by Edwin S. Clay III
As I mentioned at the Virginia Library Association Conference last November, I believe in defining moments--as individuals and in our profession. The start of the General Assembly's legislative session is the time of year when an active Virginia Library Association is crucial to the interests of libraries throughout the Commonwealth. Our organization works hard in Richmond to impact the future of Virginia's information professionals. These are defining moments for us. When the legislative session began in mid-January, members of VLA's legislative committee and other library professionals appeared at budget hearings to seek a commitment to several issues of key importance to libraries including:
- Support of a budget amendment that commits to restoring full funding to the state aid formula for public libraries as the economy rebounds, including $1 million in funding toward this goal in the FY 2006 budget. (State aid is currently funded at $16 million. Twenty-three million will be needed in each year of the General Assembly's biennium to fully fund the state aid formula.)
- A request to find another source for funding databases than the Library of Virginia's budget. We let legislators know that while Virginia's library community appreciates Governor Warner's recognition of the importance of databases to public library services, using $2 million in state aid to public libraries is not the best way to fund databases that are also currently available to K-12 students.
Our presence is felt in Richmond. The budget hearings were a great opportunity for us to thank the governor for not recommending further cuts to state aid to public libraries in either FY 2005 or FY 2006. We also emphasized that the last three rounds of budget cuts have resulted in a 22 percent reduction in state aid. We told legislators further cuts would have dire results for Virginia's public libraries--affecting hours of service, cuts in personnel and a drastic reduction of new materials available to add to library collections.
Key to our visibility at the Virginia State Capitol was VLA's 2004 Legislative Day on January 22. In addition to our rally at the Library of Virginia, the Foundation's Legislative Reception allowed us the opportunity to talk one-on-one with legislators about the value of the Commonwealth's libraries to its citizens. My thanks to Legislative Committee co-chairs Ann Friedman, director of the Arlington County Public Library, and John Moorman, director of the Williamsburg Regional Library, for all their work on behalf of VLA's legislative agenda. I also want to thank all VLA members who have written letters and made phone calls on behalf of legislative issues for libraries in Virginia.
VLA's legislative efforts do not end with the General Assembly's final gavel. One of my major goals this year is to develop partnerships with other Virginia organizations that have a vested interest in Virginia's libraries, such as the Virginia Municipal League, the Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia PTA/PTSA. A broader base of support for Virginia's libraries will ensure our continued influence in Richmond. We will also be lobbying Congress on behalf of federal legislation for libraries at the American Library Association's Legislative Day on May 4.
Beyond our legislative agenda, 2004 will offer stimulating leadership opportunities through the many programs presented by VLA's forums, sections and committees, as well as our annual conference. Check out the VLA Newsletter and future issues of Virginia Libraries for information on our activities.
In the meantime, you can keep up-to-date on VLA's legislative efforts at www.vla.org. Stay tuned.
I know you, as VLA members, have many ideas about the direction of our organization's legislative efforts. As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (703) 324-3100.