Dear Colleagues in Virginia’s Libraries,

I never cease to be amazed at the dedication and devotion carried on daily by my fellow library workers! As I write this, elections for the next President-Elect and Secretary for the Virginia Library Association (VLA) are underway, causing me to step back in recollection over the past year as your president. Important things are always happening in our libraries and I feel privileged to have learned more about your experiences as well as how many things we have in common, regardless of what prefix rests in front of the word Library for you.

The year began with a review of the designated agenda, recognizing the great work that has strengthened the organization in recent memory, committing to encourage a broader and more diverse VLA membership while improving lines of communication between the Executive Committee and the VLA Council to members with a monthly e-newsletter. It has been a pleasure to see the progress we have made thus far.

Important things are always happening in our libraries and I feel privileged to have learned more about your experiences as well as how many things we have in common, regardless of what prefix rests in front of the word Library for you

The 2018 Conference Committee Chair, Clint Rudy, and his team are getting everything ready for our annual, Revolution, at the Colonial Williamsburg Lodge from September 26-28. While the theme acknowledges the location’s heritage, it also reflects the approach that the committee took in conference planning, from a streamlined registration process, to a simplification of session categories, and sessions that address different learning styles to name a few innovations.

Some of the highlights enjoyed in 2018, included:

Our own Executive Director, Lisa Varga, was selected to participate in the inaugural class of the American Library Association (ALA) Policy Corps. She was one of twelve library and information professionals presented by ALA President Jim Neal to serve as a cadre of experts with deep and sustained knowledge of national public policies in areas key to ALA’s strategic goals. Not only does she represent us here in VLA, but she has an opportunity to influence policy.

Nearly thirty library delegates from across the Commonwealth, including members from the Executive Committee, appeared in Washington, DC for National Library Legislative Day with a day of advocacy training on May 7 followed by visits to senators and representatives the following day. The three talking points, our “asks,” were succinct: reauthorizing the Museum and Library Services Act; fully funding the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) Program; and encouraging members of the House and Senate to visit libraries to see broadband access in action.

Three association members were the recipients of scholarships based on their academic excellence and dedication to the field of Library Science. Melinda Manuel, our VLA Paraprofessional Clara Stanley Scholarship winner, along with Chelsea Seddon, and Bonnie Shaw each received $2,500 scholarships to pursue a master’s degree in Library Science at ALA accredited schools. The awards were presented at the Professional Associates Conference on May 21 in Newport News. The conference had the very timely theme of “Other Duties as Assigned.”

Speaking of schools, Old Dominion University is creating an ALA-accredited master’s in library and information science program that they hope to launch in the near future. Lisa Varga and I are serving on the program’s advisory board. One looks forward to seeing students in our state earn MLIS degrees closer to home.

The tireless work of our Legislative Committee, co-chairs Tom Shepley and Toni Cox, as well as legislative liaison Phil Abraham, during a tough budget season in the General Assembly, saw the passing of a compromise budget which yielded an increase for State Aid to local public libraries of $250,000 in year one and $500,000 in year two. Great news for public libraries!

Because diversity in the profession is so important, VLA offered travel grants (at $1400) apiece for two Virginians to attend the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color (JCLC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 26-30. There was a large pool of applicants, so the process was competitive with the grants awarded to Tiffany Duck (Suffolk Public Library) and Dorothy Hargett (Regent University). They will represent us well at JCLC.

The Virginia Library Leadership Academy (VALLA), hosted in Staunton, continued to garner more participation, with twenty-seven library professionals from various types of libraries participating in the 2018 class. Coordinated by the Continuing Education Committee with the theme “Lead the Change,” ALA Past-President Maureen Sullivan led this one and a half-day biennial intensive which has cultivated library leaders since 2010.

Your 2018 Executive Committee are some of the most dedicated people that I have had the pleasure of working with: President-Elect Jessica Scalph, Second Vice President Adrian Whicker, Secretary Jennifer Resor-Whicker, Treasurer Cori Biddle, Past-President Keith Weimer, ALA Councilor Samantha Thomason, and Executive Director Lisa Varga. I also must commend the VLA Council and the work that they do, resisting the urge to list them all by name for fear of going way over my word limit.

Last, but not least, my wife, Jackie has been so supportive of me and VLA; she has been my chief encourager, accompanying me on trips for meetings and conferences all year. On becoming vice-president/president-elect, I was at once elated and terrified. As far as anyone in my professional circles knew, no person of color had served as president before. I feel a bit sheepish about those anxieties now – the support from members has made all of this worthwhile. My predecessor, Keith Weimer, talked about breaking barriers and building bridges. We are witnessing this every day in libraries, and it is something to celebrate in the Commonwealth.

Active participation in your library association is key to building a diverse membership and broadening service to all types of libraries whether academic, public, school, or special.

It has been an honor and joy to serve as your president and I look forward to what the future holds for Virginia Library Association. This is the place to connect with your colleagues, enhance your skills, and support each other in our profession. I hope that you will feel free to stay in touch!


Todd Elliott, President, Virginia Library Association

Todd Elliott (elliottt@portsmouthva.gov), Todd has the pleasure of serving in his hometown as the Director of Libraries at Portsmouth Public Library. He served in the United States Air Force from 1987-1993, and earned an MLIS from the University of South in 1998. Todd is a member of the American Library Association, Virginia Library Association, Tidewater Area Library Directors’ Council, and Virginia Public Library Directors Association.

Received: August 24, 2018

Accepted: August 24, 2018

Published: September 27, 2018


© Authors: Todd Elliott. 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.