The Library of Virginia
Home >> Who We Are >> Exhibitions >>Virginia Library Association - Honoring the Past, Building Our Future: One Hundred Years of the Virginia Library Association

Virginia Library Association Logo

Honoring the Past, Building Our Future: One Hundred Years of the Virginia Library Association

What the VLA Does

The Virginia Library Association provides continuing education opportunities for its members through meetings, workshops, and annual conferences held throughout the state. The annual conferences have increased in length and substance as VLA members face new demands.

When the VLA met in Richmond in 1945, the conferees met at Second Baptist Church because the Jefferson Hotel, according to the segregation laws, refused to allow the integrated organization to use its meeting rooms. As a result, the VLA resolved that future conferences would be held only in hotels that allowed interracial groups to meet in the same facilities.

Since its founding, the Virginia Library Association has sought to build libraries and offer services to everyone in the state. In partnership with the state library (now the Library of Virginia), the VLA supported attempts to build public libraries and, in 1934, was represented on the State Library Planning Committee. In its A Library Plan for the State of Virginia, the State Library Planning Committee stated that

The state of Virginia and its constituent localities should maintain reasonably adequate public libraries available for all of its population, rural and urban, white and colored. To do less is to shirk an essential responsibility for the educational improvement of its citizenship, both young and old.

The number of the commonwealth’s libraries has grown from 125 to more than 1,750, including 91 public library systems, 79 academic libraries, and more than 1,600 public schools with library media centers.

The VLA has developed three mechanisms to better serve its membership:

  • Standing committees, such as legislative, publications, and scholarship, perform the functional work of the organization and ensure that the mission, vision and values of the organization are carried out.
  • Forums recognize and serve specific interests and encourage collaboration and communication in functional areas of library services.
  • Geographic regions encourage year-round partnerships and foster relationship-building among librarians, library staff, and their communities that are in close geographic proximity to each other.

Cover of Virginia Libraries
Virginia Libraries.

To keep its membership informed about issues facing libraries in the commonwealth and activities at other libraries, the Virginia Library Association began publishing Virginia Libraries in 1928. It ceased publication in 1932. In April 1954, the VLA revived its journal as The Virginia Librarian. It was renamed Virginia Libraries in 1996.

Virginia Library News Letter

Virginia Library News Letter.

Modeled after an informal section of the American Library Association for members under the age of 35, the Junior Members Round Table (JMRT) published a newsletter that addressed professional development. The JMRT compiled directories of Virginia’s libraries and, in 1940, compiled a card file of portraits in the State Library.

Annual Conference Brochure The Homestead 1985
Annual conference brochures.

Annual Conference Hotel Roanoke 1957
Click Image to Enlarge
Annual Conference
Click Image to Enlarge

By attending the annual VLA conferences, members keep up with changing technologies in the library, literacy issues, marketing services, and other topics that enable them to serve their patrons.

Cover of Library Journal Periodical
Library Journal



Beginning in 1996, the Virginia Library Association Paraprofessional Forum recognized excellence among library paraprofessionals with the Outstanding Paraprofessional Award.

VLA Paraprofessional Forum inside pages
VLA Paraprofessional Forum.

Click Image to Enlarge

The VLA was an important supporter of the Extension Division of the State Library. Established in 1926, the Extension Division brought books and library services to people who had no direct access to libraries. Traveling libraries and bookmobiles reached users who were geographically isolated by geography, by age or infirmity, or by income.

Pictures of boys and girls on the Orange County Public Library Bookmobile
Orange County Public Library Bookmobile, 1950s


Picture of children in front of Stonewall School, Appomattox County
Traveling Library, Stonewall School, Appomattox County, 1950s

Image of poster 2 young boys sitting on a rock in the forest One example of the outreach activities supported by VLA was Project Read, a 1985 photographic contest that encouraged family reading.

 Women reading to a child in her lap


George D. Oberle III, multimedia and liaison librarian at the Johnson Center Library, George Mason University, and a member of the Virginia Library Association, wrote the text and chose the materials for this exhibition. The VLAPF lent materials relating to the Paraprofessional Forum.

Founding the VLA | What the VLA does

facebook twitter youtube instagram