Rocking and rolling and singing like I’m part of a band … that’s what being the President of the Virginia Library Association feels like! My year as your president flew by. And I couldn’t have succeeded without the incredible support of a large number of VLA members.
I saw my role as the “songwriter” for the band, with all the others taking turns being the lead singer or lead player. Their lead performances included organizing programs for Council, planning the paraprofessional and annual conferences, reporting on how the actions of the American Library Association were impacting VLA, insuring that how we were approaching issues was supported by the bylaws, ensuring that members had access to the minutes of both the council meetings and executive committee meetings, and recruiting candidates for officer positions.
My team spent a great deal of time preparing for the Executive Board and Council meetings. One could whip out an agenda with ease, but to run a good meeting one needed to make sure that the agenda items had some relevance to our mission and activities. In addition, I wanted to make sure that members of Council could take back ideas of substance rather than spend hours driving, then sitting through meetings and leaving feeling they had little to bring back.
We are all librarians and we love books! So at our first meeting I asked those attending council to share with the group a bit about the book they were reading or had just read. Luckily, someone volunteered to make and distribute a list so we all didn’t have to scribble down authors and titles but could just listen. It allowed us not only to tend to business but also to get to know each other on a more personal basis. To emphasize our commitment as a team, all members received their VLA pin at our first meeting. I felt it was important to receive the pin in the beginning so it could be worn with pride throughout the entire year of providing service.
We wear these pins because we are proud to represent you! And during the April meeting, all Council members who had arrived wearing their VLA pin got a chance to place their name in a drawing and receive a prize. At that same meeting, Kevin Smith spoke on Advocacy, explaining how all librarians can be advocates throughout the year and not just on designated Legislative Days.
In June, Council met and heard from the candidates running for President Elect and Secretary. Also, Mark Lenker introduced “Cool Tools” — a group presentation on cutting-edge web based technologies useful to librarians. Members of the New Members Round Table demonstrated to Council some of these innovative tools: Rebecca Miller informed us on how to select and evaluate tools; Monique Clark used prezi.com to teach us about Evernote; Kareemah Hamdan showed us how she used Jing; and Crystal Boyce demonstrated how she uses Pinterest.
And wow! We learned so much from these innovative librarians on how we can use social media to expand the services we offer our patrons.
Sandra Treadway, the Librarian of Virginia, spoke to us at the September Council meeting. She reviewed the many services and resources available to all libraries throughout the Commonwealth, and members had the opportunity to ask her questions. As always, the September meeting was followed by a luncheon (great taco bar!) to thank council members for their year of service and to give everyone a time to talk “shop.” A critical and large share of my time as VLA President was spent with the Conference Planning Committee. Contrary to what some may think, those meetings were fun and really productive thanks to my excellent conference chair Sheila McDuff and our Executive Director, Lisa Varga. We accomplished most of our work via the internet, phone calls, and the use of “Go to Meeting” software. This experience certainly was a far cry from the first conference committee I was on back in 1995 when we had monthly, in person, meetings. Everyone on the conference committee was dedicated and managed their assignments well and with real commitment. The result might look effortless but it took hours of hard, behind the scenes, work! The result was a first class conference for all VLA members.
Of course most of us who have answered the call to serve have not done so to seek rewards. But let me assure you, my time serving on Council and then Executive Committee for nearly five years has been an invaluable experience both professionally and personally. I was able to develop strong meeting and leadership skills, witness the second Virginia Library Leadership Academy, and meet many, many outstanding librarians throughout the Commonwealth.
Being involved contributes to our association and increases awareness of the varied issues facing the numerous types of libraries and library systems. The chance to attend the VLA conferences enabled me to learn how others have dealt with problems similar to the ones I have faced. I believe it has empowered me to be a change agent. My involvement taught me a great deal about the importance of legislative action and increased my respect and gratitude to those who advocate throughout the state and the nation on behalf of libraries.
So what does it take to be a leader in the Virginia Library Association? Of course, first of all you need to be a member! Then serving on various committees or forums introduces you to the way the association operates and allows you to meet and work with other librarians throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, serving on a committee or forum is a wonderful way to build your resume and develop new skills. Moving into a chairman’s role is the next step, which allows you to attend Council meetings and strengthens your leadership skills. Submitting program proposals for conferences permits others in the association to meet you and discover your talents. And if you aren’t comfortable giving a presentation, you can contribute by serving as a volunteer facilitator or evaluator during the Conference.
The Virginia Library Association is only as strong as its members’ commitment. Remember the association exists to support and enhance the role of libraries and librarians in the Commonwealth so we can better serve its citizens. There is no better reminder of our role than the following: “Librarians are very special people. They are the caregivers of the world of the mind, the nurturers of dreams and the defenders of truth. Perhaps no other profession is so marked by the singular generosity of its practitioners.” — Denver Post editorial, March 25, 2000.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your President!