portrait of Keith Weimer

Dear Colleagues Working in Virginia Libraries:

2017 has been an eventful-indeed, chaotic-year in Virginia's history. From debates over intellectual freedom and state allocations for libraries at the sitting of the General Assembly through the upheaval surrounding the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville this August, and the growing controversy over memorials to the Confederacy, Virginians have confronted issues arising from our ethnic, cultural, and political diversity. The fissures run deep, and have the potential to polarize us and prevent constructive solutions. Libraries have been affected-directly or indirectly-by all these controversies.

The 2017 VLA Conference
theme, "Breaking Barriers,
Building Bridges," speaks
to libraries’ roles as
institutions that foster

When the VLA Conference Committee chose our conference theme, "Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges, we did so with the increasing social and political polarization leading up to the 2016 election in mind. Little did we realize how much this polarization would intensify in subsequent months. The theme speaks to public and academic libraries' roles as institutions that foster community-places where all Virginians are welcome to access useful information and public services, places to meet for a variety of purposes, even places to find temporary refuge from the stresses of the world. Our theme is aspirational as well as descriptive of the work that libraries do. It seems even more relevant now than it did 10 months ago, and it applies well beyond our hopes for the 2017 annual conference.

The Virginia Library Association has worked this year to meet the aspirations expressed in the theme "Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges." We have incorporated our commitment to diversity and to intellectual freedom into our Statement of Core Values and our Strategic Plan for 2017-2020. We committed funds generously donated by the Tidewater Area Library Directors Advisory Committee (TALDAC) to a scholarship for the 2018 Joint Council for Librarians of Color Conference. We further established a travel grant to assist members of underrepresented groups with professional development. We received submissions for our second annual Graphic Novel Diversity Award. We have increased our overall membership to 900. In addition, we are exploring a change in our dues structure that should help more Virginia library workers to participate in VLA as members in an era of tight library budgets and economic uncertainty. We have also forged new links with the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL), by appointing Susan Catlett as liaison to that group. The actions listed here are of course, first steps, and we must continue to work to make sure that the Virginia Library Association is representative of all library workers—and all our patrons-in the Commonwealth.

VLA has been instrumental
for many of us in getting to
know fellow library
workers from across
Virginia, and in building our
professional lives, and I’m
proud to have played this
part in helping to move the
organization forward.

While 2017 has been one of the more contentious years in Virginia and American history, it's been a fairly easy year to be President of VLA-thanks to the great work of our Executive Director, Lisa Varga; our Conference Chair, Jennifer Resor-Whicker; and everyone who volunteers and works so hard for the association. VLA has continued to build on its work of recent years to strengthen the association as a resource and a support network for Virginia library workers. Successes this year include the wonderful Professional Associates Conference held in May in Newport News, the reorganization of the VLA website to make the pages more dynamic, and exploration of a Teaching and Training Academy. We had a strong delegation for the American Library Association's National Library Legislative Days in early May, which lobbied Congress for funding for the Library Services and Technology Act, for net neutrality, for copyright reform, and for other issues that are important to our users. Our Legislative Committee worked with the Library of Virginia and legislators in the General Assembly to recover some funding lost during 2016 budget cuts, as well as to restore archives personnel and public access hours. The reboot of Virginia Libraries is another success story of 2017.

It's been an honor to serve as President of the Virginia Library Association. This organization plays such an important role in bringing together academic, public, and other libraries and library supporters on a statewide scale that is a "manageable microcosm" of the national library scene. Frankly, it's also been humbling to participate at this level on a team of so many smart, talented people. VLA has been instrumental for many of us in getting to know fellow library workers from across Virginia, and in building our professional lives, and I'm proud to have played this part in helping to move the organization forward.


Keith Weimer, President, Virginia Library Association

Keith Weimer (kweimer@virginia.edu), Keith Weimer is Research Librarian for History and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He has previously served VLA as Chair of the Public Documents Forum and Region IV Chair. A native of the Pittsburgh area, Keith began his career in Virginia libraries as a public services librarian at Virginia Union University in 1997.

Received: September 15, 2017
Accepted: September 15, 2017
Published: October 1, 2017

© Authors: Keith Weimer. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source.