As my year as VLA President comes down to its last few weeks, I have been reflecting on my experiences. The association has accomplished much through its members and council representatives. Financial stability continues and future growth is being addressed with the beginning of a sponsorship program and the exploration of planned giving initiatives. Full funding of state aid has been accomplished-at least temporarily. The association has gained recognition through its participation in the studies of UCITA and the state aid formula. For the first time, the Virginia Library Association has established a state wide recommended minimum salary for MLS degreed librarians. The list of accomplishments can continue. It's been a very satisfying experience, both professionally and personally.
I believe, however, that in some areas we continue to miss the mark. Until we learn to trust each other, regardless of library type or size, and until we can embrace the power of partnership with other library organizations,we will not reach our true potential as advocates of access to information,quality education, and the enjoyment of lifelong learning. Until we can think in terms of a truly state wide context, we will not become a powerful, essential force in the lives of our citizens. Throughout the year I've seen opportunities for thinking outside of our individual boxes, to use a much overworked metaphor, particularly in the effort to consider the state aid to public libraries formula and understand its value and relevance several decades after its inception. I've listened to discussions of state aid at various meetings throughout the state and I am struck by our inability to move comfortably past the issues of our local circumstances to the larger state wide context. Perhaps the tension we feel is similar to that created internationally by the current move to a global economy. Our customers use multiple types of libraries in multiple jurisdictions, either simultaneously because of education or business needs, or in succession because of relocation to another area of the state. Such use patterns offer us an opportunity to understand that improvement in library service in one locality or for one institution improves the level of service everywhere and for all institutions.
For state aid to work effectively, every library must have the ability to provide every user access to at least a minimum level of quality library service. We must challenge ourselves to work together to provide a strong and unified voice advocating the needs of our library users. We must challenge ourselves to articulate this essential uniqueness powerfully and visually to government officials at all levels. These challenges cannot be met unless all library institutions, all library associations, all regional library groups, all directors, all VLA members,and all library staff work in close, trusting alliance for the common good:strong, quality libraries for every citizen of Virginia.Accomplishment of that goal may require a substantially larger monetary request for future full funding of the state aid formula. So be it. We must take the risk and we must not think small. I believe that our citizens not only deserve it, but should demand it of us.