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Virginia Library Association: Q&A for Ed Gillespie and Ralph Northam

The Virginia Library Association Legislative Committee reached out to the major party gubernatorial candidates to ask questions about libraries and library funding in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

We encourage all library supporters to read the questions and the complete answers provided by each candidate, below.

Question 1: Do you use your public library, and, if so, what do you like about it?

Gillespie: As a child, I enjoyed visits to my public library. And as a father, I often took my children to our public library.

Northam:  I grew up going to public schools and public colleges, and I’ve been an educator at one of Virginia’s public colleges myself. There is nothing more important than public support of education, especially our public libraries. For many years my family has been big public library supporters. Pam and I are currently members of the Norfolk public library and my children grew up going to the library at least once a week. During this campaign, both Pam and I spend a lot of time on the road, and Pam in particular has enjoyed getting all of her audiobooks from our local library to listen to as she travels around the state. Pam’s mother recently retired from being assistant librarian at the Bandera public library (in Texas) and my mother used to take neighbors and friends’ children to the our local library in Onancock.

Question 2: How do you think that libraries (public, school, and academic) contribute to the quality of life in Virginia?

Gillespie: I believe that there are many contributions libraries make to quality of life, outside of their dedicated function to make books available. Whether it be providing a forum for community events like open mic readings or art galleries or providing an opportunity for students in underserved areas to access Internet, libraries serve a lot of important functions in our society.

Northam:  As a medical professional, scientist, and pediatrician, I see the power of a good education every day. Virginia’s children need and deserve access to a world-class education, and public libraries make that possible. As a pediatrician, you can understand why I have put so much emphasis on early childhood education. I have chaired the Commonwealth Council for Childhood Success, and am a member of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet. I am proud that during our administration, we have opened up Pre-K to 13,000 more children across Virginia. I often point out that if one family has the ability to send their child to Pre-K and another family does not, that is what starts an achievement gap that is very difficult to bridge. Public libraries— accessible to all Virginians— play a tremendous role in ensuring access to educational opportunities for Virginians of all ages, economic backgrounds, etc. Moreover, libraries provide diverse programming and are community gathering spots that add to the overall quality of life in a community.

Question 3: In FY 2001, the Governor and the General Assembly fully funded State Aid to Local Public Libraries, but state aid was severely reduced in the years that followed due to budget cuts and the fiscal challenges Virginia faced. As a result, for fiscal year 2018 State Aid is currently funded at only about 58% of the level mandated by the Code of Virginia which is about $11,600,000 per year short of full funding. While JLARC has found State Aid to Local Public Libraries to be a valuable source of funding that effectively leverages local spending and achieves cost efficiencies by encouraging regional libraries, through FY 2018 this state financial support for public libraries has fallen to only $200,000 more than the FY 1999 level. Most libraries use State Aid to Local Public Libraries funds to purchase books and other materials that are to be used by the public. As Governor, would you oppose any further cuts in State Aid to Local Public Libraries?

Gillespie: Our local and regional public libraries must be funded to ensure the continuation of the important services they offer. As governor, I will closely evaluate the State Aid to Local Public Libraries.

Northam: Virginia’s public libraries can’t afford more cuts. As governor, I’ll ensure stable funding for public libraries – and I will prioritize bringing both parties together to invest more in programs to make Virginia the home of the best-trained workforce in the nation, and that includes investing in public libraries. On a personal note, I have reached out to stakeholders in both the public and private sectors to support the Eastern Shore Library Foundation in my home community, so that the Shore can have a modern, regional library— having benefitted firsthand from our public libraries here in Virginia, I know how important they are and will support them as Governor.

Question 4: Virginia law establishes that the development of public library service throughout the Commonwealth is part of its provision of public education (§ 42.1-46). Library summer reading programs that promote childhood literacy and library materials that target STEM instruction in and outside the classroom are two ways that libraries are currently supporting public elementary and secondary education throughout the Commonwealth. A study conducted for the Library of Virginia by McREL International between April 2013 and November 2015 documents significant improvement in childhood literacy that result from summer reading programs. This study found:
  • Students who participated in summer reading programs outperformed non-participating peers on both the Phonological Awareness Literacy screening used to measure knowledge in literacy fundamentals in grades K-2nd and the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) for grades 3rd -12th.
  • Students in grades 3rd-12th who participated in summer reading programs demonstrated an increase in test scores after returning from summer break, while students who did not participate in summer reading programs showed a decrease in scores.
  • Students in grades K-2nd who participated in summer reading programs demonstrated less of a decrease in test scores than non-participating students after returning to school from summer break.

Would you support increasing the amount appropriated annually to State Aid to Local Public Libraries by $2.5 million during the 2018-2020 biennium and an additional $2.5 million in the 2020-2022 to be used by libraries to support summer reading materials and programs or library materials that target STEM instruction? This would bring State Aid to Local Public Libraries to about its FY 2001 level and about 76% of the amount currently required by state law.

Gillespie: As governor, I will strongly advocate for initiatives that advance STEM instruction. Summer reading programs serve an important role in giving Virginia students an opportunity to hone their skills throughout the summer. I am encouraged by the McREL study and will invite the Virginia Library Association (VLA) to submit budget recommendations to the Department of Planning and Budget (DPB) and to the Governor’s Policy Office.

Northam: Goal #1 of my four years is making Virginia’s workforce the best-trained in the nation, because that will lead to good-paying jobs and a better economy for everyone. While there are many competing budget priorities, I will be focused on bringing both parties to the table to make investments in programs that will prepare Virginians for better-paying jobs. That includes expanding access to pre-K, investing more in our public schools, and continuing to invest in Virginia’s public libraries.


Call for Session Proposals: 2018 VLA Professional Associates Conference – “Other Duties as Assigned”

We are now accepting session proposals for the 2018 VLA Professional Associates Conference – “Other Duties as Assigned," which will be held at the Newport News Marriott City Center, May 21, 2018. Please consider presenting sessions that discuss Outreach/Marketing, Youth Services, Adult Services, Special Services, Technical Services, and General Services for our patrons. 

Proposals are invited for 45-minute presentations.

Deadline for submission is November 15, 2017.  All submissions will be reviewed by the VLAPAF Board and notification of acceptance will be given in January of 2018. 

Up to two presenters per session will receive 50% off conference registration fees.

Please complete the proposal form before November 15!

Thank you for your interest in the VLAPAF!

Bonnie T. Shaw, VLAPAF 2018 Chair


The Library of Virginia returns to the State Fair! Volunteers Needed


The Library of Virginia will be promoting our state-wide presence at the Virginia State Fair at Meadow Event Park in Caroline County, September 29 through October 8, 2017. We will have a booth in the Farm Bureau Building, which is where all the indoor Fair vendors are located. Last year, nearly 250,000 people visited the Fair! This is a great opportunity to meet new people and promote resources available through public libraries and with the support of the Library of Virginia.

We will need some help! We are looking for enthusiastic, friendly, outgoing VLA members and public librarians to share the booth and promote library services to Virginians at the Fair!

If you are interested, e-mail Mary Clark  or Donna Pletcher  by Wednesday August 23, 2017.

Below are some of the expectations for the volunteers:

  • You will be expected to be knowledgeable about the resources available to residents either freely or with an LVA library registration (there will be a cheat sheet)
  • Public librarians and VLA members will also be able to engage with visitors about their library services; people come from all over Virginia for the Fair
  • You will be expected to actively engage people passing the booth
  • You will be expected to help people register for a LVA library card on a tablet at our booth
  • Ability to use social media greatly appreciated, but not necessary
  • Stamina and patience will help, too
  • We hope to staff the booth with one VLA /public library staff member and one Library of Virginia staff member during each shift – there are a total of 20 shifts during the 10 days of the Fair
  • Shifts will be 9:45 AM to 4 PM, and 3:45 PM to 9 PM Sunday through Thursday and 3:45 PM to 10 PM Friday and Saturday.  The doors to the Farm Bureau building open to the public at 10 AM.
  • Booths must be staffed at all times for the duration of the Fair
  • You will receive one ticket to the Fair that will be good the day of your shift. Parking is free

The Library of Virginia gratefully acknowledges the support of the Virginia Library Association at the 2017 Virginia State Fair!




Statement from the Virginia Library Association about the Events of August 11-12, 2017

The Virginia Library Association condemns the violence and terror committed by the “Unite the Right” rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville this past weekend. We express our condolences to the families of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates, and we send our thoughts and prayers to all those injured in the car attack and other incidents on Saturday.

Diversity and inclusion are among the Virginia Library Association’s core values, and we represent library professionals who seek to serve all residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. We come from a variety of political perspectives and affiliations, and value diversity of thought, but we unequivocally reject the white supremacist ideology, exclusion, and intimidation represented at the “Unite the Right” march.

VLA has added a session to our conference program at 2:15pm on Friday, October 13, about the events in Charlottesville. The program will be hosted by members of the staff of Jefferson-Madison Regional Library.

The Virginia Library Association 2017 Executive Committee



People and Happenings: January-June 2017

The latest edition of VLA's People and Happenings has been posted

What's new with you?

Have you recently received a promotion? Has your library system hired new staff? Is your building undergoing a renovation or are you adding a new location? Or do you want to celebrate your staff's hard work on a recent event? VLA wants to know!

Anyone in Virginia can share their library updates to be posted on our “People & Happenings” page. Send your news in by the 15th of each month. Please keep your news items brief and please do include any relevant photographs, such as headshots for people and in-progress shots of renovations and new buildings. Please send your items to


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