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Intellectual Freedom Committee Statement June 2023

Statement on Recent Trends in Demands for the Removal of Library Materials

In recent years, groups that profess inadequate parental control over children’s access to literature have alleged there is an epidemic of sexually explicit content infecting contemporary children’s literature. They claim there is an agenda on the part of educators and librarians who select such works for library collections and teaching purposes, and are calling these professionals “pedophiles” who are “grooming children for sexual abuse.”

These groups employ shock tactics, for example, attending local school and municipal board meetings  reading passages that depict or imply sexual activity, claiming such passages constitute “pornography” or “obscenity.” They identify dozens of  titles with such content, without providing literary context or acknowledging that these titles represent a tiny portion of the entire collection.
The idea that library books might be obscene or pornographic is alarming. However, to be “obscene” or “pornographic” under Virginia law, it is not enough for a literary work to depict sex acts; the material must be “taken as a whole, to appeal to the prurient interest (Article 5, “Obscenity and Related Offenses,” Code of Virginia).”  

The books in question disproportionately represent LGBTQ+ experiences, and the accusations against them reflect slurs long used against the LGBTQ+ community, contributing to a climate increasingly hostile to LGBTQ+ Americans. Some parents participating in the challenges object to any positive depictions of LGBTQ+ characters and demand the removal of books lacking any sexually explicit content such as And Tango Makes Three and Heather Has Two Mommies. Some groups involved in the current wave of challenges warn their members that, "Some of the books have explicit content, some of the books are normalization books."

School boards in Virginia have begun setting vague criteria for the removal of books, like “pervasively vulgar” (Spotsylvania County) and “controversial” (Hanover County). Titles identified as containing “explicit sexual conduct” have included Anne of Green Gables (on Hampton School District's high school reading list). These examples demonstrate the problematic nature of trying to apply legal definitions of “sexually explicit conduct” to literary works, as well as would-be censors’ desire to remove books addressing “controversial topics” such as police violence or experiences with racism as described by authors of color. The demands of censors tend to grow with each success they meet.

On the 70th anniversary of the Freedom to Read Statement, the Virginia Library Association urges Virginians to raise their voices with equal determination if they want to preserve the freedom to access and read a wide range of ideas inclusive of all community members. The Freedom to Read is essential to our democracy. It is vital that we are able to make up our own minds about what we choose to read and what we think about it. Without access there is no way to make the choice. The book challengers claim to speak for the majority but in fact it is just a few individuals submitting many challenges. Some politicians at the local and state level are supporting censorship campaigns as stepping stones in their political careers— increasing the probability that a growing number of books will be targeted for removal as has happened in Florida and several other states. This is not a library or school issue; it’s an American one.

-2023 VLA Intellectual Freedom Committee


2023 VLA Scholarship Recipients

The VLA Scholarship Committee is pleased to announce the 2023 scholarship recipients.  Congratulations to Christopher Skipper, Shawna LoMonaco, and Kelli Murrie on their academic excellence and dedication to librarianship in Virginia!  They each receive $3000 from VLA to help with costs associated with their education.

The 2023 recipient of the Clara M. Stanley VLA Professional Associates Forum Scholarship is Christopher Skipper of Virginia Beach. Christopher has worked for Tidewater Community College since 2017 as a Library Specialist. He is currently pursuing an MLIS at Valdosta State University. 

Christopher’s interest in libraries began when he recognized the library was a safe place for him as a queer youth.  He became an active advocate for his community, including suggesting LGBTQIA+ titles for inclusive collections and lobbying for equal rights and protection with Hampton Roads Pride.  After years of volunteering and working in libraries, he now hopes to leverage his educational background in cybersecurity by becoming a systems librarian. One of his references spoke highly about how Christopher “observes and evaluates services and suggests ways to streamline service provision to benefit both our public and college customers, especially by using technology.”  Examples of Christopher’s innovative solutions include designing a new interactive online map for study rooms and offering cybersecurity training for staff.


Shawna LoMonaco of Portsmouth is a recipient of the 2023 VLA Scholarship.  She is currently pursuing an MLIS program at Old Dominion University. Shawna works as a Library Supervisor and Early Childhood Development Commission Manager at Suffolk Public Library.

Shawna spent several years happily teaching Preschool before her move to librarianship. When she started as a Children’s Library Assistant at Suffolk Public Library, her love for libraries blossomed and her career goals expanded.  She now has over a decade of experience providing education and outreach to Virginia’s children.  Shawna has been actively involved in VLA, including presenting at previous conferences and attending the Virginia Library Leadership Academy in 2022.  In her essay, Shawna shared the accomplishment she is most proud of:  the creation of the Suffolk Public Library’s summer Mess Hall food program in 2017, where children can receive a free lunch while engaging in library-led programming during the summer.  As Shawna stated, “...this truly encompasses the goal of libraries…identify a community need and through partnership, persistence, and support…we were able to meet the need and bring free food to our youngest patrons.”  After graduation, she hopes to become an Elementary School Librarian within a local Title I elementary school.


Kelli Murrie of Copper Hill is the final recipient of the 2023 VLA Scholarship. Kelli is a Senior Library Assistant and Branch Manager at the Bent Mountain branch of the Roanoke County Public Library and a volunteer with the Bent Mountain chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Club. She is currently pursuing her MLIS at Old Dominion University.

Kelli was told she seemed destined for librarianship, despite her initial hesitations. Her grandmother worked as a high school librarian “didn’t exactly dispel the stereotypical images…of a librarian as an uptight, shushing old lady.” Now a well-researched adult, Kelli “fell in love with the idea of libraries as community hubs and library workers as fighters for the betterment of society.”  One major factor in determining our scholarship recipients is “evidence of a commitment to a career in librarianship in Virginia,” and Kelli is clearly dedicated to fighting for the betterment of her community in Southwest Virginia. She is now the Manager of the Bent Mountain branch she visited as a child and where she began her career as a Page.  After graduation, she is committed to continuing her work in public libraries.


VLA has been providing scholarships to students pursuing their Master's Degrees in Library and Information Sciences for nearly 30 years. Support this program with a tax-deductible donation today!


VLA 2024 Officer Slate of Candidates Announced

Elections will begin August 1 and end on September 15.
Read about current leadership at VLA Executive Committee.

2024 VLA Candidate Biographical Information & Candidate Statements

Candidate for Vice President/President-Elect (3-year Term): Cammy Koch

Cammy Koch has been Children’s Services Supervisor at Varina Area Library of Henrico County Public Library for the past five years. Previously she worked as Children’s Librarian at the Tuckahoe Area Library in Henrico. Before working in Henrico County, she worked as Assistant Branch Manager,
Librarian, Library Assistant and Page at various library branches in Chesterfield County Public Library. Cammy received her Bachelor of Arts in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. The original career goal was to be an Archivist and she completed her Masters in Library Science with an Archives concentration from Drexel University in 2013. Soon after taking over storytimes in 2014, she fell in love with youth services and never looked back.

Cammy has been an active VLA member since 2011. She has served on various committee and forums over the years. She was a member of Scholarship Committee (2017-2018), Nominating Committee (2021), Cardinal Cup Committee (2021), Conference Committee (2021-2022) and Website Content Committee. While on the Conference Committee, she arranged for the musical talent at the Richmond-based Annual Conference in 2021. In 2022, She assisted with planning the Social as well as posted to social media leading up to the Annual Conference. Cammy has served on VLA Council over the years as Vice-Chair/ Chair of New Members Roundtable (2014-2016) and Vice-Chair/Chair of Youth and Family Services Forum (2018-2021).

Cammy is recently engaged and enjoying life in Chesterfield, outside of Richmond. She loves to pick up new hobbies including sewing, making jewelry, cross-stitching, cooking and food blogging. She is a lifelong performer and is currently singing in the Richmond Allied Voices Treble Choir.

Candidate Statement
I am honored to be nominated for President-Elect, and it means so much to me. As a front-line worker and a supervisor of a wonderful children’s department, I have the pleasure to see the immediate positive influence that library workers have on their communities. It is rewarding to see children’s faces light up when they see their favorite staff member in the department. I can only hope that that feeling creates a lasting connection to libraries that that child can experience throughout their lifetime. Libraries are important through the services that they provide, through creating connections with their community members, and empowering readers with information and knowledge. 

I am passionate about creating library connections to underserved communities. I enjoy thinking outside the box and trying new ideas that foster those connections regardless if they’re successful or not. Knowledge can be gained from just trying an idea even if the outcome wasn’t what was intended.

Creative thinking is a strength that I could bring to the Executive Council. Along with positivity and boundless energy, those skills can be beneficial during this turbulent time of book challenges and banning.

Candidate for Vice President/President-Elect (3-year term): Vivian Washington

Vivian Washington is currently the Central Library Manager for Chesapeake Public Library. In this role, she works to support the exchange of ideas, information, and experiences within her community. She has been a part of the Chesapeake Public Library team since July 2013 working all over the city building partnerships in Health and Wellness, serving to reduce Food and Housing Insecurity, and most recently, working to increase resources forSmall Businesses through participating in ALA’s Library Builds Business Mentorship Program and earning an Entrepreneurship Librarian Certificate with the Libraries as Launch Pads Program in April 2023.

Vivian Washington has worked in libraries from coast to coast. She started her career in libraries while an undergraduate at James Madison University in Carrier Library, audiovisual section in 1986. Her varied library experience has included work at the University of California, Riverside in Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR), at the University of California, Irvine in night supervision in the Science Library, at the Los Angeles Public Library in Arts, Music and Recreation as a clerk typist (equivalent to a Library Assistant I). She has also worked at the Virginia Beach Public Library at the then newly built Princess Anne Branch, at Hampton University at the College of Virginia Beach in the Media
Resources Center, at Tidewater Community Library at both the Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Campuses, and at Regent University.

Vivian Washington has been an active member of VLA for many years attending conferences and supporting colleagues in their projects and endeavors. She has co-presented at VLA Conference, served as Regional Coordinator for the Librarians of Color Forum, been a 2022-2023 Virginia Library Leadership Academy (VALLA) cohort member, and served as the 2022 Conference Chair. “No” is not in her
vocabulary; she will always find a way to yes.

Vivian Washington earned a B.A in history at James Madison University, a M.A. in Elementary Education at Hampton University, and a MLIS at the University of South Carolina.

Candidate Statement
Libraries are spaces where all are welcome; and they are spaces where our skills and talents can be tried and honed. I have had the great fortune to have worked in many areas and know where my talents lie: in serving people to be their best. This is no small feat because like me, many shy away from doing things small and great because they don’t see what others see in them. I stand as a candidate for President of the Virginia Library Association, not because I am the most qualified, but because I am willing to serve in any way that I can. Also, I am willing to learn and grow in ways that I have never done before. In setting this example, it is my hope that together we can do those things we never envisioned possible in our libraries, in our communities, and in our homes. 

For example, I am inspired by the courageous stand library people have taken in our communities to protect our right to read. This matters to me personally because when I was young growing up in the South Norfolk section of Chesapeake Virginia, Ms. Pat, an African American librarian, shared books with me. On my way to school, I would “read,” and it became my shield against the harsh realities of public-school politics. Later reading was a place not only of protection but a place joy and wonder. I want that for everyone. As your VLA President, through advocacy and awareness, I will help to amplify those voices in support of our right to read.

It is with great humility and my honor to submit my name as candidate for the office of President of the Virginia Library Association.

Candidate for 2nd Vice President (2-year Term): Kelsey Cheshire

Kelsey Cheshire (she/they) is the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Librarian and Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. Kelsey received her MLIS from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Women’s Studies from Austin Peay State University. Before joining VCU Libraries in 2018, she served as Behavioral Sciences Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kelsey has been an active member of VLA since relocating to Richmond. She currently serves as Chair of the Scholarship Committee and as a member of Council (2022-2024). In this role, Kelsey has helped revolutionize the annual Basket Raffle by implementing software to create a hybrid fundraising opportunity, piloted streamlined processes for VLA fundraising and awards, and worked to reduce implicit bias during the application review process. Previously, she served VLA as Secretary for the LGBTQIA+ Forum (2021-2023), member of the Scholarship Committee (2020-2022), and Peer Reviewer for VLACRL (2021-2023). 

Kelsey is proud to be a queer, neurodiverse librarian. 

Candidate Statement
If elected as Second Vice-President, I would be responsible for reviewing VLA by-laws, procedures, and operations to make revisions as needed, as well as making appointments to Council and all units. As someone who has found community and the opportunity to make an impact through VLA, I am passionate about helping others to do the same. In this role, I would work to continue to address bias and remove barriers in our profession by carefully reviewing VLA documentation and championing equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts. I would work diligently to ensure that all committees and forums are fully supported by our amazing volunteers so that they can continue their important efforts to advance literacy and learning and provide access to information. 

It is my hope that all library workers in Virginia can find support and community through VLA. It would be an honor to serve as your Second Vice-President. Thank you for considering me for this opportunity.

Candidate for 2nd Vice President (2-year Term): Heather Groves Hannan

Heather Groves Hannan assumed the position of Director of the Library at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise (UVAWise) campus last year, where she has appreciated the opportunity to work on and off campus in collaboration with the community and other college partners in the area.  Similar to previous position Heather has held with George Mason University and Virginia Military Institute, she embarked on a listening tour getting to know the players, landscape and politics of UVAWise; initiating the Library’s re-imaging development through evaluating organizational elements of mission, business model, and strengths; as well as looking beyond UVAWise to engage with organizations, individuals and businesses for inspiration, solutions and possibilities.  Previous to her employment in academic libraries, Heather served as a corporate research librarian for MCI Corporation, Acting Director and Librarian for the National Association of Home Builders, and Information Specialist for Furash & Company a financial-services consulting firm. She has actively championed everything library including finishing a renovation project during a pandemic (Kozak, Jeffrey; Hannan, Heather Groves; and Kocevar-Weidinger, Elizabeth.
  If COVID19 Wasn’t Enough. Virginia Libraries Themed Column: Serving Our Communities, Virginia Libraries Respond to COVID-19. (2021) 65(1):2., merging service desks (Hannan, Heather Groves. Great Expectations: (re)Design Motivator for Merging Traffic at the Service DeskThe Future of Library Spaces: Advances in Library Administration and Organization.  (2017) v36, p. 199-216., supporting new programing (Mattson, Janna and Hannan, Heather Groves. STEM Library Services for High School Students Enrolled as University Students: STEMming from Scratch.  How to STEM Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education in Libraries / edited by Vera Gubnitskaia, Carol Smallwood.  Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2014) p. 119-126.  (, and advocating for service support (Hannan, Heather Groves. Staying Connected during a Public Health Crisis. RUSA Virtual Forum, ALA.  (March 10, 2022). Heather has based her library career on people!  From the start, she recognized people, specifically her staff and their relationships and networking, were her greatest asset.  Her former Circulation Supervisor, Mary Berkebile (formerly Mary Buckley), was recognized as a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2003 ( for her creative problem solving and willingness to bend rules when necessary to get the job done and promote good customer service.

An Ohio native, Heather began her collegiate career at Akron University in Akron, OH, but transferred after her freshman year to Earlham College in Richmond, IN where she had the pleasure to work for library luminary, Evan Farber. She received her BA in Management from Earlham College and after graduation she traveled east to work in the Washington, DC area.  Heather attend Catholic University of America and graduated with her MLIS. 

Heather has been a member of VLA since 1996 and she has held offices and/or membership on the Administrative & Management Forum, Conference Planning Committee, Continuing Education Committee, Leadership Development Forum, Membership Committee, Multicultural Forum, New Member Round Table, Region V Committee, and Scholarship Committee, as well as volunteered as an Annual Conference Session Facilitator and Session Reviewer since 2007.  Her contributions to VLA began by working with co-Chair Libby Lewis on the 1999 Administration and Management Forum’s minimum salary recommendation report for MLS/MLIS librarians in Virginia. 

Candidate Statement
It is my honor to run for the office of 2nd Vice President of the Virginia Library Association.  It is my habit to support what I believe in!  I believe that I am a qualified and motivated candidate who has worked in the field of librarianship in the state of Virginia in both special and academic libraries for many years.  I am confident, if you put your faith in me, I have the knowledge, relationships and abilities to be successful fulfilling the responsibilities of the office of 2nd Vice President of VLA.

Candidate for Treasurer (2-year Term): Maryke Barber

Maryke Barber is Information Literacy, Outreach, and Arts Liaison Librarian at the Library at Hollins University. Previous library positions include public services supervisor, copy cataloging, circulation, gifts & book sale, and government documents, in the libraries at Hollins, Northwestern University, and Shenandoah University. Some of her favorite moments in libraries include bringing mindfulness into the classroom, implementing a fine-free policy, and co-designing a system to classify films by genre. Maryke received her MSIS from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2009. Before working in libraries she was a dramaturg, actor, and cater-waiter; she admits to still owning the tuxedo and to occasional tap dancing.

Maryke has been a VLA member and a regular presenter at annual conferences since 2003. She served as VLA Treasurer (2011-2013) and VLACRL Secretary/Treasurer (2009-2011); more recently she has also served on the Awards and Scholarship Committees. She is co-coordinator for LEO (Libraries Exchange Observation), a regional network of instruction librarians in Southwest Virginia, and has held positions in the Roanoke Valley Library Association. In 2022, Maryke received the Hollins University Distinguished Service Award for her work co-chairing the Reconciliation: Campus Spaces taskforce, which applied best practices to determine criteria for evaluating building names.

Candidate statement
In my current job, I focus on creating opportunities for teaching information literacy. I work with scholars to answer their questions and support their goals, and I work with my colleagues to build the library’s collections. I also build communications between the library and the university community, and organize programs to welcome everyone into the library. Our mission is student- and community-centered, which inspires me to always keep an open door and a flexible mind. I strongly believe in planning ahead but I also know that user needs will change. The only way to ensure that our services truly
meet needs, is to know our community and invite their trust.

Recent events show us how urgently professional organizations are needed. They help us defend the freedom to access information; to expand access and ensure equity for everyone from library patrons to library workers; they provide crucial opportunities for us to discuss, test and codify best practices. In these challenging times we need to do what library people do best: organize and educate. A healthy and thriving VLA will continue to
support these efforts in libraries across the commonwealth.

VLA was my very first home in a professional library organization when the amazing community of govdocs people welcomed me - two decades ago! I started attending, learning, and sharing at conferences, and I never looked back. I have been a grateful recipient of the VLA scholarship, and have had the honor to serve as Treasurer on the Executive Committee once before. I have even experienced VLA’s crucial support when our library faced a difficult censorship challenge. I deeply believe in the value of this organization and I am honored to be asked to serve as candidate for Treasurer.


Please reach out to any member of the Nominating Committee:

Graphic Novel Diversity Award Seeking Judges – Deadline to Apply Extended

The Virginia Library Association is looking for ten judges for the Graphic Novel Diversity Awards! Five judges will be selected in each of the two categories, Youth and Adult. The deadline to apply is now April 15.

If you love graphic novels, this could be a terrific opportunity for you! Judges who volunteer and are accepted will remain on the committee for two years. Applicants must be current VLA members and have no affiliations with publishers of graphic novels. The committee members will need to attend an orientation webinar and several virtual meetings. More details about expectations for judges can be found here:

To apply to be a judge, you must complete this application: We recommend you write and save your answers in a word processing program before copying and pasting them into the form. Please allow yourself adequate time to complete the application, as it requires you to read and evaluate a graphic novel using the criteria employed by the judging committee.

Past winners of the Graphic Novel Diversity Award include:

  • Djeliya by Juni Ba
  • The Unfinished Corner by Dani Colman and Rachel “Tuna” Petrovicz
  • SFSX (Safe Sex), Vol. 1: Protection by Tina Horn, Jen Hickman, Michael Dowling and Alejandra Gutierrez
  • The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
  • Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim
  • They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker

Questions? Please email [email protected]


Recording: Why You Should Publish in Virginia Libraries

Learn why you should publish in Virginia Libraries. This recording on YouTube (recorded February 24, 2023) covers the top 5 things you need to know, answers common questions, and tips to help you explore writing topics.

Check out our Issue Archive


Editor in Chief

Tracey Wesolek Berning, Virginia Beach Public Library, United States


Managing Editor

Mr Stephen Leist, Virginia Wesleyan University, United States


Assistant Editor

Ms Bettina Peacemaker, Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries, United States



David Michael Black, Mary Baldwin University, United States

Andrea Castillo, Alexandria Library, United States

Emily Correa, Campbell County Public Library System, United States

Ms Amy Beth Poe, Military Women's Memorial, Arlington, VA, United States

Kristen S. Shuyler, James Madison University, United States

Elizabeth Weir, Chrysler Museum of Art, United States

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