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Book Challenges in Virginia


November 12, 2021

Hello VLA members,

You have likely already seen in the news that Virginia has been experiencing a number of book challenges in schools. We wanted to let you know we are working with the Virginia Association of School Librarians (VAASL) as well as the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and their Public Policy Office; we have also been in touch with the National Coalition Against Censorship (which is working on its own statement.)

I’ve attached two letters here that VLA has sent recently. The one to the Virginia Beach City Public Schools was sent just before the VLA conference last month; the one to the Spotsylvania County Superintendent and Board members was sent this morning. Harrisonburg’s Superintendent also pulled a book from shelves this week without receiving a formal challenge; we will be addressing that as well.

Libraries have procedures and policies in place for users to submit challenges; we are seeing a pattern of those procedures not being followed. We will speak up, as an association, any time we see book banning, censorship or (in the case of Spotsylvania) threats to burn books. In the past couple of months, there has been media attention surrounding the “Beloved” bill from a few years ago. I’ve included some links below as a reminder of the actions we took then, and what we will continue to do. If you want to talk to someone about what has been happening in your libraries, please contact Lisa Varga, or reach out to the Office of Intellectual Freedom at ALA. We are here to help.

We will send you updates as we have them. Thank you.

KT Vaughan, President
Kimberly Bray Knight, Vice President/President Elect
Jennifer Resor Whicker, Past President
Maryśka Connolly Brown, Secretary
Zachary Elder, Second Vice-President
Kyle Binaxas, Treasurer
Lucinda Rush Wittkower, ALA Councilor
Lisa R. Varga, VLA Executive Director


Spotsylvania School Board orders libraries to remove 'sexually explicit' books:

Amid controversy, superintendent pulls graphic novel from school library:

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom:

ALA's Public Policy and Advocacy Office:

Library Bill of Rights:

VLA Intellectual Freedom Update: VLA letter to members February 1, 2017:

Finding Advocacy Allies: Library associations in Virginia team up to fight bad bills:

NCAC Objects to Removal of Lawn Boy and Gender Queer from Fairfax, Virginia, School Libraries:

Lisa R. Varga, MLS
Executive Director
Virginia Library Association
PO Box 56312
Virginia Beach, VA 23456
757-689-0594 (w)

[email protected]


Virginia Library Association • PO Box 56312 , Virginia Beach, Virginia 23456, United States

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FAQ/Update for 2021 VLA Conference

The Virginia Library Association would like to give you an update about our upcoming conference, scheduled for October 27-29 at the Richmond Marriott.

Unless the Governor mandates that we cannot meet, the VLA Conference will continue as planned.

We are offering a variety of attendance options. We are closely monitoring COVID variants, state and local mandates, and are working with all stakeholders for the maximum safety and comfort for all presenters, attendees and vendors.

VLA will require proof of full vaccination OR a negative COVID-19 test (administered within 72 hours of attendance.) You will show your card or negative test in exchange for your name badge at the registration desk. You can show a digital copy of your registration card, as long as the name on the card matches the name on your registration.

VLA is committed to safely accommodating all participants.

  • We highly encourage mask wearing for all attendees and participants.
  • To encourage social distancing, conference rooms at the hotel will be larger than usual, and will provide a variety of distanced seating.
  • At our banquet on Wednesday night, rounds of 8 will be set for only 4 people.
  • We will not be organizing our usual Thursday evening dine-arounds; our conference committee is pulling together a list of local restaurants that offer outdoor seating – and we are really hoping for good weather!
  • As we are being mindful of the waste created by single-use plastics, we encourage you to bring reusable water bottles, portable stainless steel straws, and/or utensils you can clean and re-use throughout the event.

To assist the hotel, we are closing registration on October 5, 2021. This will allow us to give them accurate head counts for meals since many of them are encountering supply chain issues. There will be NO on-site registration this year.

What does “virtual” attendance mean?

This question has come up quite a bit. We want to be clear about what VLA 2021 is and is not. This is not considered a hybrid event. We are not able to livestream all of our offerings and conference sessions. We have explored and priced out every possible situation, and have determined it is cost-prohibitive to do so.

We are working with many participants to pre-record content that will be accessible to all attendees, whether you have selected the in-person or virtual option. Some of this pre-recorded content will be from publishers (who will record Book Buzz sessions and will also provide us with advance reader copies to give away in person); some will be pre-recorded sessions by presenters who are unable to attend the conference in person; and others will be from community partners in VA who want to share information about their organizations. (All pre-recorded content will be closed-captioned before it is shared.)

We have contracted with a software provider, Pheedloop, that allows us to combine a conference app and virtual experience all in one place. There is a learning curve with any new software package, so we appreciate your patience as we spend time exploring it and adding content. Several other state library associations have used Pheedloop for their virtual-only events in the last 18 months, and we are working with them on tips, tricks and shortcuts. We have heard that emails from Pheedloop to attendees can end up in spam, so if your IT departments can mark emails from as permissible now, it may save some confusion later on.

  • Virtual attendees will be able to access any documentation provided by our speakers. All of the content will be available for at least 60 days following the conference.
  • We are also setting up networking spaces within the app where you can “meet” other people in the state with similar library-related interests. Check your email for additions to the program such as virtual one-on-one resume review and mentoring.
  • If you are a virtual attendee, we recommend attending with a computer to participate fully with virtual options during the conference dates, October 27-29. In person attendees can use the app, and then also use the website to access the content after the event.

The VLA Conference will look different this year. We are doing everything we can to make this a safe and valuable experience for all of our attendees, whether you are joining us in person or virtually. Any issues should be brought to the immediate attention of VLA Executive Director Lisa R. Varga, [email protected].

VLA 2021 Annual Conference Hardship Registration Rate
Are you interested in attending the VLA Conference, but have been furloughed, laid-off, or otherwise experiencing financial hardship? You may be eligible for the Hardship Rate, which makes it possible for individuals in need to attend the conference. To be considered for the Hardship Rate, please email [email protected].
Deadline for Consideration EXTENDED to Friday, October 1, 2021


Thank you for reading this far,
The 2021 VLA Conference Committee, including
President Jennifer Resor-Whicker
Conference Chair Tracy McPeck
VLACRL Conference-Within-A-Conference Chair Sophie Rondeau
VLA Executive Director Lisa Varga

-September 20, 2021


#2021VLA Scholarship Presale: Buy Tickets Now, and Pick Them Up in Richmond



The VLA Scholarship Basket Raffle is one of the most popular events at our Annual Conference. Save yourself some time and purchase your tickets in advance — then visit the Scholarship Booth during the conference and pick up your tickets! The Scholarship Booth will be in the VLA Exhibit Hall.

Exhibit Hall hours are Thursday, October 28, 8:30 am - 5:00 pm, and Friday, October 29, 8:00 am - 12:00 pm. The Scholarship drawing will be held at the conclusion of the VLA Business Meeting on Friday afternoon; you do not need to be present to win. Your basket may be picked up by a colleague but must be claimed by 4:00 pm on Friday.

If you would like to donate a basket, please contact VLA Scholarship Chair Kerri Copus at [email protected].



2021 Jefferson Cup Award Winners and Honors Announced

Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children and We Are Not Free win 2021 Jefferson Cup Award.  


The Jefferson Cup Committee is pleased to announce their selections for the 2021 winning and honor titles. The 2021 Jefferson Cup Award winner for Young Readers is Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children, by Alexis O’Neill, Illustrated by Gary Kelley. The 2021 Jefferson Cup Award winner for Young Adult Readers is We Are Not Free by Traci Chee.
Jacob Riis’s Camera: Bringing Light to Tenement Children (Calkins Creek) reveals the lives of tenement dwellers as seen through the eyes, heart and camera of Jacob Riis. Jacob Riis was an immigrant in 19th-century New York who shined a light on the harsh conditions of the tenements. When his writings were largely ineffective, Riis came up with the idea of using flash photography to attract attention to the horrendous conditions. Jacob Riis worked tirelessly as an activist for better living conditions, and his work is captured within the artistry of Gary Kelley whose use of light and dark colors bring to mind Riis’s black and white photographs.
We Are Not Free by Traci Chee (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) uses fourteen points of view to tell the fictional story of a group of Nisei, second-generation Japanese American citizens, forced into incarceration camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Chee drew on her own family history to depict what happened to far too many Japanese Americans during World War II. While Chee presents a part of history unknown to many Americans, she also reveals what it is like to be a teenager in an internment camp. This is a beautifully written book revealing the stark realities of racism and the denial of rights to one group of citizens very seldom discussed in history books.

Honor Titles

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Dutton Books for Young Readers) was chosen as an honor book for young readers.
Blood and Germs: The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease by Hail Jarrow (Calkins Creek) and Snow Fell Three Graves Deep by Allan Wolf  (Candlewick Press) were chosen as honor books for young adult readers.




2022 Jefferson Cup Committee: Seeking Members

Are you a history buff?  Do you enjoy reading new juvenile and young adult literature? Apply to be a member of the 2022 Jefferson Cup Award Committee!

Applicants must be willing to make the time commitment to read and discuss the books submitted for consideration, as well as attend physical and/or virtual meetings. Complete the application linked below and return it to Jessica Meier, Jefferson Committee Chair, by September 15, 2021. Email your completed application to [email protected]

The Jefferson Cup honors two distinguished biography, historical fiction or American history books for children and young adults. Presented since 1983, the Jefferson Cup Committee’s goal is to promote reading about America’s past; to encourage the quality writing of United States history, biography and historical fiction for young people and to recognize authors in these disciplines. Read more and see previous winners here.

The Jefferson Cup Committee selects the winning titles. The committee has ten members: a chairperson and vice-chairperson (selected by the previous year’s committee), one person from each VLA region (total of six persons) selected by the current chair, the past chair of the previous year’s Jefferson Cup Committee and the outgoing chairperson of Youth and Family Services Forum. All committee members must be members of VLA. Members may be employed by public libraries, schools or any type or bookstores; they may also be unemployed or retired.

You may nominate yourself or a colleague for consideration. Persons selected must be willing to commit a large amount of personal time to read and evaluate books; committee members may receive over 200 titles. Members will also have to attend daytime meetings which may be exclusively online or a combination of online and in person. Persons who serve on the committee should be knowledgeable of literature for young people and have book evaluation experience. Jefferson Cup Committee members are expected to present programs at the annual VLA and, possibly, VAASL conferences, so a supervisor must sign this application, indicating he or she will allow the person to attend the conferences and will assist with the member’s expenses.

2022 Jefferson Cup Committee Application


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