Your Commitment Will Make Us Stronger
by Ruth E. Kifer
As VLA's centennial year draws to a close, the association is as strong as ever. The membership has remained stable over the past several years, gaining and dropping slightly from year to year, even in a time when many associations have experienced dramatic steady drops in membership. The recent 2005 annual conference drew close to 700 attendees, and the number of exhibitors was at an all time high. The VLA Foundation has made significant progress toward its initial fundraising goal as VLA members have rallied to make their donations to this new 501(c)(3) organization established to support the work of VLA. These signs that the association is alive and well are just what we want to see as we enter the second one hundred years of the life of VLA. We must be careful, though, not to assume that our work is done and that our past successes will move us forward on their own. Now, it is essential that all members make a commitment to make our profession stronger, the state association more effective, and libraries throughout the Commonwealth more relevant to the needs of our communities. What can you do to contribute to these efforts?
Make 2006 the year that you actively participate in a VLA committee or forum. Volunteer to be a member of the scholarship committee, the legislative committee, the academic section, the intellectual freedom forum, or any of the many other units within VLA. Active participation takes time, work, and involving yourself in an activity that you may not have experienced before. It means that you may have to move from your comfort zone and that you may have to give up some personal time for the betterment of the association. However, your contributions will help build a stronger Virginia library community, and you will find that the personal rewards you gain will far outweigh the work involved.
Another way that you can contribute to the strength of the association is to decide that this year you will participate in the state and national legislative day activities. Meeting with your elected representatives to discuss the need for library-friendly legislation is something that only you can do effectively. It is a way that you can make a difference even beyond your own local library community. If you have been a regular attendee at annual conferences and regional workshops, this may be the year that you decide to participate in planning those activities to best suit the needs of library staff that you know. All of the VLA regions need the energy and fresh ideas of new members, so consider this as one of your New Year's resolutions.
Have you contributed an article to Virginia Libraries in the recent past? If not, 2006 may be the year that you write the article on the topic you have wanted to share with colleagues in Virginia. Or is there some new initiative that you would like to see VLA embark upon? If so, VLA needs your ideas and expertise to get it off the ground. Do you know people in your library who do not belong to VLA? VLA needs you to serve as our ambassador to spread the word to those who may not know about the many benefits and rewards awaiting them once they join VLA.
If you are one of the many individuals who have made your contribution to the VLA Foundation, please consider spreading the word to fellow library staff, trustees, friends, library users, and others. Inform others about the need for the foundation and how the foundation supports the work of the association. If you have not made your contribution yet, make 2006 the year that you begin to support the foundation with your financial contribution.
How you decide to strengthen your commitment to VLA is a personal decision that you must make. I know from experience that the more I have committed myself to VLA and the profession, the more I have received in personal rewards. Take some time and think about your special gifts and how you can build a stronger VLA by contributing part of yourself to the association. You can make a real difference!