You have to forget to begin to see. Then you remember. Remembering and forgetting get to be the same place.
I really did almost forget just how talented VLA members are and just how broad and deep their interests range. Then I sat down with the Annual Conference Committee to review the concurrent sessions for this year's program.
I knew we had excellent keynote speakers. John Cole of The Center for the Book, historian Henry Weincek, and poet and short story writer Dabney Stuart were all carefully selected to provide memorable sessions that are particularly appropriate to our time and place. The special events offered by the Library of Virginia and by Chesterfield County are also first rate, and would be welcomed by any library association anywhere.
Nevertheless, I had not expected the number and quality of sessions that will be offered by our own members. We will have the opportunity to learn about everything from antebellum plantation records to e-books, from serving young adults to preparing budgets, and from basic literacy to information literacy for academic librarians. In addition to the variety, the quality of the presenters strikes me as impressive. It will not do for me to try to name the best universities in Virginia or the premier public library systems, but I assure you they will all be represented by energetic and experienced librarians making presentations on subjects that concern them every day. Take a look at the preliminary program and see if you do not agree.
The last few weeks have also reminded me of the strength of library advocacy our organization has developed and maintained. The report of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission on funding state aid to public libraries in Virginia has to be viewed as an endorsement of the value of libraries to the state, and VLA members provided much of the information in the report. The full version of the study even includes a letter of endorsement from our association.
VLA has also prepared a list of questions about libraries that will be sent to the candidates in this fall's gubernatorial election. We will publish responses in an upcoming VLA Newsletter, and we will also invite the candidates to speak at our Annual Conference. We want the candidates to consider just where tax cuts should stop to preserve essential services such as libraries, and we want to hear the results of that consideration. Forgetful as I am, I have never forgotten that we have to pay for the amenities we want from government. We cannot afford to let our next Governor forget that simple fact, nor can we afford to let that Governor pass the bill along to a future office holder.
With that in mind, VLA has joined with the Virginia Education Association and other public interest groups in the Virginia Coalition for Education Funding. State funding for all facets of education has failed to keep pace with what state law requires of local schools and libraries. It is time to stop the fancy bookkeeping and have the state pay its share for schools, libraries, and other core educational programs.
VLA has also begun to develop a coalition of public interest groups to support better funding for the Library of Virginia. We have preliminary responses that indicate that a number of very large groups are willing to participate, and the VLA Legislative Committee is making plans to begin this effort in earnest long before the Legislature convenes in January.
All this involvement has taken the time and efforts of a group of very talented and public spirited VLA members on the Legislative Committee and Executive Committee. Their commitment is very much appreciated.
It should be an interesting fall. A tight race for governor is shaping up. Another Virginia county is preparing to test the constitutionality of required total internet filtering in public libraries. Legislators and the new Governor are going to have to resolve budget priorities or the current majority in the General Assembly may well be branded a failure. Throw in a well-planned conference luring hundreds of VLA members into the political heart of Virginia, and it should be a season that even I can remember. Just be sure you do not forget to be a part of it all.