The Paraprofessional Forum of the Virginia Library Association held its tenth annual two-day conference on May 19-21, 2001 at the University of Richmond. Four hundred library personnel from six states and the District of Columbia attended the conference. This year's theme was Tomorrow's Libraries: Are We Ready? with Mary Buckley of George Mason University Library and Mari-Jana Phelps of the Prince William Public Library System chairing the event. Two keynote speakers, -twenty-six sessions, and ten discussion groups were offered to this year's conference participants.

Special Events

The conference opened with a welcome reception on Sunday evening that provided everyone with an opportunity to sit back and enjoy good food, friends, and the lovely piano music provided by Jason Brannan of Richmond. This year the evening included a special performance by a group of six young people from the Chesterfield County 4-H Club. They performed a variety of songs that included patriotic, country and western, and show tunes.

The Monday night social, with its patriotic theme of United We Stand , was a huge success. DJ Ronnie Gilder of Richmond provided music that made the evening fun for those just listening and fun for those dancing the night away. The event was filled with good food, music, dancing, and lots of door prizes.

image of Sharyn McCrumb audience
During the Sunday evening welcome reception, conference goers enjoyed Jason Brannan's relaxing piano music and entertainment by Chesterfield 4-H Club members Richard Wayne Mallory II, Brittany Simmons, Nikki Welch, Norsey Welch, Stacey Frame, and Tracey Frame.

DJ Ron Gilder leads a dance
during the Monday night social.

Many join in throughout the evening.

Some people learn the craft of Ukrainian
egg decorating on Monday evening.

Monday's Opening Session

The Monday morning general session opened with words of welcome from the VLAPF Co-Chair Mary Buckley, and two special guests. James R. Rettig, University Librarian for The University of Richmond, and Iza Cieszynski, VLA President, offered their greetings to conference attendees.

The high point of this session was the presentation of a very special award given to Carolyn Tate, who works at The University of Richmond's Boatwright Memorial Library. E. A. Mayo and Ona Turner Dowdy, who served on the VLAPF Board with Carolyn the year she convinced the group to host a two-day conference, presented Carolyn with a special plaque. Joined on stage by all who were involved in helping plan the first two-day conference, E. A. gave some background related to the award, and Ona read the inscription on the plaque which is as follows: "In recognition and appreciation of Carolyn Tate, 1993 VLAPF Chair-a trailblazer who instilled the belief that a two-day conference was possible and who forged the path ten years ago as Conference Chair of Future Unlimited: You Make It -Happen. "

Joan Kenyon Woods opens the conference with
her keynote address, Embrace the Future:
Using the High and Low Tech to Your Advantage.

The session is well attended.

The Monday morning keynote speaker was Joan Kenyon Woods, who is a motivational speaker--corporate trainer from New York. Ms. Woods kicked off the conference with her presentation, Embrace the Future: Using the High and Low Tech to Your Advantage . Ms. Woods is a very energetic and humorous speaker, and she inspired attendees with her message that offered tips for embracing change. With her wonderful British accent, Ms. Woods stated that we need to "grasp the change." Using her story of how a dime and 10 cents are the same and yet different, she illustrated why understanding change can make all the difference in our lives. Ms. Woods stated that things in our lives do not change; they just become different. Change is going on all around us; we just need to learn to pay attention. She encouraged those in the audience to face change with a positive outlook. She stated that we must understand the language of change because we learn the most about change through our conversations with others and by connecting with people. The changes taking place in our own lives may not seem so traumatic if we help others who are experiencing change in their lives. Because a person's attitude changes everything, Ms. Woods suggested that we face change with a positive one.

Tuesday's Opening Session and Special Awards

The Tuesday session was opened with words of welcome from the incoming co-chairs, Marion Eaton and Jane Martin, who both work at the Virginia Tech University Library.

The Paraprofessional Forum presented several awards during this session. Mary Fran Nash, who works at the Longwood College Library, was named Outstanding Paraprofessional of the Year. She was recognized during the Tuesday opening session and awarded a framed certificate and an engraved pen and clock desk-set in honor of her accomplishments as a library paraprofessional.

The VLA educational scholarship sponsored by the Paraprofessional Forum was awarded to Ophelia Payne, who works at the University of Virginia's Alderman Library. This was especially exciting for the VLAPF board members who have worked diligently to raise funds in order to sponsor this scholarship, and it was rewarding because Ophelia has been one of those industrious board members for the past ten years.

The Tuesday opening session ended with a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted some of the lighter moments of past conferences. This humorous look back was the result of a great deal of hard work by Mary Fran Nash. It was the perfect beginning to Tuesday's events.

Ona Turner Dowdy presents a special plaque to Carolyn Tate in recognition and thanks for the role she has played in making the two-day conference a reality and a success story.

Below, those who worked with her in planning, organizing, and implementing the first two-day conference that took place in 1993 join Carolyn Tate on stage.

Incoming Co-chair Marion Eaton presents Mary Fran Nash with the Outstanding Paraprofessional of the Year award.

Below, incoming Co-chair Jean Martin presents special gifts of thanks on behalf of the VLAPF Board to Co-chairs Mary Buckley and Mari-Jana Phelps.

Tuesday's Author Luncheon

Combine an elegant setting with a delicious meal and a speaker who can hold an audience spellbound, and you have all the ingredients for a successful author luncheon. The author luncheon was a tremendous success with a delicious buffet luncheon followed by a presentation given by Virginia author Francis Wood.

Mr. Wood charmed his audience right from the start as he told how his most recent book, The Nipkins (Vol. I), evolved from a combination of childhood experiences and an active imagination. During his presentation, Mr. Wood shared what has inspired him to develop and write some of his other stories. He had a spellbound audience as he told how a crystal rose left on a table by a mysterious lady became the inspiration for his book, The Crystal Rose , and as he told of a camping trip interrupted by a blizzard that brought him into the company of some mountain folk. This adventure inspired him to write The Angel Carver . Mr. Wood's presentation led us to believe that his publications are the result of a wonderful imagination and an extraordinary talent to write down on paper what is in his heart and head. Needless to say, Mr. Wood captivated his audience and inspired them to read his publications. This was evident from the long line of people who stayed after the presentation to purchase signed copies of the author's books.

The conference ended with the much anticipated scholarship raffle. Mary Buckley and Francis Wood joined forces to draw the names and award the prizes. Once again, the VLAPF board members generously donated some unique and eye-catching baskets and gifts for the scholarship raffle. The print that was the most popular prize was donated by the P. Buckley Moss Society of Staunton, Virginia, and was framed, compliments of Christopher's Fine Arts and Framing of Farmville, Virginia. Kelli Collins of Richmond, Virginia, was the happy winner of the print. The variety of outstanding raffle prizes and the generosity of conference attendees who purchased tickets resulted in another successful scholarship raffle.

A conference attendee makes the decision on which raffle prize she would like to take a chance on winning.

Below, raffle prize winners pose for photographer Pierre Courtois.

Virginia author Francis Wood addresses a captivated audience during the author luncheon.

Later he signs books for his many fans

Highlights from Conference Sessions

The Write Stuff: Paraprofessionals Writing for Publication

Presenter: Gene Kinnaly, The Library of Congress

"The Write Stuff" certainly turned out to be the "right" stuff for those attending Gene Kinnaly's session presented on both Monday and Tuesday morning. Gene, a senior cataloger at the Library of Congress, has written articles appearing in Associates (the electronic journal for library support staff), Library Mosaics , and Virginia Libraries . Armed with an engaging presentation style, infectious sense of humor, and an effective PowerPoint presentation, Gene generously shared his experiences with the writing and publication processes. Using an assortment of humorous examples and extending an invitation to attendees to interject their own examples and suggestions, Gene discussed the six steps of the writing process-thinking, gathering, organizing, writing, revising, and proofreading. Other session topics included common mistakes with the written word such as mangled, misplaced, and displaced modifiers, active vs. passive voice, and run-on sentences. Gene concluded with a brief overview of possible publishers for library-related articles and a good dose of encouragement to all the potential writers in attendance.

-Submitted by Mary Fran Nash, Longwood University Library

During his presentation, The Write Stuff, Gene Kinnaly addresses those interested in writing an article for publication.

The ladies from New York who attend the conference each year chat with former VLAPF Board member Gene Kinnaly.

Employment Opportunities: Exploring Your Options

Presenter: Sandra Fykes, InfoCurrent

Sandra Fykes opened this session by asking how many people enjoyed writing resumes.

She urged the group to take every opportunity to network and reminded the audience that positions are available, but it is up to the individual to investigate. Before preparing a resume, she suggested considering the following:

  1. Ask yourself if you want to stay in your area-don't be afraid of change.
  2. Volunteer in another public, academic, military or government library.
  3. Know that you have options.
  4. Do your research.
  5. Find a mentor-don't be afraid to look for one.
  6. Decide what your rock-bottom salary is.
  7. Ask yourself what you really want (money, benefits, etc.).
  8. Read job listings, even if you are not actively seeking one.
  9. Keep a job-search journal.

The goal of a resume is to get an interview. Ms. Fykes gave the group the following list of things to do so that resumes are never tossed into "File 13":

  1. Follow instructions.
  2. A resume should always be a work in progress.
  3. Make sure every computer skill you have is on the resume.
  4. Be careful with e-mail addresses-keep it simple, no flowery titles.
  5. If you don't have it, get voice mail.
  6. Keep contacts current.
  7. Keep resume in chronological order.
  8. Don't embellish.
  9. Don't mass-mail resume. Take the time to tailor it to the position for which you are applying.

The presenter ended her session with the following thought: "The goal of an interview is to get a job."

-Submitted by Marie Carter, University of Virginia's Alderman Library

Teenage Volunteers: Where to Find Them and How to Keep Them

Presenter: Christina Verilla

On Tuesday morning Christina Verilla of the Lynchburg Public Library System gave a very thorough discussion on the use of teenage volunteers in the library. She said there are many good reasons to volunteer: It's one way to give back to the community and to begin building a resume, as valuable work experience and contacts are gained that can be used as references for jobs, college, and scholarship applications. Chris discussed ways to incorporate teen volunteers and involve interested staff from all departments. She said that more supervision is needed when working with teenage volunteers but it is very rewarding, both to the library and the volunteer. The presenter is entering her eighth year as supervisor of the volunteer program at LPL and is a gem for Lynchburg Public! If anyone is starting a volunteer program or already has one in place, Chris could contribute valuable insights.

-Submitted by Todd Eastridge, Washington County Public Library

Opening the "Gates" of the Computer Lab: A Panel Discussion

Panel members Deborah Lammers of Pamunkey Regional Library, Felix Rodriguez of Virginia Beach Central Library, Trudi Sommerfield of Prince William County Public Library System, and Jim Whalen of Lynchburg Public Library discussed some challenges and problems they've had with their libraries' computer labs. The panelists noted that each had received computer equipment from the Gates Foundation to provide the general public with access to the Internet and various types of software. All noted that it has been a very positive situation and has opened the windows to an entire new world for senior citizens and patrons living in some of the rural areas. The entire session was filled with specific information in reference to online security, the need for computers to be housed in a secure area, problems with hard drives, fire walls, patrons' questions, sufficient room, and funding for additions. The audience had numerous questions and discussed solutions to such topics as sign-up sheets, training sessions for staff and for the various age groups, Internet availability, and networking with other libraries.

-Submitted by Mona Farrow, Old Dominion University Library

To Lead Is to Serve

Presenter: Bill Fiege, Longwood University

Bill opened his session by asking everyone to sit at the back of the auditorium. Then he asked each person to pick a stranger and start a conversation with him or her. After a few minutes, he asked these two to pair up with two more, then the four to pair up with four more and do the same thing. This made a group of eight. He then passed out a question to each of the groups of eight. The groups were to use the questions, come up with solutions, pick speakers for each group, and share their answers with the whole group in the end. The questions were:

  • Who are our customers and what do they expect from us?
  • What should our customers expect from us?
  • How do we make a difference in our work environment?
  • How are we leaders in our work environment?
  • What is important to us at work?
  • What is the most difficult task we face on a daily basis?
  • What pet peeves do we have at work?
  • How is what we say impacted by how we say it? How does this affect us in our job?
  • What are our strengths and how do we utilize them?
  • What are our weaknesses and how do we compensate for them?

In the end, the groups were friends and were able to discuss together all the findings. These showed that to be leaders we must guide, mentor, bring people together, and know when to step back and let someone else lead. Also, being a leader is admitting that we make mistakes.

-Submitted by Joan Taylor, Washington County Public Library

Bill Fiege chats with one of the many groups discussing leadership issues during his session, To Lead Is to Serve.

Harriett Edmunds discusses the ABCs of Program Planning during her presentation.

PowerPoint Pointers

Presenter: Barbie Selby, The University of Virginia Law Library

Barbie Selby's session on the do's and don'ts of designing a PowerPoint presentation provided essential information on the creation of an attractive and effective presentation. Using her own PowerPoint presentation, Ms. Selby showed slides containing design elements that should not be used when creating a presentation. She shared helpful tips and advice on the use of font and template styles, backgrounds, graphics, and bullets. Ms. Selby also stressed the importance of designing your text so that it provides the necessary information on a page with a minimum amount of text. She described handouts created from PowerPoint slides and explained how to go live on the Internet during a presentation. She provided us with some useful handouts and web site addresses that offer additional pointers on creating PowerPoint presentations. This session provided a wealth of information that, if put into practice, can make any PowerPoint presentation an impressive one.

-Submitted by Lydia Williams, Longwood University Library

Barbie Selby provides many great tips and suggestions during her presentation, PowerPoint Pointers.

Steve Helm addresses technology-related issues during his presentation, What's Sexy in the Virtual Office?

Virginia is for Lovers

Presented by Romance Writers Felicia Mason, Cathy Maxwell, and Frank Cabiroy

Three romance writers who were as charming as they were interesting hosted the session, Virginia is For Lovers. Felicia Mason, Cathy Maxwell, and Frank Cabiroy each told the story of how they got started in the writing business and shared what inspired them to write about romance. Mr. Cabiroy writes nonfiction books with themes that revolve around romance, whereas, Ms. Mason and Ms. Maxwell write fiction. Mr. Cabiroy also publishes his own books. It was interesting to hear how taking charge of publishing and promoting his own publications has resulted in a success story for Mr. Cabiroy. The authors gave those in the audience plenty of time to ask questions, which led to some interesting comments and discussion. It was also exciting to learn that Cathy Maxwell is a best-selling author who lives in Chesterfield County, Virginia. She and other romance writers meet regularly in the Chesterfield County Public Library. All three authors are just as good at public speaking as they are at writing successful books, and this made the session an enjoyable and informative one.

-Submitted by Lydia Williams, Longwood University Library

On Tuesday afternoon, there are many who stay to enjoy the delicious food and the great speaker.

Linda Hahne, Ruth Turner, and Ona Turner Dowdy find some time away from the registration area to sit and chat.