Living in Challenging Times
Barbie Selby and Earlene Viano
"May you live in interesting times." Whether this is actually a Chinese curse or simply attributed as such, it certainly describes for many of us how we feel our lives are today. A parallel "curse" might be "may you live in challenging times." The articles in this issue of Virginia Libraries illustrate some of the many challenges faced daily by librarians-the intellectual challenge, the aesthetic challenge, the technological challenge, and the motivational challenge.
Interviews with authors are always enjoyable reading. Cy Dillon's interview with poet Dabney Stuart is not only enjoyable, but also intellectually challenging. Stuart's observations on poetry, on his "audience," failures in literature, the social use of poetry, and the creation of his characters provide insight into his writing.
Tonia Graves' update and overview of the Virginia Heritage Project incorporates good advice for any library undertaking a complex project of any kind, not simply a digital project. Many of us are playing catch-up all the time in these days of rapid technological change. The Virginia Heritage Project is a complicated digital learning oppor-tunity for its many participating libraries. Because there are so many, coordination among them is challenging for organizers, trainers, and participants alike. Tonia focuses on simple methods to make such a project run more smoothly at any library.
"Libraries offend everyone."1 My boss, Taylor Fitchett, asked that her staff read "12 Ways Libraries are Good for the Country" recently. Number 10 is the preceding statement. Taylor's article on art in libraries highlights an easy way for libraries to become offensive-put up controversial art works. This is also an easy way for libraries to challenge their users and their staffs by making them live with art they might not put up in their own homes-art that might force them to see the world, or a part of it, in a different light. I can't say I've liked all the art Taylor's brought to the UVA Law Library during the past four years, but I can say that its presence has enlivened our walls, our minds, and our annual Artist's Reception, which we host every September for an afternoon.
Training-always a challenging topic. We all need it. Some of us like to go to classes; some of us would rather shoot ourselves. Some of us immediately forget what we learned; some of us want to go to every class offered anywhere. Virginia Tech's In-Service Day demonstrates an effective training and motivating program they've perfected over the past several years. Ladd Brown et al. detail their planning process for successful staff In-Service days. This article would be well worth reading by any library considering a large-scale event of any kind.
The challenges included in this issue of Virginia Libraries are but a few of the many challenges we face daily-providing quality reference service, time management, effective staff supervision, motivating all library staff, and learning new skills. These articles once again prove that we, in Virginia's libraries, are facing up to all these, and more, challenges. We're thinking hard about them, learning from our mistakes, and learning from others. We hope that this issue of Virginia Libraries continues this process.
1 From "12 Ways Libraries are Good for the Country," American Libraries, December 1995.