mark your calendar for the annual conference in October. Celebrate Virginia's Libraries! VLA--be a member!