VLA and Legislative Advocacy
by Ruth E. Kifer
For one hundred years, the Virginia Library Association has developed and improved library and information services for Virginia citizens. A nonpartisan organization, VLA is composed of libraries, librarians, library trustees, library friends, and other interested individuals from across the state. In addition to advancing literacy, promoting lifelong learning, supporting open access to information, and providing staff development and training, VLA supports all types of libraries—college, university, public, and special—through involvement in the local and state political decision-making process. The association does this through the work of the Legislative Committee and the Legislative Liaison.
During this year's General Assembly session, the committee and liaison worked extremely hard on behalf of libraries and library concerns. The committee, co-chaired by John Moorman and Gerald McKenna, monitored legislative initiatives, educated and provided necessary information about library issues to our legislators, kept the library community informed, and sought help from VLA members as needed. As usual, VLA's legislative efforts have been successful! The General Assembly provided for a $300,000 increase in state aid for public libraries, defeated Internet filtering legislation, and declined to introduce public library certification legislation. These matters, important to all libraries and friends of libraries, involve complex and at times controversial issues, and the Legislative Committee's advocacy has been a powerful force in reaching reasonable compromises. I know I speak for the entire membership when I express our sincere thanks to the 2005 VLA Legislative Committee and Legislative Liaison for once again working so effectively on behalf of our interests.
If you have not been involved in advocacy activities at the state or national level and would like to participate in this essential function of the association, I urge you to become informed regarding legislative issues and libraries by visiting www.vla.org and www.ala.org/washoff. Please review the VLA Legislative Agenda for 2005 and consider ways that you can be involved in supporting the 2006 Agenda. The Legislative Committee coordinates the VLA presence at the annual Legislative Reception in Richmond, and your presence there is always needed. Also, you may want to learn more about the work of the Washington Office of the American Library Association. Each year, ALA holds a National Legislative Day (most recently, on May 4, 2005). This is an excellent introduction to legislative and advocacy functions of both associations at the national level. These and other opportunities are waiting for you to become involved and learn more about state and national legislative matters that have an impact on our profession. We need your leadership in this arena, and you will be most gratified by the experience!
A final note: this election year, we will be electing a new governor in Virginia. As in the past, VLA will request statements from the gubernatorial candidates regarding their political views on library and information access issues. Please look for these statements in an upcoming issue of the VLA Newsletter. As always, your active and informed participation in the electoral process is important to the strength and vitality of the Commonwealth, and your advocacy efforts can help to ensure that education and library issues remain priorities.