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July/August/September, 2005
Volume 51, Number 3

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A Particular Perspective: Our Editors Speak

by Cy Dillon and C. A. Gardner

Dean Burgess

Dean Burgess

In the past thirty-five years, fifteen VLA members have served as editor or coeditor of the association’s primary publication, titled, as nearly as we can determine, Virginia Libraries, News Letter, Virginia Library Bulletin, Virginia Librarian, Virginia Librarian Newsletter, Virginia Librarian a second time, and, to close the circle, Virginia Libraries. In spite of the title’s sorry reputation among serials catalogers, the journal has prospered during this time, reflecting the vitality, diversity, and resilience of the Commonwealth’s library community. The current editors have asked all the previous editors we have been able to contact to join us in sharing their editorial experiences with our readers in this centennial issue. Some of us have been brief; some have, with perfectly good justification, rambled. We hope that, in the variety of voices presented here, our audience will find valuable insights into the nature and history of both the magazine and our sponsoring association.

We begin with the narrative of Dean Burgess, a retired public librarian, VLA Past President, and author.

"He would call me in the middle of the night (sometimes a little in his cups) to admonish me that the journal should be more radical."

Dean Burgess, Editor, Virginia Librarian, 1970–73

“My tenure at Virginia Librarian was in a turbulent time. My predecessor was Dick Burns, a firebrand of the national revolts of the 1960s, who reluctantly turned the journal over to me in 1970. He trusted me only because I was a hanger-on in what would become the Junior Members Roundtable. He would call me in the middle of the night (sometimes a little in his cups) to admonish me that the journal should be more radical.

“The production of the journal was completely paid for at that time by the Ruszicka Bindery in North Carolina, but, as printing became more expensive, they were having second thoughts about their sponsorship. I made trips to keep them on board for as long as I could, but finally they withdrew their support completely from all state journals. Costs seemed so high that the Executive Board (there was no VLA Council then) wanted to convert the journal into a single-sheet newsletter, but I convinced them to simply reduce it somewhat and add the word ‘Newsletter’ to the title. Happily, that did not last all that long, and the old Virginia Librarian title reemerged in the 1980s.

“VLA dues apparently needed to be increased. The real substance of the debate, however, was whether VLA could afford to continue the journal as a scholarly piece with substantive articles, reviews, and editorials indexed in Library Literature, rather than just news snippets, new hires, and obituaries for internal consumption. We won that one.

“Looking back at the old issues, I see we had a large staff, and we were a happy brother- and sisterhood. I wish there was room to name them all, but they all went on to prominence in the association later, on their own. Some of the issues that got the blood boiling were the introduction of ‘The Library Bill of Rights’ and the fight against censorship during the backlash of the 1970s. What constitutes pornography was the question in the courts in Virginia and at the library shelves. ‘Crazy Fred’ Glazer put VLA’s Library Week on the national stage, but made a profit in the process (tut, tut). We aired the Ellis Hodgins firing and the question of ‘intellectual freedom’ for librarians. We take our activism for granted now, but then we still debated whether library associations and librarians should be proactive on social issues. Federal aid to public libraries was introduced in the early 1960s. By the 1970s, it was a major budget supplement, and state aid was negligible. As federal aid began to decline, however, state aid had to be invigorated to replace it. Automation was first being introduced. It is hard to imagine it was a matter of controversy, but it was, and there were haves and havenots. Librarian licensing was introduced in the late 1940s, but was still a matter of debate in all kinds of libraries (we had no library school, after all). Standards for service were also being invigorated, and not everyone loved that idea (particularly school and public libraries). Academic librarians were fighting for faculty status. Interlibrary loan versus protecting the big university collections was an issue. Audiovisual materials were coming into their own (now some of that looks like buggy whips). In this ‘right to work’ state, the forming of ‘staff associations’ got us going as well. It was a fun time to be editor, and I too laid down the pen reluctantly.”

End if section

Dean’s successor, the aptly named Henry James Jr., was the library director at Sweet Briar. The late Dr. James was a Yale graduate with ties to the Kennedy family. In fact, he wrote his dissertation on President Kennedy. After retiring from Sweet Briar, James returned to New Haven, where he volunteered in the house libraries at Yale. He was honored with a VLA Life Membership in 1982.

Marilyn Norstedt, who took over from James, is also deceased. She was a nationally known serials cataloger at Virginia Tech, serving as an exchange librarian in both Albania and New Zealand. Norstedt was quite active in the American Library Association’s Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, and was recognized by the ALA for her “contributions to the profession of librarianship and her service to the Association.”

Mary C. Grafton became editor in 1978. As you can see from the detail and scope of her comments, Grafton is an accomplished writer with a superb memory. She currently writes for a Richmond consulting firm.

Mary C. Grafton, Editor, Virginia Librarian Newsletter, 1978–83

“At the invitation of then-VLA president Nolan Yelich, I agreed to become editor of the Virginia Librarian in 1978. It was a job that turned out to last six years. But having the good fortune to work with the association’s leaders during some remarkable years was one of the more rewarding parts of my professional career as a librarian.

“As some of you may recall, 1978 was not altogether the best year for America. Jimmy Carter was presiding over a nation suffering from a severely slumping economy, Californians were busy approving Proposition 13 (slashing property taxes along with public services), and some 900 American followers of cult leader Jim Jones committed mass suicide in the jungles of South America. It was the year of some dark movie classics, like Midnight Express and The Deer Slayer.

“For VLA, however, the mood was optimistic. VLA was emerging a stronger organization as a result of the notorious ‘reorganization’ and dues hike of the mid-70s. And in 1978 the association was establishing policies and programs for future generations: it was Virginia Library Jobline’s first year of operation, VLA Council was pursuing 501c(3) tax status for the association, and the whole statewide library community was charged with anticipation of the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Library and Information Services set for March 1979 in preparation for the national White House conference in September 1979.

“Fred Heath came to the VLA presidency in the fall of 1978, and it was under the leadership of his council that VLA cosponsored the Governor’s Conference on Library and Information Services. Thinking back on this event gives me pause as I consider which conference resolutions have become reality and which have not. Funding of library services was a central issue, with delegates supporting full funding of the state-aid formula by the General Assembly and the appropriation of library construction funds from local, state, and federal sources. Yet they soundly rejected the concept of charging fees to pay for library services. Other recommendations and concerns included:

  • improved networking and interlibrary cooperation, uniform bibliographic standards, and the use of automated systems
  • preservation of public records and private papers
  • quality of library services (some delegates favored a statewide public library card)
  • expansion of service to unserved regions of Virginia, as well as better library access for the handicapped
  • more library instruction programs in schools
  • involvement of libraries in solving the nation’s literacy problem
  • continuing education and training programs for librarians, volunteers, and paraprofessional library staff (including the establishment of a graduate library school in Virginia)
  • development of a means of re-certification for practicing librarians.

“Certainly some things have not changed since 1979. VLA still lobbies for improved funding, and we still have no graduate library school or statewide public library card. But libraries have made valiant strides in serving the handicapped and supporting literacy programs. And the state’s Computer/Technology Standards of Learning now require public school students to be able to perform research using a variety of electronic resources. Perhaps the most dramatic change has been technology’s impact on resource sharing, preservation of historical documents, and access to library services.

“When I think of the Governor’s Conference of 1979, I am reminded of a comment made by then-State Librarian Donald Haynes. It was at a meeting of the conference Resolutions Committee, when one of our members innocently asked what we thought would be the biggest issue for America’s libraries in twenty-five years. We happily tossed out predictions, and then someone said, ‘Privacy.’ Don slapped his palm on the table and said, ‘That’s it—privacy will be the issue!’ He couldn’t have known why or how it would come about, but he sure got it right.

“To be sure, covering and participating in the Governor’s Conference was an exciting beginning for me as editor. But looking back at my entire term of service from 1978 through 1983, I am amazed at what other contributions the organization made in just six years. It was during this time that VLA first turned to a professional advocate (J. William Doswell) to spearhead the association’s legislative campaigns. The association celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in style in 1980 at a glamorous Richmond gala. VLA played a prominent role in encouraging and promoting educational opportunities for both professionals and paraprofessionals. In the early ’80s, Catholic University began to offer graduate library science courses in Virginia, and the Virginia residents became eligible to earn graduate degrees from ten out-of-state universities at in-state rates. The Paraprofessional Forum was formed to provide continuing education and statewide networking for ‘nonprofessional’ library staff. Other groups, like the Two-Year College Forum, were established to serve major constituencies with needs not directly addressed previously.

“Don slapped his palm on the table and said, ‘That’s it — privacy will be the issue!’”

“It was during this time that VLA found itself in serious financial straits, but under Betty Wooldridge’s able leadership, VLA met the crisis head on, opting to turn to an Alexandria association management firm, Publishers Services, to help put VLA back on its feet. An additional boost during this time was the founding of the political action committee, Friends of Virginia Libraries.

“Several censorship cases kept the VLA Intellectual Freedom Committee busy in the early ’80s, especially two:

  • The Virginia Beach Public Library’s stand to defend its right to serve as distribution site for Our Own, a community newsletter published for homosexuals
  • The Washington County Public Library’s stand against a local minister’s censorship attempt (to remove Bloodline, Lonely Lady, and Goodbye, Columbus from the library shelves), a stand that gained national acclaim when it was covered by CBS correspondent Ed Bradley and a film crew from 60 Minutes.

“Also in the early ’80s, during the terms of Gordon Bechanan and Dean Burgess, VLA put a tremendous amount of time and energy into three particular issues: the creation of a union catalog containing the resources of all types of Virginia libraries (many of you may remember COM catalogs and CAVALIR), the passage by the General Assembly of the Statewide Commission on Library networking, and the controversy surrounding the threatened end of state certification for professional librarians.

“Throughout these years, interwoven in all that the association did, was VLA’s proactive position on the technological revolution of libraries in Virginia. In 1979, when computerized databases were new tools for reference librarians, VLA formed the Machine Assisted Reference Service (MARS) Forum for the exchange of ideas and continuing education opportunities for reference librarians in this burgeoning technology. In 1980, the VLA annual conference featured Jean-Paul Emard, of the Library of Congress, speaking on the impact of new communication technology on European libraries, with emphasis on videotext; and Tom Harnish, of OCLC, presenting The Source, a new timesharing database service available to libraries, homes, and businesses. The 1981 conference attendants heard Vinod Chachra, then-Assistant Provost for Planning at Virginia Tech, stress the importance of strong local systems and their place in larger networking systems, the importance of national standards in library technology, and the need for an effective statewide govern-ance structure for library networking. VLA members worked hard in 1982 on their initiative to establish a statewide library network, with Ricky Johnson, Dean Burgess, and Vinod Chachra authoring white papers on network governance, network funding, and network structure, respectively. Microcomputers took center stage at the pre-conference of the 1982 annual conference, when speaker Richard Boss, of Information System Consultants in Maryland, surveyed the field of library-related software (including CLSI, DataPhase, and MINIMARC) and encouraged library staff members to explore the use of business-related technologies such as VisiCalc, Statistics 3.0, and WordStar. At the same conference, a panel of Virginia librarians explained how they were using microcomputers to access reference database services such as DIALOG to create their own small databases for library-specific information, such as AV collections, and to perform cataloging, acquisitions, and circulation functions. Based on that panel’s reports, it appears that Apple products dominated Virginia libraries then, although IBM, Osbourne, and Kaypro computers were also on the scene. VLA responded to new technology not only at conference programs, but also through the establishment of new forums such as the Technical Services, Automation and Resources Forum (TSAR) and the Forum on Microcomputers. Today, everything prior to the web seems like the Dark Ages, but at the time the technology was awe-inspiring, and VLA was at the forefront.

“I am painfully aware that looking back on my years as editor is probably far more interesting to me than to anyone else. Yet I hope that this brief chronicle will impress on the Virginia library community how much the VLA councils and members accomplished in this now mostly unsung span of time. The good health of the association, and of Virginia libraries today, is in part the legacy of the vision and determination those colleagues brought to VLA more than twenty years ago.”

End if section

After Grafton’s substantial tenure, Alan Zoellner became editor. Alan, on the staff at Swem Library of William and Mary, is recognized as one of our best government documents librarians.

Alan Zoellner, Editor, Virginia Librarian Newsletter, 1984–86

Alan Zoellner

Alan Zoellner

“While serving as a staff member of the Virginia Librarian Newsletter, I remember being astonished by what it cost to publish a slender six- to eight-page issue. In those days (late 1970s) the newsletter was being edited in Ashland and published in Alexandria. When I realized I would be named the next editor-in-chief, my first challenge was figuring out how to cut per-page costs to allow for expansion of coverage. I was working at Hampden-Sydney College at the time and renting a two-bedroom, two-story townhouse apartment for $100 per month. I was living my answer. Deep Throat whispered, ‘Follow the money.’ I would follow the absence of money. So publication services were moved from Alexandria to Meherrin, Virginia, and the publication doubled in size. It was an early example of outsourcing services to the third world.

“My first issue as editor of Virginia Librarian Newsletter was Volume 30, Number 1, January–February 1984. In the issue were articles about how to establish good rapport with legislators, how to get everyone to agree on the goals of library networking and resource sharing, how to achieve full funding for public libraries, and all the legal details about a VLA-ACLU Freedom of Information lawsuit opposing restrictions on access to unclassified government information. Now, twenty-one years later, it looks like Sisyphus is still rolling the rock up Library Hill.

“As editor, I would attend all meetings of the VLA Council, including the executive committee meetings the day before. I shared the rides to Charlottesville with Christie Vernon and Harriet Henderson, who each served as vice-president/president-elect, president, and then past president. Christie and Harriet would debate the library issues of the day. Unable to get a word in, I would doze in the back seat.

“VLA officers at that time, I think, were chosen for their ability to endure endless meetings and still party deep into the night. People like Christie, Harriet, Lynn (Scotty) Cochrane, Fran Freimarck, Tim Byrne, Dean Burgess, and John Stewart were tough to keep up with. After the Friday council meetings, on the long drive back to Williamsburg/Newport News, Christie and Harriet would debate the issues that arose during the meeting. I would sleep it off in the back seat.

“One of the best aspects of being editor of a library publication is the opportunity to brush elbows with major writers. At the 1984 annual conference in Norfolk, novelist Mary Lee Settle was the featured speaker. During her talk, she revealed that a character in her work-in-progress (Celebration) had just acquired his name because she overheard a librarian referring to the State Networking Users Advisory Council by its acronym. She said, ‘There’s a man on the top floor of a fictional house on Primrose Hill in London, and I never knew his last name. I knew he was Mr. Abdul something. And I just wrote it down. His name is Mr. Abdul Snuac.’ I guess sometimes art imitates life imperfectly. I never got around to reading that book, so I just looked it up some twenty years later. The only Abdul I could find was a Mr. Abdul Selim. So I guess VLA can’t take credit for naming a character in a Mary Lee Settle novel, or disclosing a trivial tidbit for a future biographer.

“Headline writing is always an imperfect art. I wrote this one in Volume 30, Number 6: ‘Panel Assesses User Fees at General Sessions I and II.’ No wonder the attendance was so disappointing at those annual conference general sessions in the 1980s!

“Now, twenty-one years later, it looks like Sisyphus is still rolling the rock up Library Hill.”

“As editor, I attended many meetings—VLA Council and Executive Committee, Library Advisory Committee of the Council of Higher Education, the Board for the Certification of Librarians, the aforementioned State Networking Users Advisory Council (which later became a board), and the State Library Board. The government meetings were always open to the public, unless reverting to executive session for personnel matters. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Library Board meetings were held in the State Librarian’s Office. The board members would sit around a conference table and I, as an observer, would sit in an easy chair across the room. The office door would be closed and the secretary would knock before entering with a desired document. I remember thinking these were rather shady conditions for government in the sunshine.

“My last issue as editor of Virginia Librarian Newsletter was Volume 32, Number 6, November–December 1986. The bimonthly publication was about to split, like a successful stock or a sex-starved amoeba, into a monthly newsletter and a quarterly journal. In her final column, outgoing VLA President Harriet Henderson described the change as ‘an effort to communicate more information more rapidly to our members.’ In those pre-Internet days, getting information into the hands of the membership within two months was considered rapid information dissemination. Mr. Jefferson would have been impressed.”

End if section

Izabela M. Cieszynski, who continues to serve VLA with great energy and dedication, became editor of the renamed Virginia Librarian in 1987.

Izabela M. Cieszynski, Editor, Virginia Librarian, 1987–88

“It’s been a while since I was editor, following, I believe, Alan Zoellner. I do remember the feeling of being somewhat overwhelmed by the task, wondering how I was going to find contributors. But never fear, contributors are not hard to find. The editorial board set themes for the issues, and this was the key to the success of the journal for the year. Selecting themes that would be of interest to the readership drove the editorial board discussions, and, I believe, helped in directing our search—and once a topic was selected, the search began immediately for possible contributors. Topics covered during those years included cooperative library projects, buildings, staffing concerns, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission report regarding the library collection at the Alderman Library at the University of Virginia, automation, and rural libraries. Annual coverage of the VLA conference was automatically included. It is interesting to note that most of the topics covered in those issues are still of high interest to the library community, though a few are no longer the burning issues they once were.

“Editorial board members included Pat Anderson, Carolyn Barkley, Sue Hegarty, Jennilou Grotevant, Dan Ream, Nancy Marshall, and Carolyn Powell. Ensuring that the editorial board reflected the many kinds of libraries was critical to ensuring that the selected themes covered the varied interests of the association membership. One of the most important requirements for being on the board was the ability to carefully proof the articles. It’s amazing what could get through were it not for the eagle eyes of the board.”

End if section

Editing copy is a challenge we have all faced, and the next pair of editors, Dan Ream and Lucretia McCulley, were not only careful readers, but also drew good writers to the publication because of their wide range of contacts.

Dan Ream and Lucretia McCulley, Coeditors, Virginia Librarian, 1993–95

“During our coeditorship, we enacted a number of editorial changes, such as moving away from theme issues to focusing on a greater diversity of library types and regions in the state. Jon Marken, whose firm, Lamp-Post Publicity in Farmville, handled our printing, was a tremendous help in redesigning the look of the issues, with brighter colors, and eventually photographs, on the covers. We incorporated more interviews with library staff and those whose work affected libraries, such as Jim Rettig on Distinguished Classics of Reference Publishing; Ray Frantz, long-time director of the University of Virginia Libraries, upon his retirement; UVA’s then-new Electronic Text Center Director David Seaman on their innovative electronic publishing and research facilities; State Librarian John Tyson; Robert Vaughan, President of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and Public Policy; and others. John Kneebone of the Library of Virginia was a tremendous help in the redesigned ‘Virginia Books’ review section. We were also pleased to finally get Virginia Libraries indexed by Library Literature so that more librarians and library science students worldwide could learn about the excellent work coming from Virginia’s talented library staff.”

End if section

Speaking of Jon Marken, we have asked the multitalented designer, editor, and author to describe his experiences with our journal. He has always been a thoughtful and dedicated collaborator who brings out the best in our work.

Jon Marken, Graphic Designer, Virginia Librarian & Virginia Libraries, 1988–present

“Nearly twenty years of work on VLA publications have spoiled me. Clients don’t get any better.

“In 1984 I left an instructorship in the VCU English Department and began work in the publications office of Hampden-Sydney College, primarily as a writer but also as a fledgling graphic designer. The director of the office, Richard McClintock, took on a few outside projects, including Virginia Librarian, as it was called then.

“Four years later I left Hampden-Sydney to establish my own freelance business, Lamp-Post Publicity. One of my early clients was Sandy Heinemann of Hampden-Sydney’s Eggleston Library; she was then editor of the VLA newsletter. At some point Virginia Librarian left Hampden-Sydney’s publications office, but I made a pitch to get it back.

“The design I inherited had its problems, so I was pleased when coeditors Lucretia McCulley and Dan Ream asked me to redesign it in 1992. I worked hard to make the new design simple yet elegant, with a highly readable typeface and ample white space between columns.

“The editors have often allowed me a hand in choosing the pull-quotes, a task I thoroughly enjoy. The trick is to move past the dry summary sentences and dig out an intriguing one, almost a teaser, to make the casual reader throw up her hands and say, ‘Okay, okay, I’ll stop and read.’

“The journal took another step forward with the first issue of 2003, when editor Barbie Selby pushed for better treatment of photographs, citing prominent magazines as examples of what she wanted. I removed the borders, added subtle drop shadows, and developed a style with key portions of the pictures protruding from their boxes.

“I seldom do projects I enjoy as much as Virginia Libraries. The substantive articles are worth the effort to present elegantly, and the pictures are nearly always first-rate, especially those of special events by Pierre Courtois. Most important, every editor, without exception, has been a pleasure to work with. I applaud the Virginia Library Association for its dedication to top-quality publications.”

End if section

Cy Dillon’s first tour as editor came immediately after Dan and Lucretia’s. If you read the publication in the late 1990s, you will not be surprised that he begins with a quotation from a poet.

Cy Dillon, Editor, Virginia Libraries, 1996–2000, & Coeditor, 2004–present

Imagining little, he received more than he could have imagined.

—Dabney Stuart, from “Traveling Light,” in The Man Who Loves Cezanne (LSU Press, 2004)

“Looking back at the 1996 issues of Virginia Libraries, I was amused to see that four of the six of us on the Editorial Board listed the email address. This points out the truth in Sandy Treadway’s statements about the Library of Virginia’s efforts to assist the whole library community in the Commonwealth, and it makes it quite clear that the past decade has been a mad, and often delightful, dash of change in the world of libraries and information technology. Was it less than a decade ago that our campus developed dependable email? Editing this publication from 1996 to 2000, and coediting it with gifted author and editor C. A. Gardner for the past two years, has provided me the best seat in the house for viewing the varied and remarkable successes of friends and colleagues. It has been an education, and shows no signs of becoming dull anytime soon.

The VLA Publications Committee

The VLA Publications Committee gathers at an annual conference.

“Linda Farynk, VLA President in 1995, led the Executive Committee to change the name of the Virginia Librarian, and to affirm the change in emphasis that this implied for the association as a whole. This move toward inclusion was not without controversy, and Linda Farynk and Becky Laine, Publications Committee Chair, asked me to become editor when Dan Ream and Lucretia McCulley decided not to continue. The former editors were both gracious and effective, and the transition was not difficult, beginning a run of good fortune that allowed us to publish dozens of substantial and timely articles in a bit over four years. Most of the credit for this success goes to the Editorial Board, who recruited and encouraged the best writing.

“…the past decade has been a mad, and often delightful, dash of change in the world of libraries and information technology.”

“The late 1990s were a time of great progress in the technology of libraries, and also a key period in the history of VLA. The magazine covered the early development of VIVA, the opening of the new Library of Virginia, LVA’s development of shared electronic resources for public libraries, the creation of ILLiad, the inclusion of Virginia Libraries on Wilson’s Omnifile database, the creation of the VLA webpage and Jobline as electronic resources, the inclusion of Virginia Libraries in Virginia Tech’s Scholarly Information Project, and the rise of the Internet as both an essential library resource and a target for censorship. We even began a column by Scott Silet to review the best free websites. John Kneebone, Julie Campbell, and other writers from the Library of Virginia steadily improved the quality of the ‘Virginia Reviews’ section so that it became the best source anywhere for reviews of books on Virginia history. At the same time, Pierre Courtois began documenting more and more key events for VLA, and he eventually migrated to digital photography. Recognizing the value of a photographic archive, the Publications Committee began to collect Pierre’s work, and some of the results can be seen in this commemorative issue.

“We did not cover the reorganization of VLA’s management that began when the council uncovered dire financial problems. Our budget was very tight for two years, and we kept the magazine’s size smaller than the forty pages of our most recent issue. Thanks to the work and dedication of Linda Hahne, who took over as Executive Director, and the careful attention of an exceptional group of officers, the association has returned to a sound financial footing. The VLA Foundation aims to make that soundness permanent by establishing a million-dollar endowment to fund the association’s key activities: scholarships, library advocacy, continuing education, and awards.

“As someone who came to librarianship by an unusual, and not always accepted path, I have been constantly energized by the vitality and passion of Virginia’s library community. I have learned more and been given the opportunity to serve in more ways than I would have thought possible in 1985 when I was asked to take over management of Stanley Library for a year or two until we could improve student satisfaction with our services. The best part of the intervening years has been working with our students and faculty, but a close second has been working with this publication. It has introduced me to a vibrant group of people—library staff, advocates, authors, even vendors—convinced that their work adds richness to the life of their community. I am very appreciative of the opportunity.”

End if section

In the spring of 2000, Andrea Kross took over as editor. Andrea was both an excellent writer, producing an important article on VLA history, and an astute editor, attracting excellent contributors.

Andrea Kross, Editor, Virginia Libraries, 2000–01

“I was probably the most irreverent editor of Virginia Libraries. I was always interested in articles that would be fun to read, or fun to find out about. I was delighted to discover that being VL’s editor allowed me to attend the VLA Paraprofessional Forum’s conference in 2000 to report on their activities, because I had heard so many positive things about it—and they all turned out to be true. The fact that I had a really good time there is quite beside the point! Many of the articles from my tenure as editor fall within this same theme of fun: the beginning of the All Virginia Reads program in 2000, which convinced me to read William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice; the fiercely fought Battle of the Books at Longwood College; the valiant efforts of the Cheap Stunts Committee to build staff morale in Arlington County; the thrills of teaching a twenty-five-hour engineering resources course in Barcelona to students who don’t speak English; and Barbie Selby’s trepidant trip to Russia. Patricia Muller’s article (Volume 46, Number 3, July–September 2000) on the benefits of reading aloud to children and babies made a huge impression on me; I have referred many parents to this article over the years, and chapter books are now my gift of choice for new babies.

“I grew up in western Canada in the 1970s and was shocked by this discovery when I was researching VLA's history…”

“The editorial board made sure that serious articles came my way, too; and 2000–01 were eventful years for libraries in Virginia. The General Assembly granted $3.7 million to the Infopowering the Commonwealth project, quadrupling previous funding. This was a huge success for VLA, and a boon for public libraries that could not otherwise afford new computer equipment or Internet connections. Virginia’s General Assembly also approved the establishment of a Freedom of Information office and passed the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), which threatened our traditional concepts of copyright. The first Virginia Library History Award was presented to Kevin J. Hayes for his amazing reconstruction of William Byrd’s eighteenth-century library in Charles City County, and the Virginia Heritage Project made great strides in creating a new database of African American history and culture.

“Much has changed in the last one hundred years. We value people more now, I’m glad to say. It wasn’t that long ago when racial issues had a huge impact on something as simple as reserving a space for a library conference. I grew up in western Canada in the 1970s and was shocked by this discovery when I was researching VLA’s history for the first Virginia Libraries issue of the new century in 2001. In that same issue, we were reminded that it also wasn’t that long ago, only 1979, when paraprofessionals were granted approval by VLA to form a paraprofessional forum. Inclusion is what makes the Virginia Library Association strong, just as it makes Virginia’s libraries strong. Virginia Libraries brings VLA members together by giving everyone a voice—and an ear. Happy birthday, Virginia Libraries, and many more!”

End if section

“I changed the VLA Newsletter from pink to grey—for about four issues—then, by popular outcry, I changed it back to pink.”

Barbie Selby of the University of Virginia and Earlene Viano of Hampton Public Library served as the next coeditors. Barbie came to the job with editing experience.

Barbie Selby, Coeditor, Virginia Libraries, 2002–03

“Much of my involvement in VLA has come through editing its publications—first the VLA Newsletter (1989–1990), and then Virginia Libraries (2001–2003). Here are a few highlights of my tenure.

  • I changed the VLA Newsletter from pink to grey—for about four issues—then, by popular outcry, I changed it back to pink.
  • I printed something—I can no longer remember what—that offended a nationally known Virginia librarian who let me know in no uncertain terms that s/he was offended. I believe that was in my second issue of the VLA Newsletter. I was mortified and frightened.
  • I guest-edited an issue of Virginia Libraries (Volume 44, Number 3, July–September 1998) on government documents. Lots of fun. Photos I took appeared on the cover and inside—a published photographer!
  • Earlene Viano and I worked with Jon Marken to slightly tweak the design and layout for Virginia Libraries.
  • Several members of the Publications Committee met at the Library of Virginia back around 2002 and began reviewing the VLA archives for use during 2005—our centennial. Quite interesting, enlightening, and entertaining to see old minutes taken on scraps of paper and the like. Not as many old photos as we had hoped.
  • Participating in the ALA Chapter Editor’s Group and learning from colleagues doing similar publications from around the country.
  • Mostly getting more involved in VLA activities and getting to know librarians from around the state and from different types of libraries—that was the highlight.”
End if section

By 2004, Cy Dillon realized that he missed the contact with librarians and writers that goes with working on Virginia Libraries. At the same time, C. A. Gardner was also interested in the job, and was willing to share the responsibility. As Lyn explains, it has been a successful partnership.

C. A. Gardner, Coeditor, Virginia Libraries, 2004–present

Nan Seamans and Gail McMillian at the computer.

Nan Seamans and Gail McMillian
of Virginia Tech put
Virginia Libraries online in 1996.

“Though I’ve only been coeditor since January 2004, I’ve greatly enjoyed the experience. I’ve had the chance to meet or communicate with many in the library world whom natural shyness would have ordinarily prevented me from knowing; moreover, I’ve learned much from the wide variety of experiences from the library profession shared within our pages. When Cy asked me to help provide regular interviews with Virginia authors, I jumped at the chance—what better way to connect authors and librarians than through Virginia Libraries? As author and avid reader, librarian and professional editor, I’ve found working on our journal to be extremely rewarding. I’ve been especially grateful to be paired with Cy, whose wide knowledge, experience, and contacts, as well as his encouraging and friendly manner, have often lifted my spirits and made this job so much easier.”

End if section

Virginia Libraries faces VLA’s second century with the backing of a strong organization, the oversight of a representative and active Editorial Board, exposure in a variety of electronic formats, interest from a diverse community of potential writers around Virginia, and two enthusiastic editors. Through all the titles and all the years, the various editors have maintained a belief in the value of libraries, a commitment to high standards, and a willingness to work with authors to deliver the best content available. Looking back or forward, it is more than we could ever have imagined.

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