"In my end," says T. S. Eliot at the conclusion of East Coker, "is my beginning." I hope this will be true of the year I am privileged to lead the Virginia Library Association. The year began with the end of a successful Annual Conference in Norfolk, and soon proceeded to an intense planning session at the Executive Committee retreat and detailed Annual Conference planning with Harriet Edmunds and her committee. If our plans come to fruition, the year will be both well begun and well ended, and our association will have advanced rather than merely held its own.
This is on my mind as I write out the Designated Agenda drafted by the Executive Committee to present to VLA Council in February. There is surprising diversity in this strategic planning document, reflecting the more complex role VLA plays in our lives these days. There is a section on legislative activities, as might be expected, but there are also plans for a salary survey for paraprofessionals, for more communication on intellectual freedom issues, for cooperation and reciprocity with nearby associations for continuing education, for leadership development, for more help for Linda Hahne at key times during the year, and for more stable funding for VLA scholarships.
The planning of previous years has recently paid off in terms of a compromise on UCITA legislation that protects Virginia libraries and librarians from being prosecuted for doing our jobs-loaning information to patrons in any form available. Carolyn Barkley worked hard last year to see that we were represented by the best possible legislative liaison and the best available VLA volunteers to oppose implementation of the statute until an exception for libraries was put on paper in terms we understand and support. Along the way our efforts afford the same protection to teachers at nonprofit institutions. During the past three years VLA members have exhibited solidarity on this issue,as well as on our other legislative agenda items.
Our Legislative Committee is poised togo into action as the General Assembly considers this year's changes in the budget, and once again planning has been thorough and enthusiastic. I am impressed by the energy and positive attitude of our public library directors who have the most at stake in this effort, and I hope the citizens of the Commonwealth appreciate the effort expended on their behalf. While the budget picture is still somewhat cloudy, we can expect to have to push for continued full funding of State Aid to Public Libraries and the Library of Virginia budget. There also maybe some threat to Info powering funding and library construction money, so all of the planning led by Sam Clay and Phil Abraham will not be in vain.
As the year proceeds we can expect excellent continuing education opportunities, staunch defense of intellectual freedom, attractive and interesting publications, successful and challenging Annual and Paraprofessional Forum Conferences, improvement of already excellent finances, deserving scholarship recipients, and an active and informed membership. Two projects I feel are especially important, and all too easy to overlook, are developing a set of suggested beginning salaries for paraprofessional positions, and writing and implementing clear succession guidelines for VLA committee leaders.
If you are not already a part of some of these activities, now is the time to plan your own year to include involvement with the Virginia Library Association. One of my farming neighbors often used the old saw, "If you don't trade with me, we both will lose money." I am not sure that was always true in his case, but I am sure that both you and VLA will lose if you choose not to participate this year. Make your plans now. We cannot predict the future, but preparing for it can make it possible for the end to be every bit as good as the beginning promised.