Honoring the Past, Building Our Future
by Ruth E. Kifer
Two thousand five marks both the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Virginia Library Association and the first year of the VLA Foundation's fundraising campaign–momentous occasions in our history that promise a year of celebration, commemoration, reflection, and most important, fun. It is an honor to serve as your president during this watershed year. In "One Hundred Years of Progress: The Growth and Development of Library Education," a review of the history of library education published in The ALA Yearbook of Library and Information Services in 1986, Edward G. Holley explains the importance of ceremony and celebration of our historical landmarks. He states, "Nothing highlights our value orientation more than the ceremonial occasions in which we engage." He goes on to say, "Centennial occasions do provide an opportunity for sensing the unity of a profession, for expressing appreciation for our heroes and antiheroes, and for encouraging a hard look at the future." In this spirit, the theme for our centennial year and for the annual conference in October 2005 is "Honoring the Past, Building Our Future."
The 100th Anniversary Steering Committee has planned numerous activities for the year, culminating in October with special centennial events in Williamsburg at the annual conference. Please watch the VLA website for details about the April opening of the Library of Virginia's exhibit in honor of our centennial, a traveling exhibition that will be available to libraries beginning in August; the special centennial issue of Virginia Libraries; the Centennial Banquet at the annual conference; and much more. The purpose of these initiatives is to ensure that the association preserves our history, honors the values of our profession, and provides the foundation for the next century of VLA.
Concurrent with these activities, the new VLA Foundation will be reaching out to the membership for support and leadership. The Foundation exists to support the ongoing activities of VLA, providing essential support for scholarships, the legislative agenda, and ongoing professional development for all librarians and library workers in the Commonwealth. The Foundation's goal is to reach $100,000 by the annual conference in October 2005, with 100% of the membership participating as contributors. This is a fitting goal for us as we enter our second hundred years as an organization.
In 1905, Virginia librarians had the foresight, savvy, persistence, and energy to found the association to which we now owe so much for unifying the library profession within Virginia. Let's take a quick look at the world of 1905 and the events taking place as Virginia librarians came together to form VLA. Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth was on the bestseller list; Apache Chief Geronimo attended Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration; W.E.B. DuBois founded the Niagara Movement to promote the rights of African Americans; Robert Koch was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research in finding the cause of tuberculosis; and eleven-year-old Frank Epperson invented the popsicle.
The world is so much different in 2005. In the world of information, Google has launched Google Scholar and announced an initiative with major libraries to digitize collections on a massive scale. It is predicted that one will be able to have all of the books in the Library of Congress stored on a handheld computing device. William R. Brody, President of Johns Hopkins University, states in the December 6, 2004, issue of the JHU Gazette, "Massive information overload is placing librarians in an ever more important role as human search engines. They are trained and gifted at ferreting out and vetting the key resource material when you need it. Today's technology is spectacular–but it can't always trump a skilled human." In the midst of this era of transformation in our society and our profession, we are perched on the brink of technological, scientific, and societal changes that our founders could not have fathomed one hundred years ago.
This year, I hope that you will all join with me to celebrate our time in history–with admiration and appreciation as we look to our past, and with wonder and excitement as we plan for our future.