An Open Invitation to Professional Associates: Join and Get Involved with the Virginia Libraries Association
Do you ever wonder what different types of activities are included in the Virginia Library Association (VLA)? Do you ever wonder if you are “qualified” to be a part of your association’s committees and forums? The undebatable answer is: absolutely! No matter your position in an academic, public, school, or special library, your voice counts. This includes those who are currently working in, retired from, or supporters of libraries. Your ideas are what keep the organization moving forward in its goals for the libraries of Virginia. Supporters, front line staff, those with a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate degree all work together to make Virginia libraries what they are today.
VLA works hard for all individuals. I say this because the Legislative Committee is always working to keep or increase funding for all public libraries. The Intellectual Freedom committee is working to promote and maintain freedom of information for all individuals who use libraries in the commonwealth of Virginia. The Diversity and Inclusion Forum is working hard to include and recognize all patrons within the Virginia library system. These are just a few of the forums and committees that make up the Virginia Library Association.
There have been situations in which front line staff, and even those without a Master’s in Library and Information Science, feel that their voice is never heard. I often hear, “Why should I join VLA?” Other comments include, “What does VLA do for me?”; “Where does my money get spent?”; “They only want “librarians” to work with VLA.”
I can state from my own experience that this is definitely not the position that anyone I have worked with in VLA has ever felt or stated. To tell you just a little about myself, I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. I was a nurse for 23 years, working in an Invasive Cardiology Laboratory. I moved to Virginia in 2000 and wanted to take some time off to make sure that my nine-year-old daughter, at the time, was adjusting well to her new surroundings. While she was in school, I decided to volunteer at the library of the elementary school that she was attending, and I enjoyed it so much, I then starting volunteering at Culpeper County Library as a circulation assistant. I immediately knew that working in a library was something I not only enjoyed, but wanted to pursue when I decided to go back to work. Although I loved nursing, I had always enjoyed reading and researching as a student. Yes, I was one of those who loved to write research papers.
I started working part-time as a circulation assistant. Then I was asked if I would like a full-time position. A new position was being created to be the Coordinator of Circulation and Volunteer Services. I applied, and got the position, and have been enjoying it ever since.
…If you have the drive, VLA
is looking for you!
Do I have a degree? No. Do I want to get a degree? I would love to, but only if I could turn back the clock. Do I feel that I can continue to improve my skills and contribute to the overall function not only of my library, but all libraries in Virginia? Absolutely! If you have the drive, VLA is looking for you!
I joined the VLA Professional Associates Forum (VLAPAF)1, then known as the Paraprofessional Associates, in 2005. I initially felt like a fish swimming upstream. I wasn’t sure if it was really where I should be. They were planning a conference and I knew nothing about this task. What could I contribute? It didn’t take long to be pulled in to the excitement and energy that the VLAPA Forum emits. Before I knew it, I was a part of something larger than just my community library. I felt the power and importance of a great group of people and how they can impact other professional associates in the state of Virginia.
By 2011, I was chosen as Co-chair of the VLAPAF and still had some qualms about whether I could do the job or not. Did I have the time to put into the co-chair position that is required? Would my director support my decision to accept the position of VLAPAF Co-chair? My Director is a strong supporter of participation in The Virginia Library Association. When I approached her with the suggestion of me co-chairing the VLAPA Forum, she said she would give me the support I needed to attend meetings, work on some Forum items during work time, and attend the annual conference. Without her support, this would not have been possible.
Over the previous years, I had noticed that the Board members of the VLAPA Forum worked together extremely well to plan and execute a conference for all professional associates within the state of Virginia. The co-chairs did not do everything, with the board just “going along for the ride;” it was a team effort. Since 2011, I have either chaired or co-chaired the Forum 3 times.
…'The VLAPA Forum' Board
has gotten even stronger
over the last year,
accepting new members
and their ideas with open
The board has gotten even stronger over the last year, accepting new members and their ideas with open arms. There is so much the VLAPA Forum would like to do, but we need your support. We would like to look into providing webinars geared specifically toward professional associate issues and concerns. We would love to hear from you if you have the skills necessary to set up webinars!
You might think, “OK, that’s VLAPAF, but what about VLA?” My first experience with VLA was while chairing the VLAPA Forum. As a chair, you are invited to attend the VLA Council meetings held about four times a year. During those meetings, you give a short report on events or ideas that have been discussed at VLAPA Board meetings. You also bring forth issues that will need to be approved by the VLA Executive Committee. Again, I learned so much about VLA and the “the behind the scenes work” of such a great organization. The Executive Director, Lisa Varga, has helped me to grow so much over the last two years. She is always there, when needed, to lend guidance and her experience with any issues that arise.
Because of professional associates not always feeling “part of the whole” of VLA, I invited Lisa and Martha Hutzel, the current VLA President at that time, to one of our VLAPA Forum Board meetings. Through discussion and respect on both sides, we now have a clearer understanding and focus of what VLA expects from us and they have a better understanding of what we as Professional Associates expect from them. By stating our concerns, we opened the lines of communication and resolved many of the challenging feelings on both sides of the issues.
Working together, both in the communication and actual completion of tasks, has made me realize that VLA is not just for individuals with the MLS/MLIS degree, but for all library workers and supporters in the state of Virginia. When e-mails come out concerning participating in committees or forums of VLA, or special interest committees, please seriously consider taking part in one aspect of VLA. We cannot do it all with only a handful of people. We need participation from all to show strength and support for many goals, even beyond committees, such as when visiting our legislators to rally for funding from the state. We are greater together than we are individually!
How to Get Involved
Please visit the VLA website2 (www.vla.org) to learn more about what is available to you as a VLA member, and as a member of forums and committees. To show your support, fill out the membership application form and send it in! Look out for calls for forum and committee members or projects, and respond, or get in touch with a forum or committee of interest and ask how you can get involved. Remember, many tasks can be completed on-line or virtually. Every committee/forum does not always meet face-to-face.
Encourage other staff members and library supporters that you know to join VLA. Become an active participant of a GREAT organization! YOU can make a difference!
Kathy Ann Clevenger (firstname.lastname@example.org), is Circulation/Volunteer Coordinator - Department Head with Culpeper County Library . She has held this position since 2002. She obtained her Library Support Staff Certification through the American Library Association (ALA).
Received: August 4, 2016
Accepted: November 10, 2016
Published: August 31, 2017
© Author: Clevenger. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/4.0/), which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided it is passed along unchanged and in whole, and provided that you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source.
1 VLA Professional Associates Forum (VLAPAF). http://www.vla.org/vla-professional-associates-forum. Accessed August 28, 2017.