State of the Association
by Cy Dillon
There is only the fight to recover what had been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
-T. S. Eliot (East Coker)
And try we have. This past year our Association has seen its members create gains, or at least prevent losses, on every front at a time when much has been at stake in our Commonwealth and our society. We can look toward 2002 with unity of purpose, confidence in the soundness of our organization, and a stubborn belief that we can make a difference. This is particularly important because Virginia faces a severe funding shortfall as this year ends that will carry over into the coming legislative session. We also have to continue to deal with the implementation of UCITA and the court challenge to CIPA, as well as with local intellectual-freedom issues.
In 2001 VLA Council followed a Designated Agenda for the Association that focused on four main goals that might be abbreviated Advocacy, Continuing Education, Services, and Finances. The Agenda specified initiatives and actions designed to meet those goals. I will use that format as a means of organizing this report and incorporate reports from various VLA units into a general statement of our organization's current state.
Goal I for VLA was to serve as an advocate for libraries, information services, and library personnel.
Our Legislative Committee led the efforts to retain as much public library funding as possible in a certifiably insane budget year. We were successful, maintaining funding for State Aid to Public Libraries and Infopowering, but library construction and the budget of the Library of Virginia suffered. With an excellent legislative liaison and an activist membership, VLA has become one of the stronger advocacy organizations in Virginia. We will need every ounce of that strength this winter.
The formula for funding State Aid was reviewed by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission this year, and VLA worked with public library directors and the JLARC staff to provide information and support funding for all regions. The final report was a strong endorsement for libraries and for local efforts. If you have not yet reviewed this document, by all means try to read it before the next session of the General Assembly. If you are a public librarian, be sure your board members have copies.
Before the 2001 Designated Agenda was even written, we had completed negotiations on an exemption for libraries from some of the restrictions imposed by UCITA. VLA members have consulted with library associations in other states to help stop the spread of this controversial law, and at this point no states have joined Virginia and Maryland in passing the act.
VLA participated in national Legislative Day and, for the first time, sponsored a bus for participants. We had good attendance at our luncheon, including ALA President Nancy Cranich. Also at the national level, VLA was one of the first chapters to contribute financially to ALA's battle against the Children's Internet Protection Act.
We have negotiated a contract for the coming year with the Vectre Corporation and will spend over $26,000 on our legislative liaison. In 2002 VLA needs to continue the work begun this year to stabilize the funding for this area. I do not expect the need or the cost to decrease.
Goal II was to provide and publicize high quality continuing education opportunities that are geographically and financially accessible to library personnel and support groups.
From the successful Paraprofessional Forum Conference to the regional workshops to events sponsored by various committees and forums, VLA has covered the state with affordable and well-attended sessions. This Annual Conference has drawn over 700 attendees even at a time when travel and public events are under the shadow of terrorism, but perhaps the most interesting fact about Conference 2001 is that we had more proposals for concurrent sessions than we had time or space to accommodate. VLA members are dedicated practitioners of continuing education, as the high quality of the programs we have enjoyed indicates.
The Continuing Education Committee has again provided training, support, and publicity for units sponsoring events, and the VLA Newsletter and web page have provided timely communications. Our directory of continuing education venues will be, when complete, a great help in planning programs. If we can also develop and maintain a directory of speakers, we will give our members tools that will be valuable years from now.
Goal III was to extend and enhance appropriate and relevant services in support of the membership, publicize those services, and strengthen the organizational framework of the Association.
In this area we have succeeded in establishing a structured and unified system for the Association's many awards, as the Opening Session of this conference made clear. We have worked all year on developing and putting in writing succession plans for the various units within VLA and are very near completion on this small but important aspect of organization. This year's unit heads are to be commended for their efforts to maintain continuity in their area of responsibility. Dependable, consistent leaders are any organization's greatest asset.
The Executive Committee has attempted to enhance communication in the Association through a series of post-council lunches, including one hosted by Barbie Selby at her home. It has been clear to me all year that the 2001 Executive Committee is a particularly dedicated and open-minded group, and I want to recognize them one final time for their unselfish service.
The question of the VLA Archives has been researched and discussed this year, and the Publications Committee has recommended a set of policies that will make the Archive more usable in the future. We have a growing and exciting photograph archive based on the work of Pierre Courteous that has the potential to grow into a photographic history of our era. If you need photos of VLA events from the past decade, we have that covered.
VLA's web presence continues its tradition of excellence with timely postings of publications, Council documents, advocacy tools, and the remarkably popular Jobline. We have upgraded our equipment and software, weathered the autumnal virus storms, and managed to keep Steve Helm interested in exploring additional applications and services.
In addition to VLA.org, I use the VLA Membership Directory on a daily basis to stay in touch with other members. This year's version was affordable, too. We can improve this resource in future years by making sure VLA has our current contact information at all times. We can only publish what we have.
Finally, appropriate and relevant services from VLA are most often directly connected to Linda Hahne. She has been the solid foundation of our Association during its return to financial and organizational stability. I have never worked with anyone who is more focused on service. Perhaps the single best thing I have done in my year as President has been to sign Linda to a contract for 2001.
GOAL IV was to strengthen the financial framework of the association.
This year we confirmed VLA's status as a 501C3 nonprofit organization so that our donors could be sure that they are eligible for a tax deduction for gifts. We continued to develop plans to begin a planned-giving program. We sought new scholarship sponsors and found donors to help cover the scholarship funding lost when Gale bought IAC. We aggressively solicited donations for supporting the Annual Conference, and, as in the recent past, we conducted both the Annual Conference and the Paraprofessional Forum Conference in a way that created net revenue for the organization.
While we are three or four months away from a final financial report for 2001, I am pleased to note that we expect to do better than break even on a budget of $267,200. This indicates a sound financial state as well as careful planning on the part of the Executive Director and Executive Committee.
During the past year our finances were reviewed by the accounting firm of Strickland & Jones. They reported that our reserve fund is above average for a professional association, that our budgeting process is "commendable and well thought out," and that VLA has "sound management."
This review also recommended some changes in the dues structure that caused serious concern among the Executive Committee. They suggested, in short, to put more dues burden on lower-paid members. We will be considering these recommendations during our retreat in December. Most of us are reluctant to increase dues and even more reluctant to make more than minor revisions to the progressive scale that has served us well as VLA has regained its financial health, which it did in a remarkably short time. Nevertheless, we want to give the recommendation a good hearing. If you have an opinion you want to express on this matter, use the VLA web page to contact me or any of the Executive Committee members. We want to represent you.