ASSOCIATES (2008, November, v. 15, no. 2)

Conference Report

VLA Paraprofessional Forum 2008 Conference

Lydia Williams

[The following article is an excerpt from one published in the July/August/September 2008 issue of
Virginia Libraries and is printed here by permission of the author and publisher.]

The 2008 Virginia Library Association Paraprofessional Forum Conference was held May 18-20 at the Holiday Inn/Koger South Conference Center in Chesterfield County. With the theme, The Many Faces of Libraries: Fearlessly Evolving to Meet User Needs, the conference brought together almost three hundred attendees from Virginia, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Washington, DC. One attendee traveled from the Bahamas to attend the conference. With a large variety of concurrent sessions, an author banquet, a special luncheon, interesting keynote speakers, and many opportunities for networking and professional development, this conference provided quality programming with something for everyone working in the library world.

Sunday’s Author Banquet
The conference opened with an author banquet featuring Virginia author Andy Straka whose most current novel is a literary thriller titled Record of Wrongs. Author of three additional thrillers, his books have all received literary awards. Mr. Straka opened by telling us how his love of literature and writing began as a boy when he was fascinated by and drawn into the castle-like building that was his hometown library. He said that the doors into the library provided him with a magical portal by which he could escape to far away places and experience exciting adventures. Later in his life, while a student at Williams College, the magical portal opened once again, and as an English major he wrote wild stories and poems. Fifteen years after college he began to write once again, and after much hard work and a great deal of patience he is now an award-winning author. Mr. Straka’s novels are classified as urban, private-eye, crime-thrillers into which he has incorporated his own unique twist which is the art of falconry. Mr. Straka talked about the themes of his books which lured the room full of book lovers to the book signing that followed the banquet.

Monday’s Opening Session
VLAPF Cochairs Kim Blaylock and Chris Dixon provided opening remarks and a welcome for Monday’s general session. VLA President Donna Cote further welcomed the group, encouraging everyone to participate in the Virginia Library Association and inviting them to attend the 2008 VLA conference in the fall which be held in Williamsburg on October 23-24. The theme of this year’s conference is Librarians: Champions of Democracy.

Librarian of Virginia Sandra Treadway was the keynote speaker for the morning session. She shared some recent insights regarding library support staff that she had gathered from reading articles about the history of the VLAPF and by interviewing library support staff working at the Library of Virginia. These exercises increased her awareness of the role library support staff play in the world of libraries in general, as well as in the day to day operation of the library. She learned that library support staff members are the ones who meet and greet the customers, setting the tone for the user’s visit. Whether it is helping those in the reading rooms, directing users who have special needs, or assisting users with library technologies, library support staff members are the ones users deal with on their visits to the library. They are also the ones who know what works and what doesn’t work in regard to resources and technologies. Dr. Treadway concluded by saying that the role played by support staff is vital in the operation of the library and that they should be included on committees and included in the planning processes as libraries evolve and change so that Virginia libraries can successfully meet the needs of users. In closing Dr. Treadway stated that library support staff are indeed at the forefront fearlessly facing the challenges of an ever-changing library.

Monday’s “’Roarin’ 20s” Social
The popular Monday evening social took on a festive look with balloons, confetti, and theme-related items decorating tables in the room. Ladies attired in dresses with lots of fringe, very sassy high heel shoes, and strands of long beads highlighted the Roarin’ 20s theme. Everyone enjoyed the social that provided an evening for socializing and dancing. Even those who didn’t dance enjoyed the music provided by DJ Ron Gilder.

Tuesday’s Closing Session
Tuesday’s closing session included a speaker, a banquet luncheon, special recognitions and awards, and the drawing for the scholarship raffle prizes. Incoming Cochairs Willow Gale and Kathy Clevenger facilitated this session which opened with special recognitions and awards. Delores Thomas and Karen Jacobs were recognized for all their hard work in providing some new and ingenious ways for networking and meeting other conference attendees. Kitty Morris of the Central Rappahannock Library was the winner of the Barnes and Noble gift certificate given away as a part of the networking promotion. Susan Paddock, who is employed at the Central Branch of the Virginia Beach Public Library, was recognized as this year’s recipient of the Clara Stanley Scholarship sponsored by the VLA Paraprofessional Forum Board. Todd Eastridge, who is employed at the Abingdon Public Library, received the Outstanding Paraprofessional of the Year Award. Kay Buchanan, Information Services Librarian for the University of VA Education Center, received the VLAPF 2008 Supporter of Paraprofessionals Award.

Following the awards and recognitions, Storyteller Kim Weitkamp entertained the group with several stories that charmed all those listening, and believe me, everyone was listening. Whether it was with a verbal illustrations that brought back memories of youth or with the slightly embellished antics of a young girl growing up in the mountains, Ms. Weitkamp’s stories captured the attention of all and evoked a variety of emotions that resulted in laughter, giggles, tears, and sighs. With her animated presentation of these wonderful stories, Ms. Weitkamp won the hearts of everyone in the audience.

The conference closed with the scholarship raffle. In addition to the many unique and eye-catching baskets provided by the VLAPF Board members, the raffle included a P. Buckley Moss print and a beautiful handmade quilt. The “Simple Star” quilt, handmade by the Virginia Tech Quilters, was given in memory of Clara Stanley for whom the VLAPF educational scholarship is named. The Moss Society generously donated a P. Buckley Moss print which was framed by Chris Mason of Christopher’s Fine Art and Framing in Farmville. Janet Bland from Virginia Tech was the winner of the quilt, and Dave Hayes of Radford University was the winner of the Moss Print. With all the wonderful prizes and baskets provided for the raffle, the event was a successful one, earning most of the money needed to fund next year’s scholarship.