Although it will not be published until March, I am writing this column on the cusp of the new year and find myself taking a Janus look at the year past and the one to come. 2005 was a banner year for the Virginia Library Association. We accomplished some legislative goals, got our foundation off and running, and had a great conference and a fun celebration. It’s hard to top a centennial — surely a once in a lifetime experience for most of us.

So what does 2006 hold for VLA? At the annual Executive Committee retreat in December, VLA leadership discussed the issues that will concern the organization for the next twelve months. These concerns will become the 2006 Designated Agenda to be presented to the VLA Council at the January meeting. Here are some highlights of that document.

Our legislative agenda looks similar to that of previous years. Members of the Legislative Committee, Legislative Liaison Phil Abraham, and many librarians around the state have been contacting state delegates and senators to lay the groundwork before the start of the General Assembly on January 11. This year the governor’s budget included a small increase in State Aid to Public Libraries — not as much as we are requesting in our perennial quest for full funding, but a welcome recognition of the importance of state aid. Plans are in progress to ensure a Virginia representation at the American Library Association’s National Legislative Day. As one of the states nearest to Washington, D.C., it is time that we had a meaningful presence at this event. Although it isn’t a direct legislative issue as yet, we intend to work with the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Public Library Director’s Association on implementing recommendations from the recent Public Library Study commissioned by LVA.

We are a financially sound organization … but not a wealthy one.

Membership is another major topic for VLA this year. We need to focus both on bringing in new members and retaining the ones we have. VLA is the only organization in the state that serves all types of libraries. Our membership is our most important asset. If every member renewed his or her own membership and encouraged one other person to join, we could see a wonderful surge of growth. Directors in all categories of libraries can also do a great deal to promote membership by example and by paying or supplementing membership dues for their employees. We need to strengthen our continuing education functions and hope to work more closely with the Library of Virginia in this area.

We recognize that we need to strengthen our methods of communication with members. Already a task force is at work to review our website. This group is charged to both plan and implement ways to make more timely and useful to the membership. One major focus area is providing for online services such as payments, conference registration, and voting.

As always, VLA finances are a concern. We are a financially sound organization — and we will have an external audit this year to confirm that — but not a wealthy one. Our income from membership dues does not completely cover our operating costs. We will be reviewing our dues structure this year, but recognize that we have to balance our need with the ability of our members to pay. Fortunately, we have had several successful conferences to bridge the gap. We need to ensure funding for our scholarships and our legislative activities. Until the Virginia Library Association Foundation develops into the endowment that we envision, we need to find sponsors for these critical programs.

This all sounds like a lot of work. It can’t be accomplished by just a few officers or even a council of some thirty people. It will need the support and efforts of many. VLA is an organization of over a thousand individuals. There are opportunities for involvement for all members who wish to participate. If you are one of those, please go to the VLA website, download the Committee Interest Form, and send it to the VLA office. I look forward to working with you. VL