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VLA LGBTQIA+ Forum 2021 Poetry Contest Winners

Thank you everyone that participated in this contest, including the poets and judges. We would like to share the top three poems with you to show how awesome  and how close this competition was. We invite you to read and share these poems with your libraries, fellow librarians, and even patrons! With hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything.

The winners of the contest will receive gift cards to establishments local to them, paid for by donations to the the LGBTQIA+ Forum Fund.

1st Place: Martha-Lynn Corner “Self-Talk on the Way to Change”
2nd Place: R. Condon “No Patron, but Messenger”
3rd Place: Anonymous “Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male of female (or rarely, both or neither)”

**Winning Poem**
Self-Talk on the Way to Change
by Martha-Lynn Corner


When encountering those different from you,

do not be an asshole.  

Accept that change can be uncomfortable,

And live it anyway.  

Try to grow your mind enough  

To at least consider

That what you’ve been taught  

might be wrong.

Enter tolerance.


You’ve always enjoyed a stable base. You learned this attempting to ride a horse in middle school.  

Boats make you seasick.

In cars, you sit up front.

Likewise, this “tolerance” business  

makes you queasy.

Merely tolerating something feels like ignoring it. Enter questioning.


What if they were wrong? What if God does not hate anyone, but created everyone? What if everyone  
is equally deserving of love?  

Of rights?

Of happiness?  

What if what you’ve left unexamined
is actively hurting someone else?  

Someone you care about?

Enter change.


You hate change.  

Change feels like the worst kind of shopping. Shopping for pants.

Everyone says slim-fit is the way to go, But your thighs feel like they’re under arrest. The relaxed fit sounds so nice.  

Forgiving. Comfortable.  

Easier to breathe this way.

A softer way to exist.

A gentler way to be in the world.

Enter realization.


Remember how you loved rainbows as a child? Those beautiful colors, all in a row?

You kept a rainbow sticker on your headboard.  Puffy, bright, and proud.  

Enter reconciliation.

Apologize to those you’ve hurt.

Learn to make amends.

Raise the bar above not being an asshole to being an advocate.  

Help where once you harmed.

Enter empowerment.

Artist statement: I’ve been a proud advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community since middle school, but I’ve watched family members struggle to learn acceptance. This piece reflects some of the stages I’ve seen at work on the journey to change.


No Patrons, but Messengers
by R. Condon

I have lived a lie of omission, and lies of omission are sins of omission
I have always been squeezed between two true untruths
(No, not always
There was once a child no more than four
Joyous and gasping, grasping, arms stretched wider than wings
Wilder than categorization)
"Male and female He created them"
Yes, but more than that!
"Fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth" Yes, and frogs and swans and capybaras
Liminal things whose transgressions make them suitable to eat those Fridays all other crawling flying beasts get a stay of execution
But still, they exist
But still, He created them
But things like me?
Constricted, I would kneel, knees and elbows together
Apologies sticking to my pallet, pleas slipping through my teeth like water To crush me small enough to fit one of the true untruths that were simply truths for my brothers and sisters
There are no patron saints of monsters
(Monster, from monstrum, omen, from moneō, warn)
Warn whom of what?)
However tightly I compressed myself
I could not fold into unbecoming a creature more becoming  
In the human eyes that kept sight of faith and holy things
Strangled under their suspicious gaze, I averted mine down
Until a day suspended between true summer and early autumn, when I averted upward Audacity rewarded with a glimpse of something more terrible and glorious than the death of stars Snarled fangs biting back bellows to break cliffsides, wings to beat back hurricanes, hooves to  shatter bedrock
Tens of eyes to rend through me as surely as so many bullets
That saw me where human eyes did not, and passed over me without condemnation There are no patron saints of monsters  
But a message and a messenger are very much related
If I am an omen, a warning
(To whom? Of what?)
Perhaps that warning is passed through the claws talons hooves hands
Of conscious vessels in all the shapes of ambiguity
Liminality the choice of our Creator, not an accidental deviance
An embarrassing blemish to be balled up, as close to out of sight as possible Maybe what I am is monstrous, is awful
But the worldly do not know which definitions to use
Maybe what I am is a warning (or a message) meant to inspire awe
I am something allowed to exist unfolded, without self-contortion or self-omission
Messages are meant to be seen Messages are meant to be heard

“Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male or female
(or rarely, both or neither).”
By Anonymous

I’ve done it once already,
A sentiment fit neatly into phonemes.
The stop, and then the diphthong:
       I’m bi,
The stop, and then the long pause.

And then, later,
‘Queer’ as catch-all.
A blessing.
(There is no polite way to ask,
‘queer’ like who you fuck,
Or ‘queer’ like who you are?)

I keep a list on my phone that reads like poetry: - A woman, with a footnote1
     - Not stirring the pot
     - Whatever the gender of a ripe cherry
     - Whatever the gender

One that says:
     - cisn’t

Which always makes me laugh,
     - Carmex queer
     - Femme la croix
     - Cis people don’t think about it this much, and - That should probably tell you something, kid

I’m not sure how to google this one.

I’m not sure there is a controlled vocabulary (or maybe that’s part of the problem?)

All of my poems are about not knowing.

About holding something in, akin to breath. I’ve added that one to the list, too.





2021 VLA Scholarship Winners

Lytesha Ellis is currently a MLIS student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from North Chesterfield. She is active in ALA Games and Gaming Round Table as a Committee Member for Membership and Outreach and is a Server Moderator for the iSchoolofColor of UIUC. She is the recipient of the VLA Scholarship.

Lytesha had worked at the Chesterfield County Public Library as a Page for two years until furloughed during Covid. They currently have a 4.0 in grad school coursework and is pursuing a future in librarianship in Virginia with a focus in technical services despite setbacks of the past year. 

Her references praise her dedication, determination, enthusiasm, and intelligence. The Scholarship Committee selected Lytesha Ellis based not only on financial need, but their overwhelming commitment to library service and their goal of working toward their future library degree in a year of financial hardship. 

Sussan Ayala Rodriguez is currently pursuing an MLIS at Valdosta State University. She began working at the Pamunkey Regional Library in 2016 and has been promoted several times from Library Associate to Library Assistant and is currently Branch Manager at

the Upper King William Branch. She is the recipient of the CDR Alexander C. Varga Memorial Scholarship.

Sussan’s love of history led her to an interest in a career in libraries. She states, “Libraries do not discriminate, and they promote equal access to information for all. That realization was the final step in my journey to committing myself to librarianship. I do not believe it a coincidence that it occurred the same year that I became a naturalized citizen of the United States. I am now committed to both a country and a career that highly value equality, democracy, and public service.”

Sussan’s colleagues describe her as passionate about reaching out and connecting to the community, especially when the library was closed to the public and the only outreach was virtual. The Scholarship Committee was impressed by her long-term commitment to the state of Virginia and how adept she was at adapting to the many “hats” of public librarianship.

The 2021 recipient of the Clara M. Stanley VLA Professional Associates Forum Scholarship is Cheryl Wagner from Roanoke, Virginia. Cheryl has worked for Roanoke County Public Libraries since 2012 where she started as a part-time library assistant. In

October of 2019 she became the Circulation Manager at the South County Library. She currently supervises a team of ten.

Cheryl is currently pursuing an MLS at the University of North Texas. She says, “Being a student again has been humbling and inspiring. I cannot, with honesty, say that I know the clear and defined path before me. I do know that my heart is in serving the community through public library work. Some days that service looks like a forty-minute phone conversation with an elderly woman that wants me to hear her play the piano. Other days it involves looking up twenty plus book titles and requesting them for a patron that has “given up entirely on using computers.” No matter what new challenges I face in my job or what opportunities graduate school affords me I know very clearly that public libraries are essential to a community and that’s something I’d like to continue to be a part of.”

Cheryl’s dedication and commitment to the library field and to her staff and community throughout the Covid crisis stood out to the entire Scholarship Committee. VLA is proud to offer Cheryl the Clara Stanley Scholarship. 

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!


2021 VLA Vendor Information

> Back to 2021 Conference Portal

Booth Registration is Closed 10/5/21


Details for vendors:

Attendee List: VLA will provide a list of attendee names, organizations and email addresses to the Contact Name listed above. Attendees will have the opportunity to opt-out of this list; VLA can not guarantee that the list will represent ALL attendees. The list will be sent to the Contact Name listed above by October 6. Cost: $175. (This item can be purchased as an add-on later. You do not need to make the purchase right now. If purchased after October 6 or on site, the cost of the list is $225.)

Cancellations are subject to a 50% processing fee and must be received in writing by October 1. Cancellations after October 1 can not be refunded.

Exhibitor Details
We recognize the importance of the Vendors and their participation to make our conference a success. Some highlights:

WEDNESDAY: Vendors will be able to load in starting at 5pm on Wednesday, October 27. Hollins Inc. is our show decorator. They will send Vendor packets in September 2021.

THURSDAY: Official Exhibit Hall Hours are 8:30am-5pm. The ribbon on our Exhibit Hall will be cut at 8:30am on Thursday, October 28. In an effort to provide more traffic to the exhibit booths, VLA will provide a box lunch to all registrants in the Exhibit Hall on Thursday, from 11:45-1:00pm, and will provide non-conflict time on Thursday afternoon, and again on Friday morning. On Thursday evening, all vendors are invited to a private reception hosted by VLA. Open bar and appetizers will be served.

FRIDAY: On Friday morning we will offer coffee in the Exhibit area from 8:00am-9:00am. The Exhibits will officially close at noon.

HOTEL ROOMS: The Richmond Marriott is a Marriott property. Rooms in our block are $159 per night plus taxes and fees. Self and valet parking are available.

Booth fees are $625 for the first booth ($700 if registered after October 1) and $325 for each additional booth. Please refer to the enclosed booth layout when requesting individual booths. Booths will be assigned based on the date application and fee is received. Confirmation letters with booth assignments will be e-mailed to you. VLA accepts payments via credit card by phone, checks by mail or via the VLA website.

Exhibitor Agreement
The following rules and regulations are incorporated by reference into the Exhibitor's Space Application and shall govern the use of the exhibit space contracted for as if they had been fully set forth in the Exhibitor's Space Application. These regulations are established for the mutual protection of VLA and the exhibitors. It is the responsibility of the exhibiting firm to be fully familiar with these regulations and to see that each member of the firm attending the conference exhibit is also familiar with the regulations.

The application for booth space, upon acceptance by VLA and assignment of space and full payment of fees, constitutes an agreement for rental of the space assigned. The agreement will not be binding upon VLA in the event of strikes or other circumstances beyond VLA control.

PAYMENT FOR SPACE Applications must be accompanied by the full payment, made payable to Virginia Library Association. VLA reserves the right to delay space reservations if the full amount is not received with the application.

CANCELLATION OR WITHDRAWAL Upon giving written notice, the exhibitor may cancel or withdraw from exhibiting at the 2021 conference subject to the following conditions and restrictions. Written cancellations received prior to October 1 - 50% REFUND. Written cancellations received after October 1, 2021 - NO REFUND. VLA will have the right to use the cancelled space to suit its own convenience, including sale of the space to another exhibitor without any rebate or allowances to the cancelled exhibitor. For 2021, VLA is planning an in-person conference with best practice safety provisions. VLA has modified its cancellation policy to reflect the changing conditions, and will be flexible should Executive Orders alter plans.

ALLOCATION OF SPACE Applications will be dated and time of receipt applied, allowing for a first-come first-served approach to assigning spaces. VLA reserves the right to alter the exhibit floor plan, or change space assignments in the event of emergency and/or in the interest of any exhibitor. In such event, exhibitor(s) affected will be notified.

OCCUPANCY OF SPACE Installation may begin on Wednesday, October 27 after 5:00 p.m. and should be completed no later than 8:00 am on Thursday. Vendors will be notified of any difference in the time schedule. VLA reserves the right to occupy any space not occupied on the opening day. Final closing time for exhibiting will be designated by VLA and no dismantling or packing may be started prior to closing time.

USE OF SPACE All demonstrations or other activities must be confined to the limits of the exhibit booth space. Displays shall not be placed in such manner as to interfere with other exhibitors. No exhibitor shall assign, sublet, or share space allotted.

RESTRICTIONS IN OPERATIONS OF EXHIBITS VLA reserves the right to restrict exhibits which because of noise, method of operation, materials, or any other reasons, become objectionable, and also to prohibit or even evict any exhibit that in the opinion of the management may detract from the general character of the exhibit as a whole. This reservation includes persons, things, conduct, printed matter, or anything of a character that the management determines is objectionable to the exhibit. In the event of such restriction or eviction, VLA is not liable for any refunds or rentals or other exhibit expenses. Showing of projected pictures will only be permitted within the confines of the exhibitor's booth. Exhibitor's operating sound reproducing equipment will be expected to keep the sound at a reasonable volume in order to avoid disturbing or interfering with other exhibitors.

CARE OF BUILDING AND EQUIPMENT Exhibitors, or their agents, shall not injure or deface the walls or floors of the building, the booths, or the equipment of the booths. When such damage occurs, the exhibitor is liable to the owner of the property so damaged.

LIABILITY AND INSURANCE VLA or the Richmond Marriott, including their officers, representatives, conference committee and any individuals, or firms retained by it to assist in exhibit work) shall not be responsible for or liable for any bodily injury or property damage, loss or destruction that may occur to the exhibitor, or to any of the exhibitor's employees, personnel, or property, prior to, during, or subsequent to exhibitor's use and occupancy of the exhibit booth space during the period of time contracted for thereunder. Exhibitors are advised to consult their insurance brokers for proper coverage on display material from the time it leaves their company's premises until its return. In most cases, a rider can be added to a current policy for a nominal cost.

HOLD HARMLESS CLAUSE: The exhibitor assumes the entire responsibility and liability for losses, damages, and claims arising out of exhibitor’s activities on the Hotel premises and will indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Hotel, its owner, and its management company, as well as their respective agents, servants, and employees from any and all such losses, damages, and claims.

MISCELLANEOUS REGULATIONS VLA reserves the right to determine the eligibility of any company or organization to exhibit. VLA reserves the right to make changes in the time schedule or in the general plan of the exhibit if the changes are deemed in the best interest of exhibitors and the exhibit in general. Drawing for prizes may be conducted by exhibitors within their exhibit area if done in a dignified manner.

These regulations have become a part of the contract between the exhibitor and VLA. They have been formulated in the best interest of the exhibitors. The management respectfully asks the full cooperation of the exhibitors in their observance. All points not covered are subject to the decision of the management.

Once you have completed the online registration form and paid for your space, a confirmation email will be sent to you.

Lisa R. Varga, [email protected]
Executive Director
Virginia Library Association
P.O. Box 56312
Virginia Beach, VA 23456



Tuesday, May 4,  9:30 am to 12 noon

Held on Zoom


“We’re Not Libraries; We’re People: Identity and Emotional Labor in Public Services”

Carolina Hernandez and Mary K. Oberlies will explore how professional service expectations outlined in the Library Bill of Rights can come into conflict with the personal identities of public services library workers, focusing on how gender and race affect the amount of emotional labor need to meet these expectations. Following a presentation about their national survey results on the topic, Carolina and Mary will host a facilitated discussion.

Registration is limited to 50 attendees and is $15 to provide an honorarium for our speakers and to cover logistic costs and is non-refundable. Recordings of the session will be shared afterward with paid registrants.

Register here:



Every year, the VLA Executive Committee seeks new candidates for open positions on the Executive Committee, and the entire membership votes on those candidates. This year we are seeking candidates for the three positions listed below, so please nominate a colleague or yourself!

  • VP/President Elect (3 years) [Public or Special Library]
  • Second VP (2 years) [Public or Special Library]
  • Treasurer (2 years) [Academic or Special Library]

To learn about the duties and responsibilities, please see page 15 of the VLA Manual, listed here. In order to keep the Executive Committee balanced between different types of libraries we try to alternate for each officer position.

Beginning October 29 (at the end of the 2021 VLA Annual Conference), these successful candidates will be joining the following members of the Executive Committee:

K.T. Vaughan, President
Jennifer Resor-Whicker, Immediate Past-President
Maryska Connolly-Brown, Secretary
Lucy Wittkower, ALA Councilor
Lisa R. Varga, Executive Director


Please submit your nomination to Jennifer Resor-Whicker, Chair of the Nominating Committee, at [email protected], by April 9th. Any questions can be directed to her via email.

In addition, you may wish to contact the other members of the Nominating Committee:


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