The VLA Paraprofessional Forum's 2000 Conferenceby Clara Stanley
The Paraprofessional Forum of the Virginia Library Association held its eighth annual two-day conference on May 22-23, 2000, at the University of Richmond. Four hundred and eighty-six library personnel from eight states and the District of Columbia attended the conference. This year's theme was "Reaching for the Stars: Success, Recognition, Professionalism," with Wanda Brown and Clara Stanley of Virginia Tech co-chairing the event. Three keynote speakers, twenty-four sessions, and fourteen roundtables were offered to this year's conference participants. The annual Sunday evening picnic was introduced with a western theme this year, and good food and lots of door prizes were offered. The Monday night social was also a success with the help of DJ Ronnie Gilder from Richmond. Door prizes and gag gifts highlighted the evening, and conference participants joined enthusiastically in the evening's dancing and entertainment.
Monday's Opening Session
The Monday morning general session opened with words of welcome from the VLAPF Co-chairs and two of their guests. James R. Rettig, director of the Boatwright library at the University of Richmond, and Carolyn Barkley, VLA President, offered their greetings to conference attendees. Participants from each of the nine represented states were asked to stand and be recognized. Other attendees who were recognized included the winner of Library Journal's Paraprofessional of the Year Award, Elizabeth Perkins; the winner of the VLAPF Paraprofessional of the Year, Patricia Jones; the winner of the VLAPF Supporter of Paraprofessionals, Tom Hehman; and the paraprofessional who won a lifetime membership to VLA at the 1999 VLA Annual Conference at the Homestead, Ruth Turner. The keynote speaker for Monday was Meralyn Meadows, Administrative Assistant with the Stanly County Public Library in Albemarle, North Carolina. Ms. Meadows based her presentation on "Building the Leader Within," and provided a brochure on Leadership to supplement her presentation. Listed in the brochure were do's and don'ts of participation, steps to get ahead at work, and sources used in preparing the presentation.
Tuesday's Opening SessionThe general session on Tuesday morning was led by Co-chairs-elect Caressa Talley and Susan Paddock. After welcoming conference participants, the Co-chairs-elect introduced the keynote speaker, Stella B. Pool, Community Network Coordinator for Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Charlottesville, Virginia. In her presentation, Ms. Pool asked participants to "Be a Star: Shine Where You Are." She urged us to think about what we can do in our profession in order to shine and to make ourselves more visible.
Tuesday's Closing Session
Following the afternoon sessions and a great buffet lunch, Dr. Gwynn W. Ramsey, Professor of Biology and Curator of the Herbarium, Emeritus, at Lynchburg College, captivated the audience as he told several lively mountain tales while wearing his coonskin cap and overalls. After the storytelling session, the drawing was held for the raffle prizes which had been on display throughout the conference. One of the most coveted prizes was a P. Buckley Moss print which was donated by the P. Buckley Moss Society of Staunton, Virginia, and framed with the compliments of Christopher's Fine Arts and Framing of Farmville, Virginia. Each year, the money from the raffle ticket sales is used to help a deserving paraprofessional attend library school to obtain the MLS degree. This year the $2,000 VLAPF Scholarship Award went to Claudia Covert, who is attending library school at the University of Pennsylvania.
The 2001 conference is scheduled for May 21-22 at the University of Richmond. The theme is "Challenge Yourself - Expand Your Horizons." The conference will be co-chaired by Susan Paddock, Virginia Beach Central Library, and Caressa Talley, Sweet Briar College Library. Be sure to join us in 2001 for the VLA Paraprofessional Forum's 9th annual conference.
Highlights of the VLAPF Sessions
Web Page Design For BeginnersPresented by Nettie Pennington Army Management Staff College
Nettie Pennington presented two sessions of "Web Page Design for Beginners." The first session presented a basic overview of how web pages work, with a quick checklist of points to consider in the early stages of designing a web page. Ms. Pennington explained how to identify your audience and the expected users of your web site, and how to target a specific group. The type of users you expect to attract will determine the information presented on the web site. Highlights of the first session included information about understanding why you are building a web site, tips for planning for necessary resources, and advice on remembering that the web is a communication tool.
The second session was hands-on and began with the question, "Why are we here?" then proceeded to an overview of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) use and graphic integration. Using Notepad, Ms. Pennington illustrated the use of different fonts, graphics, and colors for our web site. She explained that when designing a web page, your text and writing standards are very important. She recommended using small paragraphs of four to eight lines, eight to ten words per line; defining all acronyms when first used; and judicious use of fonts. Select colors carefully, using no more than four colors, and re-use graphics for consistency. (Pages load faster if the same graphics are used throughout the web site). Pages with a similar look are more user friendly. This is especially true for first-time visitors to the web page. If users feel comfortable and get the information they need, they will revisit the web page. The persistent user is a good web designer's reward!-Peggy Poirier, Army Management Staff College
Have No Fear: Serving the Genealogical CustomerPresented by Carolyn Barkley Virginia Beach Central Library
Carolyn Barkley presented a wonderful session on the genealogical customer. Fortified with excellent handouts, she opened the discussion with the questions, "Who are these people? What are they doing in my library? How can I help them?" From the beginner to the advanced, most genealogical researchers have something in common-they want to tell you about their family. Ms. Barkley's advice is to "stop them cold." Find out specificall_y who they would like to research and go from there. The first thing to consider is whether the researcher is well organized. They may not have a clue about how to begin this process. One way in which library staff members can assist them is by providing copies of standard forms and charts, such as a family tree.
Once they are organized, determine who they are interested in researching and the type of information they are seeking. Ms. Barkley suggested that you begin the research in your own library. She discussed standard print sources that should be readily available. Ms. Barkley stressed the importance of knowing your library's collection and of being creative. She then discussed Internet search strategies and suggested some web sites. There is even a web site that has sources listed by color and size (the big white book).
This session was filled with excellent information that will be useful in dealing with those doing genealogical research. As Ms. Barkley suggested, when dealing with the genealogical researcher, we may need to repeat this simple phrase: "The genealogist is my friend."-Susan McFaden, Fairfax County Public Library
Padding Your PensionPresented by David Paddock DGPaddock Financial
David Paddock presented the session entitled "Padding Your Pension." He gave detailed information on various investment options available to most library staff. Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, annuities, CDs, and savings accounts were all discussed. Mr. Paddock pointed out the time value of money, and that it is never too late to get started with a plan regardless of your age or income level.-Susan Paddock, Virginia Beach Central Library
What Is The Capital Of Cairo-The Reference InterviewPresented by Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger Longwood College Library
Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger presented "What is the Capital of Cairo-The Reference Interview," a session that centered on the structure and elements of the reference interview. Ms. Kocevar-Weidinger implemented a lively role-playing activity where participants acted out the parts of patrons and reference workers. The activity gave participants an idea of different scenarios that occur at the desk and the various ways (both effective and ineffective) in which they are handled. After the demonstration, Ms. Kocevar-Weidinger proceeded to dissect the anatomy of reference questions, including the difficulties that arise and fresh ways to approach questions from patrons. Effective communication, efficient use of the patrons' time, proper eye contact and body language, and reading patrons' cues were just a few techniques illustrated throughout the session. Ms. Kocevar-Weidinger's exuberant personality and natural charm won over those participating in her session. The miniature chocolate bars that she distributed through the crowd didn't hurt either.-Melanie Barker, Longwood College Library
But the Way They Act! Coping With Teen BehaviorPresented by Patricia Muller Library of Virginia
Patricia Muller, Director of Youth Services at the Library of Virginia, gave a thoughtful presentation on teen behavior. She began by explaining why we have to "cope" by presenting The Young Adult Right to Library Service, a document from the Young Adult Library Services Association (a division of the American Library Association). According to recent surveys, 40 percent of library users are 12 - 18, and according to the "Kids Count Data Book," 12.5 percent of Virginia's population are teens (these percentages are from the 1990 census, it's probably higher now). Ms. Muller discussed teen behavior and development, including their overwhelming need to socialize and to be with friends. After a lively discussion of the teenager's brain, teen social behavior, and the bodily pressures of puberty, Ms. Muller talked about behavior in the library. She had excellent handouts, one of which described Strategies for Dealing with Troublesome Behavior. Some suggestions are: "be firm, but fair"-everyone gets the same treatment; "provide choices"-you may stay, but if you choose to stay you must be quieter; and "reward positive behavior." Ms. Muller's presentation dealt with a subject that most library staff members have to deal with on a regular basis. She gave a thoughtful, entertaining, and interesting presentation with lots of useful coping strategies.-Susan McFaden, Fairfax County Public Library
Cultures Near and Far: A Reader's Advisory in Children's LiteraturePresenters Rebecca R. Laine, Longwood College Priscilla A. Ord, Virginia Sales Representative for BookPerson,Inc.
Approximately forty conference members attended this lively session about children's world literature. Rather than using a split program, the two presenters alternated from one ethnic/geographical area to another. Taking time to describe and display each book, Ms. Laine and Ms. Ord moved from Spanish publications like Bid Bushy Mustache, Angels Ride Bikes, and Grandparents as Bridges to The Scottish Girl as a Slave and In the Mouth of the World as publications about Europe and the Holocaust. The program continued with books about eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Africa with Wings of Eagles, Baboon King, and Story Teller of Morocco. Moving on to the Far East, they indicated that the titles Dalai Lama and The Girl Who Wore Too Much were representative examples.
Together the presenters displayed at least fifty children's books offering a few words about the story while indicating each author and the appropriate age level. Both presenters fielded questions, and attendees were free to examine the publications at the front table after the presentation. The entire program was fast paced, and both presenters were well prepared.-Barbara S. Smith, Library of Virginia
Patrons: Why Can't They All Be The Same-Wonderful!Presented by Sarah E. Ray City of Virginia Beach/ Human Resources
This was a lively session presented by Sarah Ray, Human Resource Coordinator for Police Services in Virginia Beach. A trainer for nearly twenty years, she opened the session by inviting her audience to list their least favorite patrons. She then asked us to think about and verbalize what makes these people so troublesome. We were then asked to describe the ideal patron. Encouraging us to turn the mirror to ourselves, she gave us a recipe for successfully dealing with our least favorite customers. Some of these ingredients include understanding your circle of influence, seeking first to understand before seeking to be understood, learning about the different learning/communication styles (e.g., Myers/Briggs, Keirsey), and practicing what you have learned.-Susan Paddock, Virginia Beach Central Library
Stress and Change ConnectionPresented by Richard J. Dunsing University of Richmond
Richard J. Dunsing is an Associate Professor of Organization Development in the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Richmond. He presented a lively, interactive session about coping with change and the stress it creates in the workplace. Changes happen continuously whether you approve or not. How you react to these changes may be the only thing you have any control over. You choose your stance or attitude towards change; either you see yourself as a helpless "Victim," or the "Change Navigator." Try to visualize yourself as a "Change Navigator," dealing positively with the changes and moving forward. One point Mr. Dunsing made was the importance of taking care of yourself during periods of change. The stress created by change can drain your energy and even make you ill. We all need to develop "self-nurturing and letting go skills." These skills will help get you to the point of acceptance and forgiveness, allowing you to move on with life. Try to achieve a balance in life, honoring the past and yet accepting the inevitable changes the future brings. Live in the present; let go of the past; embrace core values; reach out to others; use your power to make good choices; and seek the excitement of the unknown.-Ophelia Payne, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
Star Wars: Fighting Preservation Battles in Your LibraryPresented by Paulette Ubben Virginia Historical Society
Paulette Ubben of the Virginia Historical Society presented "Star Wars: Fighting Preservation Battles in Your Library." Ms. Ubben emphasized the difference between preservation and conservation. Preservation is described as the act of trying to ensure that things do not get damaged; conservation is the act of making that item better. Ms. Ubben outlined her Five Commandments to Preservation:
- Thou shall provide a proper environment for the collection (temperature, humidity, light, air, mold, patron/staff, etc.);
- Thou shall provide proper enclosures for the collection (acid-free boxes, folders, etc.);
- Thou shall consult an expert when you need help;
- Thou shall remember that patience is a virtue;
- Thou must make allies in order to win the battles.
In summary, Ms. Ubben stressed that all libraries should have a disaster plan in place to protect their collection, in case of an emergency.-Ophelia Payne , Claude Moore Health Sciences Library
Virginia ReadsPresenters Katie Letcher Lyle, author Ann McMillan, author
Two authors presented the session entitled "Virginia Reads." Katie Letcher Lyle and Ann McMillan discussed their craft and the development of their work. Ms. Letcher Lyle lauded the work of library staff as she utilized their expertise in the research of her books. Her work ranges from short stories and novels to nonfiction. She treated the attendees to a reading which included excerpts from The Foraging Gourmet, When the Fighting Was All Over: The Memoir of a Marine Corps General's Daughter, and The Man Who Wanted Seven Wives. Acclaimed author Ann McMillan spoke of the plot and character development of her historical novels Dead March and Angel Trumpet. Set in 1861 Richmond, Ms. McMillan portrays the chasm between black and white and the Southern social strata of the times. With medical themes, she creates a mystery in which the two main characters must bridge this gap. Ms. McMillan feels that the books work on several levels: as mystery, as a study of human nature, and as a history lesson.
Both authors were available for book signing after the session ended.-Susan Paddock, Virginia Beach Central Library
The Numbers Game: How To Play, How To Win Collecting Useful StatisticsPresented by Jane Goodwin Fairfax County Public Library
Ms. Goodwin gave a concise, informative presentation on collecting and analyzing statistical data, supplemented by good handouts. She began by explaining why we need statistics. One of the topics she discussed was the politics of statistics. She emphasized that it is important to know who in your organization makes the decisions and what numbers are going to impress this person the most. Her advice is to decide what statistics are needed, have a plan in place to collect the data, and always be prepared to present this information. Each one of these points was thoroughly discussed by Ms. Goodwin. She gave advice on collecting the data and getting your staff to support what you are doing. At the end of the presentation she talked about how to present your statistics. Computer graphics are both a blessing and a curse to the presentation of data. You have to be sure that your graph is one that your audience can read and understand. To demonstrate her point, Ms. Goodwin showed examples of unreadable graphs and charts. This well-presented session was filled with useful information that will help all of us who must play "the numbers game."-Susan McFaden, Fairfax County Public Library