2005 VLA Conference
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19
Preconference — What's on Your Shelves? Library Collections for Children
Panelists: Phyllis Haislip, author of Lottie's Courage and Anybody's Hero; Sue Corbett, children's book reviewer, Miami Herald, and author of 12 Again and Free Baseball; Patricia Muller, Children's Consultant, Library of Virginia; Lorraine Bartlett, Willow Oaks Branch Manager, Hampton Public Library; and Noreen Bernstein, Youth Services Director, Williamsburg Regional Library
Keynote Address: Claudia Mills, author of the Gus and Gramps series and this year's Virginia Young Readers Winner, 7 x 9 = Trouble!; with an introduction by Ellen Stamper, editorial director for HarperFestival
In a panel discussion that ranged from the rise of children's popular series fiction in the 1920s to the ethics of modern young adult fiction, panelists shared their experiences and frustrations with building a strong children's collection while providing what patrons most want to read. Helpful handouts included "Free Access to Libraries for Minors: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights," "Indicators of Quality," and "Censorship vs. Selection."
Lorraine Bartlett began the discussion with an overview of the development of popular children's fiction series. When Edward Stratemeyer founded the Hardy Boys (1927) and Nancy Drew (1930) series, most librarians banned them, thinking that such works kept children from reading good literature. On the infamous "Not To Be Circulated" list, out of one hundred titles and sixty-four authors, one-fifth were published by Stratemeyer. Early on, one of the chief guidelines for evaluating a children's book was "whether a literary-minded adult would enjoy it." Series fiction was thought to contain questionable morals and unrealistic characters; the involvement of the supernatural was a further strike against it. (Interestingly, these same arguments have been used against Goosebumps and Harry Potter.) By the 1960s and 1970s, the industry focused on realism for children — everything had a cause, providing social and political commentary and mature themes. Articles in library literature bemoaned a loss of innocence and shorter childhoods, with children not being protected from the real world by books. There has thus been a long history of struggle between popularity and quality. One of the arguments in favor of popular series is that at least children are learning to enjoy reading. Yet what is popular is often poorly written or stereotypical, and even of poor physical quality. Does the library exist to cater to popular tastes or to uplift the mind? What happens if a large percentage of the community doesn't find what it needs or wants in the collection? One must try to balance popularity with quality, and select the best quality possible from what is popular.
Sue Corbett told the audience that among the books she reviews, she's seeing a domination of what will sell in the chain stores. It's disturbing to find licensed characters such as Barbie in books promoted as "school readers" replacing classics like Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad. Indeed, licensed characters and series spin-offs seem to make up the majority of paperbacks. Not all are badly written, but when many do not even include the real author's name, one can tell the publisher isn't thinking about quality. There has also been a recent glut of celebrity books, many of which are drivel and difficult to read. There are a few good celebrity authors, such as Jamie Lee Curtis and John Lithgow. But even if some are excellent, most of these books aren't coming from people trained to work in children's literature, with any knowledge of what children need or what a childlike point of view entails. Another disturbing trend is the increasingly blurry line between young adult and adult fiction. One editor has said that there are no taboos anymore. Publishers want to push the borders, and sexual content is now acceptable; with sexually active middle school students, to ignore the situation is to be irrelevant.
This topic provided a natural segue into Phyllis Haislip's concerns. Moral and ethical issues in young adult and children's literature abound — but the consequences of unethical behavior often seem to be lacking. Further, reviewers and book jackets fail to mention topics that might disturb readers, such as self-mutilation, incest, and suicide. Though there has been much attention paid to sex and violence, there are other things that cause concern. In Olive's Ocean, the heroine repeatedly lies to her mother about important issues such as her near-drowning — for no reason, and without consequences. Lying and stealing are just part of the landscape in Chasing Vermeer, in which two children trying to save a Vermeer mistakenly steal another painting that isn't the one they're looking for — with no mention of returning it. The characters in these books feel no remorse and don't seem to realize that they've done anything wrong. Perhaps it might be a good idea to provide ratings, with explanations, for books as we do for movies.
Pat Muller then described the ethical aspect of selection policies. What values are needed for us to function effectively as librarians? Students don't leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolyard gate or the door of the library. When selecting titles, consider the developmental needs of the whole community and be inclusive, not exclusive. There's an incredible developmental spectrum between twelve and eighteen. Consider also whether the book has integrity. (Is the information accurate? Is the book non-exploitative and honest? Does it deal with real needs and issues and portray real people, not stereotypes?) If something is controversial, one needs to be able to explain why the book is part of the collection. Boy Meets Boy has a gay protagonist who's both the captain of the football team and the homecoming queen. The book deals with themes of love and caring, covering a wide range of relationships. Though there may be some lying and inappropriate behavior, the book treats real issues and characters with emotional depth, dealing with significant themes that kids care about. The best books are those that promote a positive self-image and a feeling of normalcy — a recognition that human feelings belong to all. It's also important that books allow readers to learn from experiences that we would never want children to have to deal with in real life — such as Speak, about a girl who must cope with being raped.
Noreen Bernstein spoke about the didactic nature of children's literature in the eighteenth century. These cautionary tales, intended to shape behavior, could be very extreme, such as the story of the child who told lies and then burned to death. The manner in which moral questions are treated in literature paints a picture of contemporary society. Children's literature boomed in the 1950s, partly fueled by the National Defense of Education Act, as educators fought to improve science and math skills in response to Sputnik. Literature soon followed suit, and people began to look critically at the white world of children's literature. Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society legislation provided multicultural focus and money for libraries. However, once the shopping malls and huge chain bookstores took over, the face of publishing changed. Big bookstores were replacing librarians and educators as the first contact between readers and publishers. The changing tax consequences of inventory drastically reduced the backlist, while the new emphasis on appealing to the public paved the way for domination by recognizable series. Of course, John Newbery knew the value of marketing back in the eighteenth century, when he included patented medicines in children's books. These days, Disney has created a whole generation that sees fairy tales in a certain way. Can our purchasing choices impact how many good versus bad books are published? Should we fill our shelves with Barbie just because that's what children want?
Ellen Stamper, editorial director for HarperFestival, spoke about the trend of packaging books with nonbook items. The practice goes back to Newbery himself, who combined instruction and amusement with such products as A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, which came with a ball for boys or a pincushion for girls. In 1951, Golden Books published Dr. Dan, the Bandage Man, complete with six bandages. Ancillary material can provide another way to amuse and educate a child, appealing to different learning styles. It is also an effective way to compete with other media that clamor for a child's attention — particularly in big stores like Wal-Mart, where the book has only seconds to grab the viewer's attention. Retailers have a certain amount of clout in what gets published, even to the extent of changing the way a book is illustrated. The challenge is to publish good books while struggling to get a backlist that will continue to sell. Children's publishers want to keep in touch with teachers and librarians, who know children's needs and can address holes in subject matter.
Claudia Mills's keynote address brought out the concept of a Children's Triangle: the ideal book should offer a convergence of quality, popularity, and ethics. It's very difficult to find a single book that addresses all these factors. Some beautifully written books may be ethically problematic, such as The Chocolate War, which is not only bleak and depressing, but also has characters who express a misogyny that's never addressed. Some works might be ethically exemplary or politically correct, but very formulaic, such as the trend of urban books that show every possible ethnicity working together. VOYA Journal has incorporated a two-point score for quality and popularity in their reviews; but this only measures the reviewer's prediction of popularity, and still lacks a category for ethics. Of course, this would be the most problematic to rate; just witness the difficulty in rating movies, in which a five-second glimpse of an earth mother's breast garners an "R," while a smutty movie that relies on allusions instead of bad words is rated "PG." Mills noted that it's important to reclaim an ethical dimension in literature, but that one should be sure to look at the whole context of the work. Lying without consequences is one thing, but one can't just count up examples of unethical behavior without looking at the work as a whole and considering both the voices of characters and the attitude of the implied author (the artistic sensibility behind the book). Does the book support or challenge the actions and attitudes of the characters? It's important as an author to strike a balance — to write the best book you can aesthetically, but also consider the message.
— C. A. Gardner, Hampton Public Library
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20
Opening General Session
VLA President Ruth Kifer opened the session with recognitions of the Conference Committee, chaired by Polly Khater, and Pat Howe's Anniversary Committee. The two combined to plan an exceptional experience for VLA's centennial.
John Moorman, director of the Williamsburg Regional Library and a leading library advocate, welcomed the attendees to Williamsburg, encouraging us, for the sake of the economy, to "take more than a little home with you."
Chris Marston, chair of the Library of Virginia Board, also welcomed the group, wishing the association a happy birthday. Marston indicated that he was pleased with the role LVA has played in supporting VLA and urged the attendees to "build on the partnership of all libraries." He recognized VLA's role in providing scholarships and upheld "Infopowering the Commonwealth" as a key advocacy issue for all of us this year. Marston concluded by saying that the recently completed Himmel & Wilson study of public libraries in the commonwealth should help us build a consensus about the -future.
The VLA Foundation announced gifts of $2,000 from the Southwestern Information Network Group (SWING) and $1,000 in the name of Cokie Roberts, the keynote speaker for this session.
Laura Speer, chair of the VLA Awards Committee, introduced Dr. George M. Van Sant, who was awarded lifetime membership in the association for his efforts on behalf of his local public library.
Then President Ruth Kifer introduced keynote speaker Cokie Roberts, recognized as one of the most respected broadcast reporters working today. Roberts is the author of Founding Mothers, a collection of stories about the women who helped our infant nation win the Revolutionary War.
Beginning with praise for the libraries and librarians who helped in her research, Roberts explained that the letters of Abigail and John Adams were the inspiration for her book. She recounted the "incredibly hard work" of finding the documents that told the stories she wanted to relate about the work of the women behind the scenes who "kept the Colonial Army together." She found historical treasures in "dusty boxes in the basements of historical societies" as well as in carefully kept archives.
Roberts shared some highlights of the book, including Martha Washington's role at Valley Forge, Deborah Franklin's success in running the Postal Service while Ben was in Europe, and the courage of literally thousands of women who went to war with the troops. These and other examples convinced the attendees that, as Abigail Adams wrote, "Patriotism among women is the most disinterested of -virtues."
After her remarks, Roberts allowed a generous portion of time for open questions from the audience. She discussed topics such as the chance of a woman being elected president and the replacement of Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Roberts, whose sincerity and openness appealed to everyone, received a standing ovation from the appreciative -audience.
— Cy Dillon, Stanley Library, Ferrum College
Did He Serve? Successfully Researching Civil War Military Records
Presenter: Carolyn L. Barkley, Virginia Beach Public Library; sponsored by the Local History Forum, Pat Cook, Chair
Carolyn Barkley summarized the four key points that researchers must keep in mind if they are to successfully research Civil War military records. These points include making sure that your ancestor was eligible to serve, verifying where he served, looking at the military records, and then viewing the pension files.
Using her own genealogical research as an example, Barkley walked the capacity audience through the various genealogical resources available, both print and electronic. She discussed both Northern and Southern resources and detailed the idiosyncrasies of searching each type of record. Barkley also identified the utility of one resource over another, as well as the most useful order in which to search the records.
The session concluded with a review of why developing a solid research strategy is the key to successfully locating genealogical information in Civil War military records. While the session was a whirlwind tour, Barkley capably demonstrated the richness of information available in those military and pension files for interested researchers.
— Susan M. Catlett, Perry Library, Old Dominion University
Scanning the Future
Presenters: George Needham, OCLC Vice President, Member Services, and Nancy Davenport, President, National Council on Library and Information Resources
George Needham opened the presentation with a review of the response to the "OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition" report of 2003. The project was intended to allow OCLC's stakeholders to "all be on the same page about the future," but it also became the basis of a book and of countless presentations.
For the scan, OCLC conducted hundreds of interviews with members of the library world, reviewed 300 articles, convened a variety of focus groups, and examined library and information spending for 29 countries comprising 60% of the world's population and 85% of its economic output. The resulting report looked at five "landscapes" — social, economic, technological, research and learning, and libraries.
As the technological landscape has changed, libraries can no longer assume that they are the sole sources of scarce information. Information is ubiquitous and inexpensive, but not necessarily organized. Among all the landscapes, three trends appear dominant: self-sufficiency, disaggregation, and collaboration.
Needham held up Google's desire to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" as a model response to the trend toward self-service. Information seekers want to get fast, free, and simple results. They also want just the piece of information they seek, so librarians cannot ignore the tendency toward disaggregation. According to Needham, "Convenience will always trump quality, so it is a librarian's job to make getting the answer convenient." Just as WorldCat has become searchable in a variety of other services, libraries need to have their web resources linked from other sites, offering speed and ease of access to their holdings.
Computer gamers were Needham's example of the tendency toward collaboration. They compete to score highest in complex games, but they readily share secrets and discoveries with the whole gaming community.
As their role evolves, libraries are challenged to become both physical and virtual "third spaces." That is, they are neither work nor home, but attractive places to learn and socialize.
Needham concluded by warning us to be wary of people's fondness for what they remember about libraries from the past. In spite of that past success, we must rethink our rules and habits, addressing the future head-on rather than letting it "happen to us."
Nancy Davenport responded to Needham's presentation by outlining four areas that libraries and librarians need to address in the next few years. First, she suggested that we turn around the familiar concern for the "library as place" and think of "place as library." In other words, we have to meet our users' needs where they are, physically and virtually.
Second, to make the most of resources while encouraging research, we need to consider scholarship and its cost. We specifically have to examine and help change how scholars communicate and publish.
The third area of concern for Davenport is providing third-party safe storage for scholarly literature. Publishers do not archive the results of researchers, particularly digital publications, so libraries have a new version of an old role to define. We have to learn how to focus our collections to the greatest benefit of our users.
Davenport's final point concerned leadership development. She asked what an MLS graduate will need to know when she enters the workforce, and a lively discussion followed. Some topics advocated by the audience were: digital archiving, research behavior, branding "place as library" so the library does not disappear, cataloging new content delivery media, creating game-like computer exercises to teach research skills, and collection development in a media-rich environment.
This challenging session gave attendees in all stages of their careers something to think about, but few were downcast leaving the room. Librarians, so long considered tied to the past, have learned to find invigoration in the potential of the future.
— Cy Dillon, Stanley Library, Ferrum College
Government Information: Who Needs It? You Do!
Presenter: Barbie Selby, Regional Librarian, University of Virginia
Barbie Selby, current chair of the Federal Depository Library Council, an advisory group to the Public Printer, issued a challenge to the audience to consider new visions and roles for federal depository libraries and librarians. Selby had just returned from the fall Depository Conference in Washington, D.C., where Public Printer Bruce James of the U.S. Government Printing Office met with several hundred depository librarians to discuss new visions for the program in light of an increasingly digital environment.
In the past, depository libraries brought government information to the people by housing large print and microfiche collections in designated Congressional districts. As government information increasingly becomes available online, the need for depository libraries in a traditional sense has been questioned. The functions of such libraries seem ever--changing, often creating more questions than answers. James recently challenged the depository community to help the Government Printing Office define a new vision for the program and provide ideas for retooling the way government information is accessed and preserved for the general public.
Selby shared several key points of discussion at the conference that may help in defining this "new vision." They include:
- Roles for federal depository libraries in a nonexclusive environment
- Managing collections and delivering content
- Deploying expertise
- Adding value
Selby also shared comments from Ann Miller of Duke University regarding user needs and expectations that may well be different in an online environment. Users expect free, accurate, and authoritative access to government information, and increasingly want to be able to obtain information when they need it, 24-7; at home, work, or school; and in a variety of formats.
In attempting to merge the challenges of a digital depository environment and the perceived expectations of users, the conference attendees developed and discussed a number of ways to reach new goals:
- Focus on the customer
- Collaborate with others (GPO, other libraries, Google, etc.)
- Increase flexibility in providing and designing services
- Expand expertise via continuing education opportunities
- Think creatively; be innovative
- Proactively market government information (which led to a rather unique rendition of a newly conceived FDLP song by Selby)
Selby encouraged different types of libraries to consider becoming new depositories and explained that some libraries are deciding to become "digital depositories" by focusing on providing information and access without acquiring the traditional print collections.
Change at this level is never easy, but it presents opportunities for new ideas and a fresh approach to ensuring the each citizen has free permanent access to government information. To learn more about the conference and a new vision for the depository program, check out a video of the Public Printer's remarks at http://www.vodium.com/goto/gpo/fdl.asp.
— Janet Justis, Old Dominion University
The Librarian and the Genealogist Should Be Friends Presenter: Jean L. Cooper, University of Virginia Library
The librarian has nothing to fear but the genealogist. You all know them, the patrons with the little suitcases on wheels that cause even the most seasoned librarians to cringe and beat a path for the water cooler. Fear not, the genealogy patron is no different than any other patron. Librarian, you will not fail.
Jean Cooper addressed these issues during her presentation and opened up some minds and eyes. Armed with the right questions and tools, the librarian and the genealogist can communicate and occupy the same space. The patron is doing real research and if the librarian tears down the wall, the rewards can be deeply gratifying. Beware, you just might get hooked.
— Jeanie L. Langford, Appomattox Regional Library
Growing Readers: How We Do It
Presenters: Tanya High-Brooks, Success by 6; Kathy McNalley, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library; Joan Wabschall, Reach Out and Read; Sally Warburton, Reading Is Fundamental
The panel members gave overviews of four national programs that promote literacy and reading to young children and their parents. The four programs include Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, Reach Out and Read, Reading Is Fundamental, and Success by 6.
Sally Warburton began the session with a discussion of Reading Is Fundamental. She emphasized that RIF is not just for those children at financial risk, but also for children at risk for a variety of broadly defined reasons. She referred participants to http://www.rif.org for more information
Success by 6, presented by Tanya High-Brooks, is a national initiative to mobilize community support for children during the formative years, from conception to age six. Born Learning is a part of the national campaign to promote early literacy as well as increased literacy for childcare providers. More information can be accessed at http://www.bornlearning.org.
Joan Wabschall presented the Reach Out and Read program that utilizes the professional provider relationship between a pediatrician and parents to promote reading. A three-prong approach involving new books, professional provider advice to parents on the value of reading, and a literacy-rich waiting room environment encourages literacy development.
Kathy McNalley began her presentation on Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with a short video, which is available at http://www.imaginationlibrary.com/video.htm. The Imagination Library is a collaborative effort between the Dollywood Foundation and local sponsors to provide registered children with a free book each month until their fifth birthday at a total cost to the local sponsor of $27 per child each year.
All four presenters clearly described complex materials logically and succinctly. Each presenter provided ways for interested audience members to find out more information about her organization. The overall interaction between the panel and the audience was lively, engaging, and informative.
— Susan M. Catlett, Perry Library, Old Dominion University
Census 2010 and the American Community Survey
Presenter: Timothy Jones, U.S. Bureau of the Census
Anyone who has ever filled out a census long form knows the detailed types of questions asked. CEOs, small businesses, and economic development planners anxiously wait for the data, only to find it quickly out of date. The decennial census only comes around every ten years, and it takes three to five years to produce detailed cross-tabulations.
Timothy Jones, Program Analyst for the Census Bureau, shared plans for the 2010 Census, in which the American Community Survey (ACS) will replace the traditional long form. Basic data for Congressional districting will be obtained by the short form. The ACS is an attempt to acquire detailed data on a timelier basis by using sampling methods that create estimates that better capture the current state of local communities. It will serve as a continuous survey, giving characteristics of the population and housing with updates each year.
The ACS was tested from 1996–2004. State data was provided every year, and some data was collected for large areas from 2000 to the present. The ACS focuses on characteristics, not actual counts. It is estimated that costs for the 2010 Census could be reduced by $1 billion by using ACS instead of the traditional long form. ACS also attempts to establish better contacts with local government officials when surveying communities.
A new release of data is expected in August 2006. The primary goal is to sample three million addresses. Profiles will occur every year for communities with populations of 65,000 or more. Smaller communities will need three- to five-year accumulations of data for statistically relevant profiles. ACS also plans to provide ranking tables for states, an idea that is very popular with the media.
While this sounds like a very promising alternative to traditional census surveying, there is one large obstacle. Jones indicated that funding for the ACS is in jeopardy, and that the program has never had full funding that would ensure long-term success. Despite limited funding, the testing period has proved to be very encouraging. While there are some strong supporters of the funding in Congress, including members Wolf and Davis, passage may be an uphill battle. At the time of the conference, the Census Bureau was operating under a continuing resolution pending final debate and passage of appropriations in Congress.
— Janet Justis, Old Dominion University
A Reading and Discussion by Two Virginia Writers
Presenters: Edward Falco and Susan Cokal
Two Virginia authors collaborated to provide an entertaining session that included fiction readings and insights into the creation of their latest books.
Edward Falco, author of the new novel Wolf Point, has won awards for his poetry and short stories, collected in such volumes as Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha, Sea Island, and In the Park of Culture, to name but a few. Falco currently teaches in Virginia Tech's MFA program. Falco is enjoying his first book tour.
Before reading from Wolf Point, Falco shared information about his writing process. He begins with voice, character, and situation; after working for a while, he can tell if his ideas are resonant, and they begin to develop organically. He doesn't write from an outline, finding that it makes his writing feel dead on the page. He writes from deep interest in his characters, a place, or a situation — and his thrill in finding out what happens is a reader's thrill. He enjoys listening to his characters and being surprised by what happens. Wolf Point not only surprised but also worried him, as the characters took the novel into a darker and darker place — but he trusted the characters and let the story shape itself. Falco also says that writing comes both from observation of the world and from unconscious places, when something in the outside world connects with one's inner emotional world, as in T. S. Eliot's "objective correlative."
A lot of the imagery and themes in Wolf Point grew out of a distressing evening that Falco had witnessed, in which a young man on drugs had beaten up his girlfriend and swum away from the police. Yet when asked whether the story is about himself, Falco must answer that he never writes about himself, though his experiences necessarily work their way into his writing, if in no other way than as a point of access into his characters — a way for his concerns, conscious or unconscious, to emerge onto the page.
Susann Cokal, a professor in VCU's MFA program, has recently published the novel Breath and Bones. Her previous novel, Mirabilis, was partly inspired by a year in Poitiers, France, where she studied medieval history, art history, and literature. Her stories have appeared in Hayden's Ferry Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Gulf Stream, and Prairie Schooner, among others.
In contrast to Falco, Cokal says that she's a big outliner who may produce as many as seventeen outlines per draft. The story shifts as she writes it, and she needs to know where things are going. She is continually surprised by characters and the way they can mirror things that occur in her own life. In her first novel, Mirabilis, a sculptor's chisel slips and opens his hand. Once he can see inside it, he can't work. Cokal herself had sliced her foot open in a home accident and was unprepared for the sight of what lay inside. After writing the novel, Cokal also realized that the character of a walled-in anchoress actually mirrored Cokal's relationship with her mother.
Her current novel, Breath and Bones, grew out of her relationship with her parents, who passed away unexpectedly. She began by telling herself stories she thought her father would enjoy about railroads, old west ghost towns, and an orphan train. While she knew she was writing about her father's fascinations, she didn't realize for a while that she was also writing about her mother: that the story of the beautiful Danish red-haired model was the story of her parents' romance. Though much about the novel changed, Cokal was glad to have written through the 150 pages she had to abandon to reach the level of understanding she finally achieved about her characters — and herself.
— C. A. Gardner, Hampton Public Library
Wartime Veterans Illuminate Twentieth-Century America
Presenter: Diane Kresh, Library of Congress
The step is slower, the joints are stiff, and the face is wrinkled, but the eyes are afire and the mind is quick. This is the image of our wartime veterans as the recount their stories. Normandy, Okinawa, Leyte Gulf, Hamburger Hill, Saigon, Kuwait, Bosnia, and Bagdad — the veterans know them well. Now they face the cruelest enemy of all — time. Time has come to silence their voices and erase their memories.
Diane Kresh and the Library of Congress are defeating the march of time. Through the Veteran's History Project, America's wartime history will be preserved and made available to future generations. Kresh inspired and motivated all those present to become involved. Get your library involved and contact those veterans' groups — time is marching. The project is easy to do and the memories will be priceless. Check the website, www.loc.gov/vets, and be inspired.
— Jeanie L. Langford, Appomattox Regional Library
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21
Waves, Words & Wonder
Presenters: Jennifer Labows, Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, and Jenefer Snyder, Virginia Beach Ready to Learn
Waves, Words & Wonder is a literacy program put together by the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Virginia Beach Public Library, and the Virginia Beach Ready to Learn Team. Team members received a seed grant of $5,000 from the Institution of Museum and Library Services as part of the 21st Century Learner program, which focuses on collaborations between museums and libraries. Designed as a series of three evenings that alternated between the aquarium and the oceanfront library branch, Waves, Words & Wonder was so successful that another grant has been awarded to continue the program this school year.
The collaborators chose to focus on children who spent the school year with three agencies: Head Start, Early Discovery (the Virginia Beach public school preschool initiative), and the Judeo--Christian Outreach Center Oceanfront Preschool. All three centers were located fairly close to both the aquarium and the oceanfront library branch, making it more likely that families would be able to participate. The target audience for the program was four-year-olds and their families; involving the entire family should increase reading readiness skills and the frequency of reading to children. The building blocks of the three events were designed to match Virginia's Foundation Blocks for Early Learning and the Kindergarten Standards of Learning. In addition to increasing literacy skills, the programs would increase the children's science readiness skills and self-confidence.
Before each encounter, aquarium educators and librarians visited the preschools to promote the program and assess what the children already knew. However, the group environment might have led to kids raising their hands if they saw their friends doing so. In future, the librarians and aquarium educators will partner with teachers to work individually with students for pre-survey information.
The first event took place at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and focused on the letter "S." Session attendees witnessed some of the décor from that evening — a series of signs with pictures and words such as "Splash," "Sting Ray," "Seal," "Shiny," and "Sea Turtle." There were interactive touch tanks where the children could meet sting rays, sea turtles, and snails, and one of the evening's crafts involved making sea turtles from paper plates, with different stations for the legs, tail, and head to ensure that the family made it to all the stations. A storyteller provided entertainment, and each child received a copy of 1001 Things to Spot in the Sea by Katie Daynes, Anna Milbourne, and Teri Gower. Attending children had the letter "S" stamped on their hands as a visual reminder, and there were crafts and snacks to take home.
Event two took place at the Oceanfront Area Library, introducing the letters "L" and "O" (through Owlex, the great horned owl, who was visiting from the aquarium). A musical storytime (complete with puppets and flute) featured Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz, copies of which the children took home. Other activities included bookmaking, a scavenger hunt, and a craft — opossum door hangers — that children worked on while parents filled out evaluations.
The third event took place at the aquarium in March, focusing on the letter "W," with events including the IMAX movie Whales, the Whale World exhibit, live animals, a storyteller (children received Baby Beluga by Raffi), crafts such as a colored picture frame with a photo of each family, and puzzles of whales. Educators discovered that a forty-five-minute IMAX movie was too much for this age range at 7:30 p.m.
This year, the program will be subtitled "Putting the Sea in Literacy." The number of target children will expand from 148 to 285.
— C. A. Gardner, Hampton Public Library
Disc(k)-Based Technology: The Past, the Future
Presenter: Scott Piepenburg, Hampton University
Scott Piepenburg from Hampton University gave a fast-moving history of audio and video media formats, explaining some of the economic and artistic concerns that have fostered rapid obsolescence, cataloging problems, and other woes for librarians and collectors alike. Beginning with the groove technology of early cylinder and disk recorders, Piepenburg led the large audience to consider gains in accuracy, compactness, and efficiency as audio and video recording evolved toward digital discs.
The potential length of recordings also figured in the process he described, such as the long--playing recordings that developed out of the need to capture a typical symphony on one disk. Without spending time with more esoteric formats such as wire recorders and eight-track tapes, Piepenburg made it clear that changes in technology always have both advantages and disadvantages.
The presenter's ability to elaborate on the technical problems related to converting one medium to another, as well as his understanding of the economic considerations behind format changes, made this session go by much too quickly. The discussion of the current format struggle between high-density DVD and Blu-ray disks left attendees wondering about how long our DVD collections would be in demand by our users — and what to do when that time comes.
— Cy Dillon, Stanley Library, Ferrum College
Dolly Parton Imagination Library
Presenters: Christy Crouse, Regional Director, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library; Sherry J. Bright, Buchanan County Public Library
Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library in her home region of Sevier County, Tennessee, to give children from birth to age five the chance to get excited about reading. A panel of educators selects age-appropriate books that are sent to resident children once a month. The books are designed not only to increase reading skills, but also to promote self-confidence and appreciation of art, the imagination, diversity, and other positive values. The program was such a success that the Dollywood Foundation now makes it possible for any region to recreate it. The only requirements are that any resident preschooler from birth to age five will be eligible, and that the champion (the organization sponsoring the Imagination Library) will cover the cost of books and mailing (an average of $27 per child per year).
After Christy Crouse discussed the Imagination Library, Sherry Bright provided details on how one community had implemented it. Thirty community leaders visited Buchanan County Public Library for an information session. The program was deemed especially important because forty percent of the adult community had no high school diplomas. The Friends of Buchanan County Public Library now oversee the Imagination Library and fund it separately through grant money, donations, and fundraisers. Administratively, running the program mostly involves maintaining a database. Once a month, the community will submit new applications over the web. The program automatically removes five-year-olds and weeds out people submitting more than once. The Dollywood Foundation ships the books to the children based on the orders placed.
Bright says the program is so popular that Buchanan County elementary school children sign up their brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends. All the books arrive with a sticker that lets the child know that the book came through the Friends of the Library. The library offers to read the books to the children, but so far, there haven't been many takers — the children want to read the books so badly they'll find a family member to help them, whether it's an older sibling, cousin, aunt, or uncle. Far from competing with the library, the program has resulted in a lot of positive PR for Buchanan County.
Currently, there are over 185,000 children participating in the Imagination Library in 532 communities of 41 states. The state of Tennessee has recently adopted Dolly Parton's Imagination Library as a statewide program; the governor has set up a private foundation, Governor's Books from Birth, to cover half the registration costs. Some counties even put the application in new mother packets at hospitals. Dolly Parton has promised to attend the statewide event for any state that takes up the cause.
— C. A. Gardner, Hampton Public Library
Show Me the Money: Writing a Successful Grant Proposal
Presenters: Susanna C. Spencer, Youth Services Librarian, Culpeper County Library, and Nancy Buck, Outreach Services Coordinator, Central Rappahannock Regional Library
Susanna C. Spencer and Nancy Buck teamed up to talk about the basics of grant writing and share some of their success stories as well as some of the resources they use. A capacity crowd of interested librarians listened as the presenters stressed the importance of "writing to the specs." In particular, Spencer called attention to the necessity of including all of the required information and documentation as instructed if an application "is to have a chance."
Throughout the presentation, Spencer and Buck shared several engaging personal stories and useful insights. They made a case for the use of testimonials, the inclusion of sidebar support, and strategically placed "tidbit" segments. Above all, the presenters stressed the importance of communication. Staying in touch with the grant funder through simple thank you letters and short progress report phone calls or emails is essential.
Among the recommended resources for information:
- At the state level, contact Jacqueline_Kotas@Allen.Senate.gov (include your name, organization, and mailing address to request the Grant Seekers Packet)
- At the foundation level, visit the Foundation Center website (http://fdncenter.org/) and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation website (http://www.grdodge.org/).
Also, the presenters suggested that one periodically ask two questions during the process of applying for a grant: "What is our goal or objective?" and "What are the details of the grant?" These are important points to consider, as they might help to prevent both "mission creep" and a grant application that falls short of meeting the "original inspiration."
— Heather Groves Hannan, George Mason University
Jamestown 2007: America's 400th Anniversary
Presenter: Amy Ritchie, Jamestown 2007; sponsored by the Local History Forum, Pat Cook, Chair
"In 2007, Virginia and America's first permanent English settlement will turn 400." This is the opening statement from the official Jamestown 2007 website, www.jamestown2007.org. Events and activities are planned not only in Virginia, but also throughout the United States. There will be eighteen months of festivities. Ritchie discussed many of the events.
In May 2006, the anniversary begins with the launching of the replica Godspeed, which will sail to six major ports along the eastern coast. Live music, entertainment, and displays highlight Jamestown legacies at each of these ports.
Other major events will be held throughout the year, including:
- American Indian Cultural Festival, September 2006
- 225th Anniversary: Victory at Yorktown, October 2006
- National Teach In, November 2006
- African American Imprint on America, February 2007
- America's Anniversary Weekend, May 2007
Communities, counties, and cities throughout Virginia have signed up to participate in the celebrations. Check the webpage for Jamestown 2007 for more information, dates, and online activities.
— Sandra Shell, Collinsville Branch Library, Blue Ridge Regional Library System
Library of Virginia Annual Literary Awards
Presenters: Sandra Treadway, Library of Virginia, and Mary Beth McIntire, Library of Virginia Foundation
Deputy State Librarian Sandra Treadway presented a short history of the Literary Awards, explained the hopes of the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Center for the Book for the future of the program, and asked the attendees' opinion on how to recognize writing for children in Virginia without competing with VLA's Jefferson Cup Award.
Treadway explained that the awards began modestly in 1997 with recognition of the best fiction and nonfiction books. At that time the Virginia Center for the Book was still housed at LVA. Because the new Library of Virginia facility had attractive, perhaps even dramatic, meeting spaces and a central location, it was the logical place for the center and the Library of Virginia Foundation to hold an awards ceremony that brought the commonwealth's literary community into the spotlight together to celebrate the best writing and writers. Announcing three finalists in each category far in advance, while keeping the winner secret, promoted excellent attendance and good press coverage at the gala. Anyone who has attended can testify to the suspense as winners are announced.
Awards in poetry and lifetime achievement were added in the first few years of the program, and in 2004 a People's Choice Award was added, allowing the public to vote for favorite books from the fiction and nonfiction finalists. When the Center for the Book relocated to Charlottesville, the awards continued to be sponsored by the LVA Foundation and the Library of Virginia. The Virginia Center for the Book now partners with LVA to schedule appearances by finalists and winners at libraries and other venues around the state.
According to LVA's website, "The 9th Annual Library of Virginia Awards Celebration Honoring Virginia Authors and Friends will be held on Saturday, October 21, 2006. The awards will be closely tied to the James River Writers' fourth conference, to be held October 6–7, 2006, at the library." The James River group is cosponsor of the People's Choice Award.
At this point Treadway led a discussion about the reaction of VLA members to having LVA add an award for children's literature. The group's response indicated that such an award could be constructed to avoid direct competition with our Jefferson Cup Award, and that it would broaden the already strong appeal of the Library of Virginia's award program.
— Cy Dillon, Stanley Library, Ferrum College
The Real World: The Reality of Pursuing the MLIS from a Distance
Presenters: Rachel Kirkland, George Mason University, and Susan Jennings, University of Tennessee
Jennings and Kirkland, both involved in earning their library degrees through distance education programs, gave their personal experiences with the classes and answered questions. During their session, the advantages and disadvantages of distance education were discussed and general information provided.
Distance education requires the skills of independence, persistence, patience, and self-motivation. A person taking these classes must take personal responsibility to keep fully informed, to keep up-to-date with class assignments, to communicate with the instructor and fellow classmates, and to be willing to learn new technology skills. Students must learn to be persistent in communication. Writing one's opinions (without having facial expression to help) is often more difficult than saying them aloud.
Advantages of distance education include not having to drive to another location for classes. Distance education classes can be attended at home, an important advantage, especially with increasing gas prices. Another big benefit is being able to earn an MLIS without leaving the state of Virginia. By networking with fellow classmates, one can make new friends and acquaintances. Because of the technology involved, one also learns new computer skills as a side -benefit.
Disadvantages include the lack face-to-face contact with instructors or fellow classmates, slower communication, and occasional technical problems that delay or interfere with classes. Online students also miss the majority of on-campus activities.
Before beginning a distance education program, check into the various universities that offer them and learn as much as possible about their MLIS programs. What entry requirements are involved? How are the classes delivered? What types of computer programs and hardware are required? Does the university participate in the Academic Common Market? Scholarship opportunities, including the VLA Scholarship program, are available to assist in the cost of an MLS program.
— Sandra Shell, Collinsville Branch Library, Blue Ridge Regional Library System
When Worlds Collide: Science Fiction Reader's Advisory
Presenters: Barry Trott and Andrew Smith, Williamsburg Regional Library, and Neal Wyatt, Chesterfield County Public Library
Barry Trott, Andrew Smith, and Neal Wyatt joined forces to provide attendees with the ammunition to conquer that most frightening of reader's advisory genres — science fiction. All too often, science fiction readers come in so well prepared that they've already exhausted the traditional avenues — and read all the books that the reference librarian might be ready to suggest. The problem is further complicated by the fifty subgenres of science fiction described by NoveList, and the fact that many writers in the field cross over between science fiction, fantasy, and other genres (while readers may enjoy one type but not another).
To help prepare librarians for this type of encounter, the presenters provided detailed handouts that included both recommended authors and characteristics: "-Appeal Factors for New Space Opera," "Readers' Advisory Tools for Science Fiction," "Science -Fiction Genre Study," "Hard Science Fiction Genre Study," "Science Fiction, Science Fact," "Time Travel, Alternate, and Parallel Universe Science Fiction," and "Examples of Action Oriented and Historical/Philosophical Time Travel Novels." The presenters then guided attendees through the basics for three types of science fiction: space opera, hard science fiction, and time travel/alternate universe.
As Smith explained, "space opera" was originally coined as a pejorative term for the substandard hackwork filling out pulp magazines. By the 1970s, the term had become an established part of the genre with its own enthusiasts, yet the form remained somewhat dismissed even within science fiction. While Star Wars gave science fiction writers new appreciation for space opera, many felt frustrated that the genre seemed stuck in the golden age of the 1920s and 1930s. Yet forward-looking writers believed that space opera offered a lot of creative opportunities, and the genre has grown in complexity and depth. Smith used a colorful quote from Brian Aldiss to illustrate how the genre has changed. Now, instead of "charging on with little regard for logic or literacy" as Aldiss described, the modern space opera must have science that is not only internally consistent, but also consistent with the way we know the universe works. Current authors often go beyond genre stereotypes — or turn them on their heads. While space opera often involves a quest, the hero of the quest no longer needs to be a man — or even human; further, the "woman fairer than the skies" is now "likely to kick your butt." Happy endings might be a lot more complicated, and even the villain has complex motivations. Smith recommended Dan Simmons's Hyperion series and David Weber's Honor Harrington series, the latter of which offers a strong, realistic female protagonist in adventures reminiscent of O'Brien and Forrester. Smith also suggested using Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction by Neil Barron as a starting point.
Trott then launched into hard science fiction, which became the most popular style from the 1940s to 1970s, when many people were reading science fiction to find out what would happen in the future. While there is still a lot of hard science fiction today, it is more difficult to write and publish, as more is known, and many of the dreams of science fiction writers have already become reality. Hard science fiction speculates about where science is going to take us and what the consequences will be — both intended and unintended. Complex moral and ethical questions draw the reader into the book as much as the scientific detail. Authors need to be able to write about science in a clear and obvious way, often presenting an elegant, lyrical prose style that captures emotion and character. While the quality of the writing is a big draw, the most important element is that it has to be plausible and follow scientific laws. Some of the popular topics include genetics, nanotechnology, pandemics, artificial intelligence, colonization, and ecology. Characters tend to be very realistic, just as the science does. Some recommended authors include Kathleen Ann Goonan, Nancy Kress, and classic author Robert A. Heinlein.
Wyatt introduced the worlds of time travel, including parallel and alternate universes. Some books allow time travel in only one direction, while others go both ways. There are paradoxes and causality to explore, as well as alternate and parallel universes that arise when decisions cause timelines to branch. Alternate universes explore different versions of history, while parallel universes use quantum physics to explain a whole universe with different realities and value systems. When those worlds collide, interesting things happen. Science fiction involving time travel can take a wide variety of shapes, from utopia to dystopia; but if the science doesn't work, the book doesn't either. Some of the scientific foundations include wormholes and Einstein's theory of relativity. The appeal lies in examining paradoxes and exploring a multilayered world. Some recommendations include Kage Baker's In the Garden of Iden and Roger Macbride Allen's The Depths of Time, which mixes time travel with space opera.
— C. A. Gardner, Hampton Public Library
Assessing Processing Needs and Costs for Manuscripts and Archives: the University of Virginia's Experience
Presenters: Edward Gaynor and Elizabeth Roderick, University of Virginia
Elizabeth Roderick and Special Collections head Edward Gaynor reported on the outcome of an ambitious two-year study, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to develop a long-range preservation and processing plan — including an accurate estimate of preservation and cataloging costs — for the university's 14,000 item manuscript and archive collection. The project also resulted in the creation of a central portal to collections held around campus, including many unique primary source documents.
During the main part of the project, student workers were carefully trained to complete a form on the condition of each unit in each of the collections. The form helped determine if the item was in the proper collection and the extent of its preservation and cataloging needs. Immediate remedial needs were also noted and the quality of the item's catalog record was assessed. The results were entered into a database for analysis. The 13,000 linear feet of archival material at the university obviously generated a large body of data.
The project also considered use and photocopying records related to the collections, and project leaders concluded that the previously poor intellectual records led to infrequent use as well as to overlooking some very valuable items. MARC records were created and updated, and item locations were changed for some of the valuable materials. At the same time, Special Collections moved into a new space.
An analysis of the use of the collections yielded the information that research trends include more emphasis on interdisciplinary and international research, increased microanalysis, and the use of images for substantive meaning rather than for appearance's sake. Additional trends detected include more use of oral history, an increased local emphasis in biography, and more extensive use of religious records. Combining these trends and a "most used" list meant that the project could lead to enhanced access for the materials most likely to be in demand. Finally, some of the items have been given barcodes to make future use statistics easier to gather.
This project, associated with the "Hidden Collections" work of the Association of Research Libraries, is an excellent example of a library responding to the research needs of an international community of researchers.
— Cy Dillon, Stanley Library, Ferrum College
Customer Service at the Library
Presenter: Mickey Ann Garcia, Norfolk Public Library
At the beginning of the presentation, Mickey Ann Garcia of the Norfolk Public Library guided the overflowing audience through an "ice breaker" illustrating customer service expectations — moving from courtesy to trust. Garcia emphasized the value of memorable and meaningful service interactions.
This led to a discussion of why patrons stop coming to the library. Certainly patrons who experience rudeness or uninterested staff would not be inclined to return to the library. In a recent survey shared by Garcia, patrons stop coming to the library for the following reasons: one percent have died; three percent have moved away; five percent have found a new system; nine percent now use a competitor; fourteen percent experienced dissatisfaction with the collection, staff, or library policies; and, the top reason, sixty-eight percent stop coming due to the attitude of the staff.
Garcia admitted good customer service is a moving target, but the value of a repeat patron is worth the effort to hit the bull's eye. Repeat patrons know how to use the services the library offers, are more likely to have patience both with staff and when challenges occur, and provide free advertisement for the library. In a nutshell, patrons RATE customer service: R (response/reliability), A (assurance/attitude), T (tangibles/trust), E (empathy/effort).
Garcia closed by highlighting that "attitude" is an emotional response to a stimulus that can be spread from one person to another and will influence a course of action. If a disappointed attitude is caught before it reaches the "red zone" of anger, difficulties might be avoided. Staff members need to know how to project a positive attitude and not take situations personally. Garcia encourages frontline staff to explain rather than enforce policies and to communicate an attractive attitude.
— Heather Groves Hannan, George Mason University
Closing General Session: The User Challenge
The guest speaker for the closing session was Robert Wedgeworth of ProLiteracy Worldwide. After retiring from a distinguished career as a librarian, educator, and ALA executive director, Wedgeworth became interested in adult literacy and the impact of low literacy on individuals, families, and the economy; thus, he joined ProLiteracy Worldwide as president and CEO.
Wedgeworth's remarks focused on the content of the 2005 State of Adult Literacy Report (http://www.proliteracy.org/downloads/Stateoflitpdf.pdf) published by ProLiteracy Worldwide. He indicated that the results of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey conducted in 2003 were slated to be released in a report produced by the Department of Education. This survey was the first since the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey, which was conducted at a time when public interest in adult literacy was high and First Lady Barbara Bush served as an advocate for the issue. Wedgeworth indicated that despite the interest in adult literacy skills in the early 1990s, support has waned over the past ten years with changes in federal policy and budget constraints. Wedgeworth hopes that the report based on the 2003 data will renew an interest in adult literacy skills.
Wedgeworth stated that although the No Child Left Behind Act addresses the need to educate our children and to assure that all students have basic reading, writing, and math skills, the law does not address the needs of adults, especially adult immigrants who have not had an opportunity to attend school in the United States and do not adequately read, speak, or write English. He also pointed out that students enrolled in public schools are more likely to succeed (not be left behind) if their parents are literate, therefore supporting the need for increased support for adult learning.
To illustrate the impact of low adult literacy skills on the economy in the United States, Wedgeworth used several examples from the State of Adult Literacy Report.
- Economic development: Companies require basic literacy skills for their employees and will select locations based on availability of an educated workforce. (Toyota chose to build a new North American facility in Ontario, Canada, rather than the United States.)
- Earning potential: The average annual salary of a high school dropout is about $19,000, while a high school graduate can expect to earn approximately $26,000.
- Taxes and taxpayers: Consider the cost for public assistance (food stamps, welfare, Medicaid) as well as the cost to support inmates in prisons (an estimated seventy percent are illiterate) and the loss to the tax base (those who do not have a job cannot pay taxes).
- Health Care: An estimated $73 billion is spent on unnecessary health care (according to 2002 data, "The average American spent $5,440 on health care while the cost for an adult with low literacy skills was $21,760").
- Retail: Adults with low literacy skills make poor decisions as consumers. "They don't use coupons, sign service agreements, or take advantage of percentage-off promotions." As shoppers, they make choices based on "concrete reasoning" (larger size must be more expensive than smaller size) or look for packaging that is familiar in color or design. Nutrition is also compromised since these consumers lack the skills to understand nutritional information on labels and are less likely to select fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Marketing: Companies must make a greater effort to clearly communicate the uses of their products to these consumers.
After providing an overview of the impact of low adult literacy on the socioeconomic future of the United States, Wedgeworth briefly discussed the efforts of ProLiteracy Worldwide to increase awareness of the negative impact of low literacy not only in the United States, but also around the world. He briefly reviewed several of the initiatives that ProLiteracy has undertaken nationally and internationally. He feels that libraries (school, public, and academic) can and should be on the front lines in the fight against low literacy.
In closing, Wedgeworth paraphrased a Chinese proverb: "If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap; a day, go fishing; a week, take a vacation; a year, win the lottery; a lifetime, serve others."
The VLA business meeting was called to order by President Ruth Kifer. Minutes of the 2004 annual meeting were presented by Secretary Lydia Williams. Steve Preston reviewed the financial status of VLA and indicated that despite the ups and downs of VLA's investments, the organization is financially sound. Cy Dillon reported on the state of the VLA Foundation. The Nominations Committee provided an election report: Pat Howe, vice president/president-elect; Libby Lewis, second vice president; Sue Burton, treasurer; and Susan Paddock, ALA councilor. For the Legislative Committee, John Moorman reported that the legislative agenda had been approved by the committee and the Executive Council and would be posted on the VLA website.
Moving on to awards, Jim Sanderson gave a brief report on the activities of the Intellectual Freedom Committee's activities and introduced Dr. Timothy Coggins, recipient of the SIRS/ProQuest Intellectual Freedom Award. Laura Speer announced the recipients of the VLA awards: Trustee Award, George Lyle; George Mason Award, Noreen Bernstein; Friends of the Library Award, Poquoson Public Library; and Honorary Life Membership, George Van Sant.
Donna Cote announced that the VLA Manual had been revised and that proposed additions/corrections to the VLA Bylaws had been emailed to all members and would be posted on the VLA website. Members were encouraged to vote (electronically) on the proposed changes.
Pat Howe announced that the raffle of the P. Buckley Moss print collected $1,300 for the VLA Foundation.
Ruth Kifer gave a brief review of the state of the organization before passing the gavel to Ruth Arnold, VLA President 2005–2006. As Arnold accepted the gavel, she thanked Kifer for her service to VLA and wished her all the best in her new position.
The 2006 VLA Annual Conference will be held at the Williamsburg Marriott from November 9–10, 2006, with the theme "Read Think Speak."
— Caryl Gray, Virginia Tech
Patricia Hardesty serves as Reference Librarian at James Madison University. She is a VIVA Outreach Committee member.