Navigating the Challenges of the 21st Century was the theme of the 2003 Virginia Library Association Paraprofessional Forum Conference. The conference, May 19-20, was held in its traditional location at the University of Richmond. This year's conference was dedicated to the memory of Clara Stanley, who had served on the VLAPF Board since 1979 when the Paraprofessional Forum was founded.

Marion Eaton and Jean Martin, both of Virginia Tech's Newman Library, co-chaired the conference that hosted 341 library personnel. The majority of those who attended were from Virginia; however, the conference also attracted attendees from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, and Georgia. Of those who attended, 139 are employed in academic libraries, 161 in public libraries, 19 in government libraries, and 12 were listed as working in special libraries.

Monday's Opening Session

Virginia State Librarian Nolan Yelich was the keynote speaker on Monday morning. Mr. Yelich based the theme of his speech on the title of the conference, Navigating the Challenges of the 21st Century . He offered words of advice on how we can best meet the challenges libraries face each day due to budget cuts, fewer personnel, and reduced services. He suggested that each of us develop a sense of political advocacy and understand our role in this process. He stated that it is important for each of us to take the message about libraries to our local governing officials and our state legislators. We should let them know how they can help libraries. Mr. Yelich reminded us that it is the sense of optimism that we bring to the workplace each day that gives us the desire to be our best and to provide excellent service to our users, even in these trying times. This sense of optimism will result in winning over new advocates for libraries.

Tuesday's Opening Session

The Tuesday general session opened with words of welcome from the incoming co-chairs, Carole Ray and Mona Farrow, who both work at Old Dominion University's Perry Library. The general session was a time to recognize some special individuals, present awards, and hold the scholarship raffle.

This year Anne Sheldon, of Longwood University Library, received the VLA Paraprofessional Forum Award. This award provided Anne with the opportunity to attend the conference by paying all conference expenses. Janette Alsworth, of the University of Richmond Law Library, received the VLA Paraprofessional Forum Outstanding Paraprofessional Award.

The Clara Stanley VLAPF Scholarship was awarded to Steven Litherland, of Perry Library at Old Dominion University. This scholarship is one of three $2,000 scholarships awarded by the Virginia Library Association to students pursuing Master's degrees in Library Science at ALA accredited schools. Steven will be attending Library School at the University of Kentucky.

The morning session closed with the much anticipated scholarship raffle. VLAPF board members had created some unique and attractive baskets that promoted an interest in participating in the raffle. The most coveted prize is always the P. Buckley Moss print donated by the P. Buckley Moss Society of Staunton, and framed by Christopher's Fine Arts and Framing in Farmville. This year's very lucky winner of the print was Sharon Jackson of Abingdon. Once again, due to the generosity of those who provided the many outstanding prizes and the generosity of conference attendees who purchased tickets, the scholarship raffle was a very successful one bringing in $1,305.

Special Events

The conference opened with a welcome reception held in Keller Reception Hall on Sunday evening. Good food, door prizes, music by Jason Brannan, the time to sit back and relax, and an opportunity to enjoy the company of friends and colleagues all helped set the tone for a successful conference. The theme for the Monday night social was Let's Get Lost in the 50s .

Many of those attending arrived decked out in poodle shirts, motorcycle jackets, rolled up jeans, and bobby socks. DJ Ronnie Gilder of Richmond provided the music that made the evening fun for those just listening and fun for those who chose to dance the night away. On Monday evening some attendees took a line dancing class taught by Mary Fran Nash. Others opted to learn how to decorate eggs by attending the Ukrainian Egg Decorating Class. No matter which option they chose, everyone seemed to enjoy the evening.

The conference ended with an author luncheon that included a delicious buffet luncheon followed by an interesting lecture given by Henry Wiencek. Mr. Wiencek has authored and co-authored many books, but he is most widely known for The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White . Mr. Wiencek had a captive audience as he talked about the research involved in writing his forthcoming book, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America . This new book explores President Washington's involvement with slavery throughout his life, and brings to light the way in which his view of slavery evolved during his lifetime. Mr. Wiencek's presentation was the perfect way to close out a library conference.

Library Security Issues Institute

Presenter—Warren Graham

For the second consecutive year the 2003 VLAPF conference featured an all-day institute devoted to a timely and sought-after topic. Mr. Graham, the Security/Safety Coordinator for the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, captivated the institute on library security and safety issues participants' attention with the use of role-play and a common-sense yet methodical approach to dealing with difficult patrons in the library environment.

According to Mr. Graham, the characteristics of a good library security system should: 1) specify who enforces the rules and regulations; 2) enforce the rules according to behavior not personal appearance; 3) stress consistency in enforcement; 4) stress the importance of paying attention to detail and following one's intuition; 5) document all security incidents and potential problems; 6) establish staff training and 7) provide a constant review of the security policy and procedures.

All institute participants received certificates of attendance and left with a wealth of library security and safety knowledge to use in the workplace and in their everyday lives.

—Mary Fran Nash, Longwood University Library

Making Meetings Work

Presenter—Elizabeth C. Johnson, Christopher Newport University

Having trouble getting anything done during a meeting? Meetings don't stay on track? One person monopolizes the whole meeting? Elizabeth Johnson introduced a different type of meeting with the following cast of characters—the meeting facilitator, the recorder, the chairperson, and the group members. The Facilitator helps the group focus its energies on the task by suggesting methods and procedures, protecting all group members from attack and making sure everyone has the opportunity to participate. The facilitator does not evaluate or contribute ideas. The Recorder writes down the basic ideas generated by the group on large sheets of paper posted in front of the group, using the words of each speaker. The Group Member is an active participant in the meeting, responsible for keeping the facilitator and recorder in their neutral roles and seeing that ideas are recorded accurately. The Chairperson does not run the meeting but is an active participant, retaining all regular powers and responsibilities: making final decisions, setting the agenda, etc.

Within these roles is a meeting management framework, and the meeting self-corrects if it gets pushed off course. For more information on how to run a successful meeting, Elizabeth recommended the book, How to Make Meetings Work written by Michael Doyle and David Strauss.

—Janice Ward, York County Public Library, Yorktown

"Folding Under Pressure" with the Origami Swami

Presenter—Megan Hicks, Central Rappahannock Regional Library

Meeting Megan Hicks was a pleasure. In spite of this session being right after lunch, Megan kept all participants WIDE awake and laughing the entire time. During this session, Megan entertained us with her stories that go along with the folded origami shapes; her energy was contagious. She is a wonderful teacher and storyteller as well as a very gifted craftsperson. In an hour and a quarter we learned how to fold a sailboat, heart, flop top and many more objects in all sizes and colors. In addition to learning a new skill, we learned how to best utilize this skill when working with children in a library setting.

—Susie Pitts, Mechanicsville Branch Library, Pamunkey Regional Library

Self-Publishing...From Imagination to the Book Shelves

Presenters—Francis and Chris Wood, Tip-of-the Moon Publishing Company

Chris and Francis Wood presented an informative session related to self-publishing. Using knowledge gained from their experiences running Tip-of-the-Moon Publishing, they instructed us how to self-publish almost any type of material, from copyright to actual sales. Francis is the author of a number of books, and his wife Chris edits the books and runs the "business" side. They enjoy meeting each and every person who purchases their books. It makes everything so much more personal for the author, his wife, and for the readers, too.

—Susie Pitts, Mechanicsville Branch Library, Pamunkey Regional Library

Listening with Ears and Heart: Working with the International Students

Presenter—John Cosgriff, Virginia Tech

The facilitator, John Cosgriff of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, shared his experiences growing up in San Francisco in a very ethnically diverse community. He spoke of his relationships with family, friends and neighbors during his grammar school days, college and in the military. The group discussed experiences and interactions with international students and how important understanding the cultural differences can be. We discussed space, body language, facial expressions and asking for clarity when one does not understand another's accent (or language). Mr. Cosgriff, who has lived in several countries, was very informative and continues to recognize and promote the understanding of diversity in growing communities such as where we live—colleges and universities and libraries.

—Cynthia Bentley, George Mason University

Navigating the Challenges of Supervising Library Staff in the 21st Century

Presenter—Carol Henderson, George Mason University

As workplaces change, managers need to reassess their management techniques and need to develop strategies for hiring, managing, and developing those individuals who report to them. Ms. Henderson, the force behind George Mason University's Human Resources Department's training, recognition, and recruiting programs, emphasized the role of the supervisor as a leader and discussed the major areas of day-to-day supervision and the problem areas in supervision. A good portion of her talk concerned the initial hiring process, specifically as a way to prevent problems later. In order to aid the supervisor in hiring not just skilled and knowledgeable people but talented people, Ms. Henderson recommended using Behavioral Interviewing as a way to determine a new hire's talents for a particular position, and she gave examples of Behavioral Interviewing.

—Carole Lohman, University of Virginia

Achieving Excellent Customer Service in an Academic Library: Getting to Where You Want to Be

Presenter—Gisele McAdoo, Old Dominion University

Ms. McAdoo related the experiences of the Perry Library circulation department's transformation from a negative, backlogged, complaint ravaged department where patron needs were not being met to a pro-active, cooperative, committed, positive team that meets the patrons needs and receives compliments instead of complaints. Ms. McAdoo outlined the problems in the department and discussed in detail the three steps used to turn around the department:

  1. Evaluate everything.
  2. Identify problems and solutions.
  3. Develop and implement improvements.

Tongue in cheek, Ms. McAdoo referred to these as "easy" steps but she pointed out in her timeline that this process was a systematic approach that took almost ten years of time, effort, commitment, and persistence.

—Carole Lohman, University of Virginia

Presentation Skills

Presenter—Bill Fiege, Longwood University

In his wonderful session on presentations skills, Bill Fiege began by saying that next to death, the thing people feared the most is public speaking. Some strategies helpful in giving a speech or presentation include:

  1. Remember that no one wants you to fail. The audience is with you.
  2. Be sure to find out ahead of time how long you are expected to speak and what is expected of you.
  3. Know your audience—will you be speaking to first graders, high school seniors, or adults at the senior center?
  4. Know what type of facility you will be speaking in—a classroom, an auditorium, etc.?
  5. You are not alone—even actors and famous people have butterflies from time to time.
  6. Practice in front of a mirror, because you are your own worst critic.

After he presented these strategies that included plenty of humor and lots of anecdotes, he had us divide into groups and each group was given a scenario of a presentation they must prepare for. This exercise along with the information provided resulted in a session that both interesting and helpful.

—Sue McFaden, Paul VI Catholic High School, Fairfax

Commercial Library Binding: An Overview

Presenter—Eric M. Fairfield, ICI Biding Corporation

Ever wonder what process journals go through to become bound volumes? Eric Fairfield of ICI Binding explained the intricate and tedious journey that awaits a journal headed to the bindery. He presented an overview of commercial library binding using a CD-ROM developed by ICI Binding.

—Bridget Clark, Longwood University Library

The Heart of the Story

Presenter—Kathy Carter, Talespin Productions

Kathy Carter of Roanoke Public Library and founder of the Blue Ridge Storytelling Association presented The Heart of the Story . Ms. Carter began her presentation by having each participant introduce the person sitting beside them. Each introduction resulted in the telling of a story. Ms. Carter uses very few props and tells stories instead of reading them. We were divided into groups and given the task of making up our own stories and then telling them to the group. It was a lively session that included lots of participation from everyone.

—Joan E. Taylor, Washington County Public Library

Web Design: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Presenter—Michelle Young, Virginia Tech

Designing web pages can be a daunting task, but knowing some basic techniques can help you avoid some of these pitfalls. Ms. Young provided some key points in helping to overcome this fear, such as: knowing your purpose for designing a web page; having a mission in mind; being consistent with your fonts, colors, navigating tools, etc; and deciding how your site will be maintained. She provided some excellent examples of good and bad websites and explained the problems and solutions associated with them.

—Ophelia Payne, University of Virginia

An Introduction to the Identification and Conservation of Photographic Material

Presenter—Micahel K. Lee, Etherington Conservation Center

Mr. Lee began the session by explaining why the identification of the various types of photographs is the essential first step in the preservation process. The way in which a photograph was produced determines what steps should be taken in its long-term preservation. Using many illustrations and detailed information, Mr. Lee explained how different types of photographs have been produced through the years since 1885, and why the different chemical processes dictate how we clean and store photographs.

—Lydia Williams, Longwood University Library

Advocating for Better Salaries and Pay Equity

Presenters—Michele (Mike) Leber and Mary Mayer-Hennelly

Mike opened the session by giving statistics, which prove women earn far less than men doing the same work.

Mary Mayer-Hennelly gave a few pointers for seeking better pay:

  1. Make an appointment with your supervisor
  2. Know what you are asking for when you meet with your supervisor
  3. Ask to attend a conference—negotiate the time off
  4. Ask to take a class
  5. Always keep your supervisor in the loop
  6. Be organized with your information
  7. Be prepared with examples.

—Marie Carter, University of Virginia

Lydia Williams of Longwood University Library can be reached at .