As workers and friends of Virginia's libraries step into a new year, they find themselves discouraged but hopeful. Fewer available funds will mean imaginative use of those that are available. The final goal is still satisfied patrons and happy employees.

Apparently those two things are harder to find in Russia. Mike Beier's attempts to do research in Russia, as he explains in his article, were all but thwarted, despite the careful foresight he used planning his trip and its anticipated outcome. His struggles with another country's library problems put our own into perspective. It would be unthinkable, for instance, for us to ask our patrons what he was asked to do - travel across town to pay for his Xerox copies! Reading Beier, we discover that Putin's libraries ask that and much more of each hard-used patron. It's strange to see the amount of effort that went into gathering so little information - a situation that would make our public indignant.

Dr. Strickland gives our libraries some ways to deal with patrons' rightful indignation at affronts to their privacy in the form of laws (for their own good, of course, and against terrorism). The Patriot Act , for example, was described by Sara Paretsky, the opening speaker at this year's annual VLA Conference, as a "chill wind blowing through the country." What protection do we have against that and other legal "winds?" With a wealth of careful detail, including precedents, examples, and hypotheticals , Strickland offers relief from the oppressive, Big Brother thumb of "subpoenas, search warrants, and otherwise." Forewarned can hopefully be forearmed.

Gene Kinnaly's suggestions are also concrete and pragmatic. His are meant for aspiring writers of library-related wisdom. He directs them to the publications that are looking for their insights but first admonishes them to share their thoughts clearly and correctly - with proper grammar. He generously provides specific contacts for all the journals, whether hardcopy or online, that need ideas and experiences fresh from the field.

It's from the field of our own Virginia libraries that Iza, our outgoing VLA president, gives us a final State - of - the - Association report. And then the reviewers of selected sessions from our VLA Conference this year at Williamsburg in October also check in from the field on the technological future of our libraries (and much more). The presenters dealt with every aspect of library, computer life - from multimedia players to link checkers. Remembering what we heard during those three Fall days, we begin to understand and be excited by the many possibilities within our institutions' reach in the coming year.

That means we can step confi- dently forward into 2003, knowing that the dread budget cuts can become springboards for creative thinking - not, as they seem, a bludgeoning us inexorably back to scrawling our shared thoughts on a cave wall.

Of note: Sara Bearss and friends at the Library of Virginia begin filling the shoes of Julie Campbell and friends in this issue, reviewing the usual wide selection of volumes on Virginia history for our own enjoyment, and, when we add them to our collections, that of our patrons, too. We would like to thank Julie for her service to Virginia Libraries as Reviews Editor since 1996. Julie did an excellent job in choosing books to review, selecting reviewers with a knowledge of the topic and ability to write about it, and in getting us the Virginia Reviews on time! Thanks, Julie. We'll miss you. Welcome, Sara.