VLAPF conference logo

The Paraprofessional Forum of the Virginia Library Association held its twelfth annual conference on May 23-25 at the Holiday Inn/Koger South Conference Center in Chesterfield County. Mona Farrow and Carole Ray, both of Old Dominion University's Perry Library, served as co-chairs for this two-day event entitled Virginia Libraries, Many Voices, One Song: Service .

Four hundred and two library personnel attended the conference. The majority of attendees were from Virginia; however, the conference also attracted attendees from Pennsylvania; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; New York; New Jersey; North Carolina; Tennessee; and Georgia. Of those who attended, 220 are employed in public libraries, 152 in academic libraries, 9 in special libraries, and 21 in other fields.

Sunday's Author Banquet

Virginia author Sharyn McCrumb was the speaker for the Sunday evening author banquet. She held the attention of her audience as she took them on one journey after another. Each journey was a tale of what inspired her to write each of her books. She closed with a story about the book she is currently writing, St. Dale . It is about a diverse group of individuals who come together to make a memorial pilgrimage in honor of racecar driver Dale Earnhart. Needless to say, McCrumb's description of this Canterbury-type tale filled with unusual pilgrims had the audience chuckling. She is a wonderful speaker who has the ability to capture the attention and hearts of her listeners.

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Virginia author Sharyn McCrumb captivates her audience during the Sunday evening banquet.
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McCrumb chats with attendees as she signs books.

Monday's Opening Session

The Monday morning general session opened with words of welcome from VLAPF Co-Chair Carole Ray and VLA President Sam Clay, who welcomed everyone on behalf of the Virginia Library Association.

VLAPF Co-Chair Mona Farrow introduced the keynote speaker, ALA President Carla Hayden. Hayden was an enjoyable speaker who motivated the audience to feel that they are important to the successful operation of their respective libraries. She stated that librarians and library support staff are all players on the same team, and that in order to provide quality services to our customers we need to support one another. She shared some personal experiences to illustrate how we can come together to provide good customer service, which is essential if we want to keep things going and encourage users to become library advocates.

Hayden believes that continuing education and conferences are important to the success of library support personnel. She also believes that all library staff members should have an opportunity to improve their skills. She stated that ALA is now reaching out to library support staff in order to bring them into the Association. Within ALA there is a roundtable for library support staff (LSSIRT). Those involved with this roundtable have been addressing issues of concern to library support staff, including education, career development, and job-related issues. They are also working on ways to foster communication and networking among all those who work in libraries.

Hayden is a true advocate for excellence in libraries. She inspired excitement among library support personnel about being a part of the library world.

Monday Evening Events

The Monday night social, with its tropical theme, Escape to the Islands Luau , was a huge success, with everyone enjoying this time away from the work-related sessions. Two hundred attendees signed up to attend the social, and of that number it seemed like the majority danced at some point during the evening. DJ Ronnie Gilder of Richmond provided the music for the event, while Mary Fran Bell-Johnson made sure that almost everyone received a door prize. The evening was filled with fun and laughter as everyone enjoyed music, dancing, chatting with friends, door prizes, and refreshments.

There were two additional activities scheduled for those who did not wish to attend the social. Candice Michalik led a one-hour book discussion group on Sharyn McCrumb's She Walks These Hills . During the evening, Pat Muller offered a slide presentation on teen programming that was a continuation of the Youth Services Institute.

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The DJ and many VLAPF board members dress to match the theme of Monday's social, Escape to the Islands Luau. Some folks dance the night away.

Tuesday's Opening Session

The Tuesday morning session opened with words of welcome from Incoming Co-Chair Mary Buckley of George Mason University Library. This general session was a time to recognize some special individuals, present awards, and hold the scholarship raffle.

Carolyn Tate was recognized as the recipient of the 2004 Outstanding Support Staff Award given by Library Mosaics and the Council of Library/Media Technicians (COLT). This is an award given to a library support staff member for outstanding and noteworthy service. Tate, a recent retiree of the University of Richmond's Boatwright Memorial Library, continues to be actively involved in making significant contributions to the continuing growth and development of library support staff around the country.

This year, Deborah Beasley, who works at the Lynchburg Public Librarry, received the VLA Paraprofessional Forum Award. This award provided Beasley with the opportunity to attend the conference by waiving her registration fee.

The VLA Paraprofessional Forum Outstanding Paraprofessional Award went to Margaret Toscano, who works at the Williamsburg Regional Library.

Susan Larsen, from Arlington, was recognized as recipient of the Clara Stanley VLAPF Scholarship sponsored by the VLA Paraprofessional Forum Board. This scholarship is one of three $2,000 scholarships awarded each year by the Virginia Library Association.

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Morel Fry and Calvin Boyer are each named Outstanding Supporter of Paraprofessionals.
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Two outstanding individuals were recognized as Outstanding Supporters of Paraprofessionals. Calvin Boyer, recently retired Director of the Longwood University Library, was nominated by the staff of the University Library. Morel Fry, Administrative Services Librarian for the Perry Library of Old Dominion University, was nominated by members of her library staff. The members of VLAPF Board agreed that it was a privilege to recognize two very special professionals who are considered exceptional by their support staff.

The scholarship raffle was an exciting event with which to close the morning session. Once again the VLAPF board members generously donated some unique and attractive baskets for the scholarship raffle. The drawing of the ticket for the framed P. Buckley Moss print was the grand finale. Diane Wetterlin of Virginia Tech University Libraries was the lucky winner of the Moss print. This year's raffle earned $2,261, making it the most successful one in the history of the VLAPF conference.

Highlights from Conference Sessions

Written by VLAPF Executive Board Members

Trends in Interlibrary Loans
Presenter: Tammy Hines, Longwood University Library

In an informative session, Tammy Hines fostered participation by encouraging her audience to ask questions to start discussions. After establishing the fact that most schools are switching to First- Search, lively discussions ensued. The one common thread was that everyone appeared to have the same problem — lack of adequate time to learn the new system. The group was advised to get in and play with the system to see what works and what doesn't. Everyone in the group agreed that interlibrary services have come a long way, but there is no consistency in what is being done with interlibrary loans. The group also agreed that things are changing rapidly because of electronic journals.

— Marie Carter, University of Virginia

Stress and Change in the Workplace
Presenter: Frank Howe, Longwood University

Frank Howe gave a thought-provoking session, reminding his audience that change is going to happen because nothing stays the same. Change, whether planned or not, may bring on stress. Stressors can be divided into three categories: personal, institutional, and situational. Stress also comes in different levels: mild, moderate, or severe. Because there is no way to completely avoid stress, it is our responsibility to learn to distinguish good stressors from bad. Some causes of stress are life changes, tedious work tasks, supervisor frustration, and work-overload. At the close of the session, Howe reminded us that change is valuable.

— Marie Carter, University of Virginia

"Can This Book Be Saved Without a Trip to the Bindery?": In-House Book Repair and Mending
Presenter: Ellen Welch, University of Virginia

In a packed room, Ellen Welch provided participants with some easy guidelines for deciding which books could be repaired in-house, which could be sent to the bindery, and which could only be repaired by expert conservators. Currently Coordinator for Preservation at the University of Virginia's Alderman Library, Welch has worked in preservation for fifteen years and received training from Solinet and the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.

In her presentation, Welch explained the various parts of the book and how each can suffer damage. She discussed the supplies and equipment necessary to perform various simple repairs. Her talk included examples of intermediate repairs, many of which would need to be handled by sending the books to a bindery if the library did not have an adequate preservation staff. Included in the discussion was a cost and time comparison for some of the repairs. Welch provided samples of the tools and supplies used and different types of repairs. Each participant received a packet of materials reviewing the items discussed, as well as a list of resources.

The highlight of the presentation occurred during the question and answer session when members of the audience brought out books for Welch to evaluate. The books ran the gamut from simple repairs to ones that would need a conservator's evaluation. These provided an excellent review for the audience.

— Carole Lohman, University of Virginia Education Library

Capital Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children 2004
Presenters: Sharon Grover, Arlington County Public Library, and Pat Muller, Library of Virginia

Once upon a time, the Library of Congress had a Committee on Recommended Books for Children. This committee developed an annual list. In the mid-1990s, the Library of Congress disbanded the committee, but all was not lost. Some of the former committee members decided to continue the work. In 1996, a group of ten former members formed Capitol Choices. Now Capitol Choices involves sixty members who meet physically and/or electronically to discuss and compile an annual list of "must have" books, both print and audio, for children. Through workshops, publications, a website, and presentations like the one at VLAPF, the Capitol Choices members provide interested individuals and groups with the "opportunity to further their knowledge of books and audio books for young people."

The two members conducting this presentation were Sharon Grover and Pat Muller. Grover is the Youth Services Collection Specialist for the Arlington County Public Library and the Co-Editor of Capitol Choices. She has served on the 1998 Newbery Committee and the 2002 Caldecott Committee. Muller is the Children's and Youth Services Consultant at the Library of Virginia. In 1996, she served as the President of the ALA's Young Adult Library Services Association; she has chaired the YALSA/ALA Legislation and Intellectual Freedom committees. This tag team gave a snappy series of book talks from the current Capitol Choices list, of which each member of the audience received a copy. The Capitol Choices list can be especially helpful when it comes to audio books. Finding reviews of audio books is not always easy, and it was very nice to find a list that can assist in providing better reader's advisory service for younger patrons.

Following their presentation, Grover and Muller answered questions from the audience. They also encouraged participants to consider joining the group. To learn more about the organization or view recommended titles, visit http://www.capitolchoices.org .

— Carole Lohman, University of Virginia Education Library

We're Not Lawyers, But We Are Here to Help You
Presenters: Becky Day and Pat Jones, Wahab Public Law Library

The presenters discussed how to provide legal information to patrons without providing legal advice. Day and Jones described how to identify whether a person is a "Pro Se Legatine," and what we can and cannot do for them. The presenters then shared with the audience some typical "Pro Se" questions with which most library workers come in contact. They explained how to find laws for your city, state, or federal government and emphasized the importance of learning your city's laws.

— Ophelia Payne

In the Line of Fire: Front-Line Strategies and Perils with Internet Filtering
Presenters: Holly Bognar, Chesterfield County Public Library, and Sam Clay, Fairfax County Public Library

The presenters provided different views on the use of Internet filtering. Holly Bognar explained how Chesterfield County Public Library dealt with the vast problem of patrons accessing pornography on the computers in the library. She stated that the problem was so bad that the Board of Supervisors voted to install web filters on the computers. She explained how the use of filtering software has curtailed this problem.

Sam Clay focused on the viewpoints of those who made the policies possible. He spoke about the philosophical reasons for web filtering. He described the policy of Fairfax County Public Library regarding filtering. He stated that Fairfax County decided not to use filters, but instead designed Internet policies that proved to be very effective.

— Ophelia Payne

Ask a Parliamentarian
Presenter: Lynda J. Baer, Central Rappahannock Public Library

Lynda Baer gave an entertaining and informative session answering the question, "What's a parliamentarian?" A parliamentarian, using Robert's Rules of Order and parliamentary procedures, advises the president or chairman during a meeting in order to allow everyone a chance to be heard while still moving the meeting along in a timely manner. The parliamentarian protects the president from making a mistake.

Baer used humor and lots of anecdotes to make parliamentary procedures come alive. She explained how to handle a main motion so that all members of the group are able to discuss the motion and understand the issues prior to voting.

There are three levels of parliamentarians, ranging from knowledge of basic procedures to the Professional Registered Parliamentarian, which requires a three-day course that includes homework and a final panel decision. With work and family, it took Baer eight years to become a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She now advises several nonprofit organizations.

— Janice Ward, York County Public Library

Dealing with Problematic People
Presenter: Bill Fiege, Germanna Community College

As Bill Fiege said, most of our daily encounters are with wonderful people — hardworking and appreciative. BUT...then one comes in that ruins your whole day. They say things like "There's nothing here!" Translation: They can't find what they're looking for. Or, "This place is stupid!" Translation: They're confused about their assignment and don't know where to look.

How do you deal with these people? How do we both help them and at the same time not become embroiled in conflict? Some helpful strategies are:

  • Pay attention — If you spot someone wandering around the library looking lost, you may be able to stop a problem before it begins.
  • Listen — Listen, listen, and listen!
  • Body Language — Be aware of your body language. What are you saying without saying anything?
  • Positive attitude — A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
  • Remember All the Good Ones — Why focus on the negative?
  • Know the Problem Is Not You — The problem may result from what people experienced before they approached you.

After Bill's presentation, he divided everyone into small groups to work on scenarios dealing with some of our favorite problematic people. His relaxed manner and wonderful humor made it easy to discuss problems and work on solutions. It was a productive session that was also lots of fun.

— Janice Ward, York County Public Library

Research on Virginia History
Presenter: Author Henry Wiencek

Last year, Henry Wiencek was our guest of honor at the Author Luncheon, speaking on his book The Hairstons . This year, he returned to present a seminar on his adventures gathering material for his latest, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America . At the suggestion from a paraprofessional last year, he has also started to gather material for a book on Thomas Jefferson.

The session was well attended. Listeners asked numerous questions at the end, and Wiencek was gracious enough to stay longer to provide answers and sign copies of his books. Wiencek is a Senior Research Fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in Charlottesville, and has contributed articles to American Heritage, American Legacy , Smithsonian Magazine , and Connoisseur .

Government Documents in Your Library
Presenter: Lily McGovern, National Defense University Library

Are you interested in the environment, space, drugs, taxes, or even history? Do you need information on financial aid, veterans' benefits, or social security? Would you like to access updates on scandals, current events, statistics, or even laws that govern each and every one of us? Lily McGovern's session directed her attendees to the United States Government Manual located at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual/ for just this type of information This site contains the official handbook of the U.S. Government, where one can find a copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, information on the branches of the U.S. Government, and tons and tons of valuable material This is an excellent site to help kids who are looking for information on the members of the House of Representatives or Senate. Another great website is Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids . This site provides information aimed at schoolchildren K-12. At this site, anyone doing research can check alerts, obtain information from the Disease Control Center, reserve space in one of our many national parks, and even find information on how to receive a flag that has been flown over one of the Congressional buildings. There is so much information on these sites that if McGovern had spoken all day, she would still have needed a few extra days to cover it all.

— Marcia Cramer, Pamunkey Public Library

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Raffle prize winners get together.

ALA and APA...Working for ALL Library Workers
Presenter: James Rettig, Boatwright Memorial Library at the University of Richmond

We all know ALA is the acronym for the American Library Association, but did anyone know that ALAAPA is the acronym for ALA-Allied Professional Association? ALA-APA is a nonprofit professional organization established "to promote the mutual professional interests of librarians and other library workers." James Rettig's presentation on ALAAPA informed attendees that ALA has a new membership category for support staff that started last year. ALA-APA is focused on two broad areas: (1) certification of individuals in specializations beyond the initial professional degree; and (2) direct support of comparable worth and pay equity initiatives, and other activities designed to improve the salaries and status of librarians and other library workers. Jennifer Grady is currently heading ALAAPA. The group is in the process of creating a five-year strategic plan and surveying focus groups that obtain information from customers, students, paraprofessionals, librarians, etc. There is a plan to conduct a national salary survey. If you have an opportunity, visit the Worklife section ( http://www.ala-apa.org/newsletter/newsletter.html ) on the ALA-APA homepage for a sneak preview. If you want additional information, you may join in the fall for $35. For additional fees, one can receive email alerts on legislative issues. It has been documented that libraries from 49 states are now doing more with less funding, while customer demands are steadily increasing. For these reasons alone, it is important to be informed of the issues and get involved. Please read the article on Jennifer Grady in the April 2004 issue of Library Mosaics.

— Mona Farrow, Old Dominion University's Perry

Library Display Cases That Sizzle
Presenters: Pat Howe and Lydia Williams, Longwood University Library

Longwood University knows how to sizzle. Would you like a display that dazzles, one that attracts the attention of the public, or perhaps one that just sets a romantic or distinguished tone? These are just a few of the examples presented by Lydia Williams, Archives Manager, and Pat Howe, Head of Technical Services at Longwood University.

Working from their combined years of experience and creativity, Williams and Howe were able to demonstrate a variety of ways to design and construct unique and eye-catching display cases for the Longwood University Library. Williams described and demonstrated the benefits and attractions of an interesting, informative and/or educational display case. Some of her examples showed how to set up unique displays for a variety of celebrations, local author displays, and library-related events. She also discussed a project carried out prior to National Library Week that featured Longwood University's faculty, staff, sports teams, and student organizations on Read posters shown in display cases and display boards throughout the Library. The session included a show-and-tell segment the allowed everyone to see the variety of items that can make an ordinary, one-dimensional display more alive, colorful, and attractive to those who walk in the library doors.

— Bridget Clark, Longwood University Library

Youth Services Institute

Presenters: Genevieve Gallagher, Orange County Public Library; Donna Hughes, Handley Regional Library; Gwen Lantz, Shenandoah County Public Library; and Pat Muller, Library of Virginia

Fifty participants attended this fullday program, brought to the conference by the Library of Virginia's Children and Youth Services Consultant, Pat Muller. Along with a selection of staff from around the state who are all involved with providing services to teens, the Institute presented three unique sessions.

The first session answered the question, "Just who are today's teens?" Genevieve Gallagher and Pat Muller covered adolescent development, behavior, teen culture, and reading tastes. Participants left this session with a better idea of just why teens do the things they do as well as an appreciation for the variety of magazine publications produced with the teen audience in mind.

The second session centered on youth participation. Gwen Lantz outlined the guidelines for teen participation in libraries. The audience learned the various degrees of participation and were urged to strive for meaningful opportunities when thinking about programming for teens.

The third session focused on gathering, using, and managing, or G.U.M. Donna Hughes and Pat Muller covered ways to find information about teen preferences and how to learn to use and manage available data. Muller offered tips on making the case for teen services based on data collection.

During the evening, Muller gave a PowerPoint presentation that featured unique and functional teen spaces that have worked well.

— Susan Paddock, Virginia Beach Central Library

What Do You Do with a Widget?

Presenters: Mary Fran Bell-Johnson, Longwood University Library, and Pat Howe, Longwood University Library

Mary Fran Bell-Johnson and Pat Howe presented an entertaining program on the art of audiovisual cataloging. Participants were treated to an overview on creating records for video and sound materials, along with three-dimensional items. There really IS such a "thing" as a Widget!

At Longwood University, Bell-Johnson is a Library Assistant responsible for cataloging juvenile titles and video recordings, while Howe is the Head of Technical Services, Automation Librarian, and Associate Professor for the School Library Media Program.

— Marcia Cramer, Pamunkey Public Library

One Book, One Community: How Two Virginia Communities Ran Their Programs

Presenters: Patty Franz, Pamunkey Regional Library, and Candice Michalik, Lynchburg Public Library

Patty Franz and Candice Michalik showed participants how to start a community reading program — how to get started, ideas on selecting books, and timetables for the project from beginning to end. Franz has been a liaison to the Go Read project in Richmond. She is a Supervising Librarian responsible for Adult Services, including book groups and the adult summer reading program. Michalik is a Reference Librarian and leads monthly book discussion groups, along with the citywide book program, Lynchburg Reads.

— Marcia Cramer, Pamunkey Public Library

FISH Philosophy of Customer Service

Presenter: Carol Henderson, George Mason University

Carol Henderson presented a unique way of handling customer service. Based on the techniques used by the fishmongers at Pike's Fish Market on the Seattle waterfront, customer service involves four elements:

  1. Have Fun — If you don't enjoy what you do, it will reflect back on how you treat customers/ patrons.
  2. Make Their Day — Get involved with customers/patrons; converse and smile with them.
  3. Be There — Listen to them, acknowledge their presence.
  4. Adjust Your Attitude — No matter how you may feel personally, leave the bad mood at home and project a positive attitude at work.
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Carol Henderson shares information on how to provide good customer service.

Henderson showed a brief video filmed at the Seattle Fish Market. It brought to life the philosophy of the workers as they played — and worked — getting customers/ patrons involved in their daily routine. One memorable sequence showed a young lady trying to catch a rather large fish being thrown to her. Naturally, the men working there caught it every time; she did not. But they made her day, and had fun doing it. Hopefully, the dropped fish did not make it to the display cases later!

— Mary Buckley, George Mason University Library

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Ruth Kifer addresses issues related to the Patriot Act,
and Steve Litherland offers advice on earning an M.L.I.S. via distance education.

The Patriot Act and Libraries and The USA PATRIOT Act: A Panel Discussion

Presenters: Ruth Kifer, George Mason University Library, and Les Lauziere, Virginia Attorney General's Office

This session and follow-up discussion were designed to give direction, debunk myths, and allay fears among library staff concerning subpoenas and warrants and how to handle these situations.

At the first session, Ruth Kifer showed an excerpt from a video detailing the Patriot Act and its impact on libraries. She recommended that libraries that do not already have procedures in place, do so at once. She explained the difference between subpoenas (requests for information that have a time limit on compliance) and warrants (specific search requests, handled on the spot at that minute) and what to do in such situations.

During the following discussion panel, Kifer was joined by Les Lauziere of Virginia's Office of the Attorney General. Lauziere imparted additional information — specifically, that law enforcement folks are not going to appear at closing time demanding records. They are not going to terrorize frontline personnel. Whether it's a warrant or subpoena, law enforcement will call ahead and discuss the needs with the director of the library, or the library's legal representative, and make the necessary arrangements. There was an understandable audible sigh of relief at hearing this.

— Mary Buckley, George Mason University Library

60 Sites in 60 Minutes

Presenter: Leanne Battle, LexisNexis

This was a most interesting class taught by Leanne B. Battle, a Lexis- Nexis Librarian Relations Consultant serving Virginia and Washington, D.C. She has worked as a librarian in both a law firm and an academic environment. Battle received her bachelor's degree from the University of Richmond and her M.L.S. from the University of Texas at Austin. We toured the Internet at whirlwind speed, looking at a mixture of sites for work, home, and play. We really did see 60 sites in 60 minutes.

— Joan Taylor, Washington County Public Library VL