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2020 VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award Winners Announced 

The GNDA celebrates diversity captured within the pages of graphic novels. In 2020 – our sixth year offering the award – 23 publishers submitted 62 titles in two categories: Adult and Youth. The Committee is proud to announce the winners and honor books selected for the 2020 award.
The winners of each title will receive a $500 award and will be recognized at the Annual Scholarship and Awards Banquet at the VLA Annual Conference on October 27 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm. Tickets will be available for sale when conference registration opens in Summer 2021.

Winners          Honor Books          Overfloweth


Winner: Adult

SFSX, Vol. 1 by Tina Horn; art by Michael Dowling, Alejandra Gutiérrez, and Jen Hickman. Published by Image Comics.

Themes: LGBTQIAP+, Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

A tantalizing and thought provoking read, SFSX is set in a dystopian America where sex is governed by oppressive bureaucrats, known as “The Party.” To keep sexual freedom alive, Dirty Mind, an underground club, is created to allow adults to engage in consensual sexual acts. A series of events forces Avory, a former sex worker, to band together with her former colleagues to free their incarcerated friends and take down the draconian government. Equally provocative and thrilling, this graphic novel will capture its readers from beginning to end!

Tina Horn (Author)
Tina Horn hosts and produces the long-running kink podcast Why Are People Into That?!. Her reporting on sexual subcultures and politics has appeared in Rolling Stone, Hazlitt, Glamour, Jezebel and elsewhere; she is the author of two nonfiction books and has contributed to numerous anthologies including the queer horror collection Theater of Terror. Tina has lectured on sex work politics and queer BDSM identities at universities and community centers all over North America. SFSX is her first creator-owned comic book series, the culmination of a lifelong obsession with comics and genre fiction. She is a LAMBDA Literary Fellow, the recipient of two Feminist Porn Awards, and holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence. Originally from Northern California, Tina now lives in New York City.

Mike Dowling (Artist)
Mike Dowling is the artist of SfSx, written by Tina Horn and published by Image. He has also drawn Tie Fighter and Black Cat for Marvel Comics. He was the artist and co-creator of Unfollow, written by Rob Williams & published by Vertigo. Other work includes Death Sentence written by Montynero and Devlin Waugh, Ichabod Azrael, Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson for 2000AD.


Alejandra Gutiérrez (Artist)
Alejandra Gutiérrez was born in 1994 in Cartagena, Colombia. She now lives in Portland. She draws herself a lot and pretends to be a Valley girl and she recently drew one of the main stories in Twisted Romance from Image Comics.




Jen Hickman (Artist)
Jen Hickman is a visual storyteller and a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design's Sequential Art program. Past work includes Lonely Receiver, TEST, Moth & Whisper, Jem and the Holograms, and more. They get really excited about dystopian fiction, good coffee, and drawing hands. 


Winner: Youth

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen; art by Trung Le Nguyen. Published by Random House Children's Books.

Themes: LGBTQIAP+, Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

In Invisible, a group of five students are called to the principal’s office to recount what happened when they were forced together to do community service at their school. This graphic novel allows characters that are often grouped and stereotyped to showcase their social, economic, racial, and cultural differences as each one presents their part of the story.  In addition to the phenomenal diversity, it follows the fun journey of a unique group of middle-grade students setting aside their disagreements and working around language barriers to come together for a common purpose. Invisible will wow readers with its cast and surprise twist at the end. A delightful read, especially for those who’ve felt invisible.


Trung Le Nguyen (Author and Artist)
Trung Le Nguyen, also known as Trungles, is a comic book artist and illustrator working out of Minnesota. He received his BA from Hamline University in 2012, majoring in Studio Art with a concentration in oil painting and minoring in Art History. He has contributed work for Oni Press, BOOM! Studios, Limerence Press, and Image Comics. He is particularly fond of fairy tales, kids' cartoons, and rom-coms of all stripes. The Magic Fish is his debut graphic novel.


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Honor Books: Adult

Invisible Differences by Julie Dachez; art by Mme Caroline. Published by Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group.
Themes: Neurodiversity, Disability

Marguerite is a normal 27 year old living in France; at least, she thinks she is normal. Everyone else around her finds her to be hard to engage with and think her behaviors are a little odd. Through the course of the novel Marguerite struggles to understand why she feels different than everyone else around her. After her autism diagnosis, the world feels manageable to her. She understands her thoughts and feelings better because there is a reason for them. She is also able to connect with a group of people with the same neurodivergence. Finally there are people who understand and can commiserate with her. Through her journey, she comes to realize that there are people all around her who are also dealing with neurodivergent disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This novel shows how difficult it can be to be diagnosed, especially for a woman, and that a diagnosis can also be uplifting.

Dancing after Ten by Vivian Chong; art by Georgia Webber. Published by Fantagraphics Books.
Theme: Disability (Invisible)

When Vivian Chong developed a rare skin condition, TEN (Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis), her life was forever changed. In this powerful memoir, Chong and artist Georgia Webber provide a moving portrayal of Chong’s struggles to find her path in the face of pain, despair, and eventual blindness. As readers follow Chong’s journey from the initial illness, through continual battles with the medical system, and finally to her emergence as a talented performance artist, they see her strength and resilience in confronting numerous obstacles. Chong’s own drawings are incorporated throughout this memoir, offering a unique perspective on her visual and emotional struggles. Readers of all backgrounds will be touched by this excellent contribution to the world of graphic memoirs.

Honor Books: Youth

Quince: The Definitive Bilingual Edition by Sebastian Kadlecik and Kit Steinkellner; art by Emma Steinkellner. Published by Fanbase Press.
Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

Latina high school student and self-proclaimed “nobody”, Lupe, is gearing up for one of the most important nights of her life, her Quinceañeraor coming of age party. What she thinks will be a celebration that marks the passage from youth into maturity turns into a surprising adventure as she discovers that in every other generation the women in her family develop superpowers, although they can only keep their powers while fifteen. Quince follows Lupe on her path to superhero-dom as she not only learns to control her new, superhuman powers but grows into her womanhood as well–learning the difficulty of balancing romance, responsibility, and friendship. Surviving high school is hard enough, but doing it while trying to hide her identity, keep her grades up, and defeat an evil archnemesis is even harder! Not only is this graphic vibrantly illustrated with a Latina lead, but it’s written in both Spanish and English.

Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith; art by James Otis Smith. Published by TOON Graphics.
Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

James Otis Smith collects and illustrates the true-life adventures of three former slaves who took control of their own destinies and became Black Heroes of the Wild West!

  • ‘Gun-toting, pants-wearing, punch-throwing’ Mary Fields who gave as good as she got and never missed a delivery.
  • Deputy US marshal Bass Reeves, who brought over 3000 fugitives to justice and whose real-life adventures inspired the Lone Ranger.
  • Bob Lemmons, who single handedly corralled ‘untamable’ herds of wild mustangs by living among them before bringing them to their new home at the ranch. 

Black Heroes of the Wild West offers readers an accessible and exciting look at true stories of exceptional lives, each criminally overlooked, each worthy of their own blockbuster film. Readers inspired to learn more won’t have to look far. This collection contains facts, maps, and timelines to better place them in the context of US history. More importantly, it contains actual photographs of the Black Americans, Mexican, and Indigenous peoples of the Wild West, who in Smith’s own words “had the courage and strength to choose to be whoever they wanted to be.”

Odessa by Jonathan Hill; art by Jonathan Hill. Published by Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group.
Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

On her eighteenth birthday Vietnamese-American Victoria Crane or “Ginny” receives a letter from her mother who abandoned their family after the world was struck by a devastating earthquake. Set in an apocalyptic future, this story is an epic adventure across the west coast, for Ginny and her two younger brothers who are determined to find out what happened to their mother despite what dangers they encounter. The author Jonathan Hill tells a heartwarmingly honest story of survival and sibling bonds in this first volume of Odessa.The Woman in the Woods by Kate Ashwin, Kel McDonald, Alina Pete (editors); Various Artists. Published by Iron Circus Comics.


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Overfloweth: Adult

Killadelphia, Vol. 1 by Rodney Barnes; art by Jason Shawn Alexander. Published by Image Comics.
Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

Killadelphia: Sins of the Father takes the tropes of vampire stories to create a narrative about relationships to power.  Detective Jim Sangster Jr. is returning to Philadelphia to bury his father, Detective James Sangster Sr.  What unfolds is a story of a centuries-long plan that has empowered the oppressed and disenfranchised.  In this tale some compatriots have begun to question what is being offered and if this presents true freedom.

Rodney Barnes has written a convincing vampire story that examines historical oppressions of the United States and how they have progressed to current conditions, such as disinvestment from cities and allowing for people to be impoverished.  The story is framed by a parent and child coming to an understanding late in life.  Jason Shawn Alexander presents evocative art throughout, maintaining the oppressive mood, whether from material conditions of the setting or the horror story being told.

Kimiko Does Cancer by Kimiko Tobimatsu; art by Keet Geniza. Published by Arsenal Pulp Press.

Themes: LGBTQIAP+, Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality 

In Kimiko Does Cancer, author Kimiko Tobimatsu chronicles her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of twenty-five and her subsequent treatments. As a queer, mixed-race woman who is not feminine-presenting, Kimiko struggles with establishing her career, dating during induced menopause and resulting hot flashes, and feeling like she does not fit into the mainstream, often sexualized breast cancer narrative that tends to focus on heterosexual, middle-aged white women. Tobimatsu walks readers through her experiences with unapologetic candor, eventually emphasizing that, above all, she aims to become better at asking for help instead of being afraid to rely on her friends. Kimiko Does Cancer is a much-needed graphic novel that sheds light on the need for more diverse stories of cancer treatment and resilience and provides validation for so many people's experiences. It also emphasizes the importance of practicing self-care as one learns to become their own advocate.

Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band by Christian Staebler and Sonia Paoloni, in cooperation with the Vegas family; art by Thibault Balahy. Published by IDW Publishing.
Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

While many readers may be familiar with the song “Come and Get Your Love,” they may not be aware of the powerful story surrounding the Native American rock band who created it. This strong biographical novel follows the story of Redbone as they fight to balance their success in the music industry with their cultural identity and values. Incorporating numerous vignettes on important historical events in Native American culture and the development of the American Indian Movement, Redbone does an excellent job both educating and entertaining the reader. This graphic novel offers a compelling look at an important era in the history of both the music industry and America.

Phoolan Devi, Rebel Queen by Claire Fauvel; art by Claire Fauvel. Published by NBM Graphic Novels.
Themes: Feminism

This biography follows the life of Phoolan Devi, who was famously known as the “Bandit Queen.” Married off at the age of 11, Phoolan’s life takes a traumatic turn for the worst, leading her to join a group of bandits. Fueled by revenge, Phoolan discovers what drives her and ends up being a political activist for female rights. Not one to shy away from graphic imagery, this melancholy but compelling tale is one of a woman’s ultimate triumph.Días de Consuelo by Dave Ortega; Art by Dave Ortega. Published by Radiator Comics.

Overfloweth: Youth

Doodleville by Chad Sell; art by Chad Sell. Published by Random House Children's Books.
Theme: Disability

The three stories in this collection, each illustrated by a different artist interviewing a Holocaust survivor from Romania, Holland, and the Netherlands, are as varied as the art styles represented. Bolstered by essays providing historical context, each story is complemented by written recollections from the interview subjects and comic-style reflections of the artist interviewers. Through the childhood experiences of the four survivors, we see the effects of racism, discrimination, and war, and watch as hate takes a toll on their homes, families, and identities. All equally beautiful and devastating, these stories feel deeply intimate and preserve crucial historical facts and emotional context, making this text an essential addition to a well-rounded collection.


The Montague Twins by Nathan Page; art by Drew Shannon. Published by Random House Children's Books.

It's a gorgeous summer day in the 1960's, and twin teenage sleuths Al and Pete Montague and their foster sister Charlie have been tasked with a critical mission – take the day off. A relaxing day at the beach quickly takes a turn toward the supernatural as an eerie, isolated storm starts to brew over the lighthouse. Naturally, the three teens can't help but investigate. What follows is an entertaining adventure set against the backdrop of a small town in the 1960's. This graphic novel blends mystery and the supernatural with a historical setting that deals with some of the issues of its time, such as racism and the fledgling gay rights movement. Nathan Page and Drew Shannon set this up to be the first volume in this engaging series, with a diverse cast of characters, witty dialogue, and clear, colorful artwork that will draw in a variety of readers.


Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky; art by Jessi Zabarsky. Published by Random House Children's Books.

Witchlight is a sweet, LGBTQIA, magical story about Lelek the Witch, a peasant girl Sanja, their chance battle/encounter in the marketplace, and subsequent journey together battling witches from different villages to uncover the secrets of Lelek’s past and recover the lost portion of her soul. Along the way they slowly grow to forgive their misconceptions about each other and fall in love.  

This graphic novel demands multiple rereads to uncover all the hidden details within the artwork. Zabarsky’s illustrations are beautifully drawn with a lot of intricate detail setting the characters, customs, and cultures of various villages and witches apart as well as the different types of magic they practice. The plot is complex, multi-faceted and unpredictable as the main conflict ends and a twist reveals itself in the final few chapters that tests the strength of Lelek and Sanja's relationship and their devotion to one another. The storytelling is compelling and there are many quiet, intimate moments of poignant emotion that will make readers become invested and entwined in Lelek and Sanja’s love story.  Their journey is authentic and relatable framed by themes of forgiveness, loss, growth, and making your own family.

Suncatchers by Jose Pimienta; art by Jose Pimienta. Published by Random House Children's Books.
Themes: Color/Race/Ethnicity/Nationality

Beatriz loves music. And more than that, she loves her grandfather. After his death, Beatriz finds out that his soul is trapped in his guitar. In order to free him, she’ll have to finish the song that he never had the chance to complete. Suncatcher tells the story of Beatriz’s journey as she obsessively attempts to complete her grandfather’s song, jeopardizing her relationship with her family, her band, and her health along the way. This graphic novel is a historical fiction that takes place in the 1990’s with the Mexicali alternative rock music scene as the setting. Beatriz’s story is told with a touch of magical realism, using the personification of musical instruments to illustrate her grief over the loss of her grandfather and her growing obsession with music and her grandfather’s song. The graphic novel also introduces the reader to Mexicali culture.

A Slug Story by Mandi Kujawa and Hana Kujawa; art by Claude St. Aubin. Published by Renegade Arts Entertainment.
Themes: Disability

Marcus is an imaginative child, but when he gets to middle school, he begins to feel like he doesn’t fit in with the other kids. Already feeling out of place, Marcus suffers a traumatic brain injury and has to spend extensive time in the hospital. During his stay at the hospital Marcus learns to embrace who he is and gains confidence with the help of the nurses and doctors that care for him. This is an important story drawn from the real life experience of the authors, Mandi and Hana Kujawa, that will resonate with readers who have been in a similar situation and highlights an often overlooked narrative perspective. Hopefully A Slug Story will inspire more representation of illness in future graphic novels.


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VLA Announces 2021 Award Winners

The Awards & Recognition Committee of the Virginia Library Association (VLA) has selected winners for the 2021 association awards from a very competitive application pool. Librarians and library project teams from academic, public, and special libraries across the commonwealth are honored for their exemplary contributions to their communities and profession in 2020. All Virginia Library Association award winners will be honored at the Awards Celebration on Wednesday evening, October 27, 2021, at the Richmond Marriot, in conjunction with the VLA Annual Conference. For more information about this event, see our conference website. For details about each winner and their accomplishments, please view the press releases linked below:

Last Updated on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 11:44 AM

The VLA 2022 Election of Officers is open August 3 - September 15

Remember, in order to vote in the election you MUST BE A MEMBER OF VLA (Individual or Life Member, or a member through your library's Affiliate Membership.) You are always welcome to become a member or renew your membership.

    • Candidates for Vice President/President Elect (3-year position):
    • Candidates for Second Vice-President (3-year position):
      (Please note: Alisha Barnes is leaving her library position and has removed herself from the election. Votes for Alisha have been discarded.)
    • Candidates for VLA Treasurer (2-year position): 

Good luck to all of our candidates! The winners of the election will join the following previously-elected members of the VLA Executive Committee.

2022 VLA Candidate Biographical Information & Candidate Statements


Candidate for Vice President/President Elect (3-year position): Margaret Howard


I am a branch manager at Chesterfield County Public Library, where I have worked for 10 years. Librarianship is my third career, having first taught English in Beijing, China, then moving back to the US to work in finance for several years, before deciding to return to my first love, the library. Raised in North Carolina, I received my MLIS from UNC Greensboro in 2010 and shortly after relocated to the Richmond area, where I have lived happily ever since. Throughout my work as a librarian I have greatly enjoyed my involvement in VLA, where I have made many connections over the years attending and presenting at conferences and serving on committees.

In 2013 I was named an ALA Emerging Leader and have also been a member of many ALA committees over the past decade. I served as VLA NMRT Chair 2014-2015, and recently enjoyed working with the VLA Conference Committee 2020 and am pleased to be serving on this committee again this year, helping to plan our 2021 VLA Conference. I am also excited to be currently serving on the 2021 VLA Continuing Education Committee and working together to see what we can offer our association members in the coming year. In addition to my professional and committee work, I have been a regular book reviewer for BookList since 2018.

Candidate Statement

Throughout 2020 and into 2021 we have seen how vital library services are to our communities, and as in-person services became difficult to maintain, library workers found innovative ways to provide essential services to their communities. From running curbside services, curating new digital offerings for patrons and students, virtual programming, and creating new forms of communication to stay in touch with our customers, library staff across the Commonwealth rose to a challenge they never could have predicted. Through this tremendous effort, libraries remained a crucial part of their communities and institutions. Access to the information and the resources we provide, including digital materials, was a lifeboat to those whose lives were suddenly upended by school closures, event cancellations, job losses, health crises, and many other new and unexpected experiences.

During the next few years VLA will continue supporting staff across the Commonwealth, and there will be moments for connection that we all will cherish after being forced apart for so long. There also will be challenges as we continue to reckon with the fallout of a global pandemic, its impacts on our services, staffing, and the challenges of adapting to a new normal. Innovative leadership and an ability to think critically while retaining a positive outlook are strengths of mine that would benefit the association during this time. In my work on many committees as well as managing a busy branch library, I’ve developed strong project management skills that are valuable whether it is in meetings, planning, or completing a project. As an adept communicator, I have learned to listen first and respond thoughtfully to confirm that everyone understands, and expectations are clear. While my ability to lead and inspire change are aptitudes I enjoy and excel at, I also have the experience and technical skills to ensure that the day-to-day work of association leadership is completed successfully.

I am excited for the future of our profession as library workers continue to support inclusion, diversity, and intellectual freedom for all, which I view as cornerstones of democracy. While I believe there is always work to be done, I’m proud to be in a field where so many are committed to these values as well. VLA’s continued effort to support workers with various backgrounds and experiences is something that has been of great value to me, and I would love to be a part of leadership moving forward. I am so honored to be nominated and sincerely thank you for your consideration.

Candidate for Vice President/President Elect (3-year position): Kimberly Knight


Kimberly is currently the Deputy Director at Alexandria Library.  After receiving her MLIS from UCLA, she has worked in public libraries serving all ages in urban and suburban settings from Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, DC, Maryland, and California. She’s held positions as Area Manager, Branch Manager, Manager of Accessibility Services, Youth Services Selector, Children’s Librarian, and Library Assistant. 

Professional associations are a constant inspiration for Kimberly. She has been active with the Virginia Library Association for many years. In 2013, she co-presented on the Book Dating for Singles program at conference in Williamsburg.  Additionally, Kimberly served twice on the Conference Planning Committee; chaired the Conference Planning Social Media sub-committee; attended the Presenters Pre-Conference, presented a webinar for VLA called, Reimagined: Tips & Tricks for New Managers, served on the Officer’s Nominating Committee, and most recently chaired the sub-committee that drafted the new Librarians of Color Award.  Formerly she served on the DC Library Association’s Board. At the national level, Kimberly is Chair of the Public Libraries Magazine Advisory Board and serving her second term as an ALA Councilor-at-Large. She previously served as Co-President of the California Librarian’s Black Caucus, ALSC Great Websites for Children, on The ALA Century Scholarship Award Jury, PLA Conference Planning Subcommittee, and member of the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA). 

Kimberly has more than 20 years of experience in library leadership. She has completed continuous formal leadership training including the ALA and PLA Leadership Academies, and Toastmasters. She trained other library professionals by presenting on management and leadership at local and national conferences, in webinars, and has written for library journals. 

 A recent direct report described Kimberly as, “a librarian’s librarian” in that she is passionate about libraries, active in professional associations, and has a vast network of contacts in the profession while remaining open, engaged, and inspired by the work we do in libraries of all types. She looks forward to the opportunity to serve the Virginia Library Association as Vice-President/President Elect and to get to know you!  

Candidate Statement

Libraries speak to so many driving forces in my life: caring, fairness, sharing, diversity, advocacy, celebrating each other, and making a space for all at the table.  After graduating from UVA with a degree in African American Studies, I cast about for what to do next.  I wanted a meaningful profession, that helped others to achieve personal and professional goals, helped with vital information, and celebrated everyone’s membership in a dynamic and diverse community—sometimes quiet, sometimes a party, and always making a difference.  

The first time I saw that possibility was when I moved to Oakland, CA and began taking my toddler to the children’s story times at the Lake Merritt Branch Library.  We met a welcoming children’s librarian who re-introduced me to the library: a dynamic place for information, entertainment, and free events that highlight diverse history, cultural, and celebratory moments in our communities. The librarian told me about a Library Assistant opening at the African American Museum and Library at the Oakland Public Library. When I began working there, my career was born!  

Throughout my rewarding career in libraries, I’ve worn many hats: children’s librarian, young adult librarian, storyteller, reference librarian, magician’s assistant, branch manager, advocate, accessibility manager, part-time university librarian, community leader, and leader of managers in IT, finance, branches, training, a law library, and a local history/special collections branch.  I’ve welcomed new Americans, braided hair with teens, trained parents on early literacy, lobbied state and national elected officials, and hosted cultural programs such Latin dance, opera, ballet, African dance, theatre, tap, gospel, and historical re-enactors. I’ve advocated for the profession, users, and diverse literature.  I’ve served on panels discussing diversity and inclusion in libraries as well as advocated for intellectual freedom. I’ve shared my growing knowledge on management and leadership in libraries locally, statewide and nationally.  I’ve performed outreach in schools, senior centers and in unexpected places like public parks, public health clinics, and even at an Ikea.  During the COVID-19 Pandemic, I led a small team in creating the Outdoor Computer Café to ensure library customers could have computer access even when our doors were closed.  All of my work in libraries has been driven by my passion for people, literature, stories, and thriving communities.   

One of my proudest moments in librarianship was speaking up for the Resolution on Monetary Library Fines as a Form of Social Inequity, 2018-2019 ALA CD#38 (Rev. 1/27), as an ALA Councilor in 2019, . In my 2.5 years on Council, I’d never addressed the group at any council meeting. This time, I shared one of my saddest experiences had been hearing parents tell their children they could not borrow from the library because they could not afford to pay fines. While the resolution had been aspirational, I am so proud every time a library can announce they’ve received the support from their jurisdiction to go fine free!  I think that resolution represents the best of who we are, caring advocates for our users who ensure equal access to information across socio-economic and other barriers.

As described in my biography, I’ve served in VLA in several capacities over the years and have been very active in many local, state, and national associations. My long and varied career in libraries inspires my vision to help our great organization continue finding new and innovative ways to make room under the VLA umbrella for a diverse, growing membership. Together we can accomplish this through our programming, continuing education opportunities, advocacy, committees, and wide variety of forums. Thank you for the opportunity to share my passions about libraries with you.  I look forward to the opportunity to serve as Vice-President/President Elect of VLA. Please honor me with your vote. 



Candidate for Second Vice-President (2-year position): Zachary Elder


I hope to use my wide range of experience across Special Collections and Academic and Public Libraries to assist library professionals and the communities they serve across Virginia. 

My love for libraries dates back to my childhood in Ohio. It’s thanks to the Fairfield County District librarians not strictly enforcing the unattended child policy that has helped make me the person I am today. My first work in libraries came as a student assistant in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the Ohio State University. After graduation and several years in the software profession, I started my career at Duke University’s Rare Book and Manuscripts Library (now named after David M. Rubenstein) while attending North Carolina Central University’s School of Library and Information Science. 

Following graduation, I took my first management position, at the George Washington University Libraries. There, I helped improve access through creating a “service for fines” initiative for students and helped guide a major renovation of our public services floors. Later, as Acting Director of the Eckles Library, on the Mt. Vernon campus, I advocated for Open Educational Resources and textbooks. I also developed a safety and wellness fair with partners from across the University, as well as D.C. 

After years in academic libraries, I felt called to public service. I went on to serve in branch management roles with Newport News Public Library and Chesapeake Public Library (CPL). Currently, I serve as Assistant Director of CPL. I am proud of how our staff continue to go above and beyond—despite the pandemic - innovating, assisting other city departments, and adjusting services, all while keeping a strong public profile and maintaining the safety of customers and other staff. 

Candidate Statement

For those of you who have been at a recent VLA conference, I’m one of the smiling volunteer blurs you might see rushing by in-between sessions, or pestering you all to moderate or pass out box lunches. I can only promise that if selected I will bring that energy and positive attitude to the Executive Committee. 

And we’ll need it. We are at an important inflection point for our profession. The pandemic has tightened our budgets, yet Virginians need library services more than ever. We must retain and grow the trust of the public while simultaneously fighting disinformation in an increasingly divisive environment. We must advance diversity, equity, and inclusion while educating and communicating the benefits, even to groups that may be hostile to that advancement. 

Fortunately, now more than ever, people are aware of the services libraries provide. They know about the lives we enrich and the gaps we bridge. As libraries reopen and continue providing resources, services, spaces, and ourselves to our communities, we have and will need a strong association committed to advocating for our mission, our workers, and our customers. As Vice President, I will help Virginia libraries campaign for those needs that have been deferred or denied in the past. 

We must do this by matching our marketing to our audience. For economic developers and fiscal conservatives, we’ll demonstrate the Return-On-Investment ratio of 5:1 or higher and show that building a library branch raises property values around it so much that it more than pays for itself. For those concerned with quality-of-life, we’ll demonstrate libraries as the hubs of thought, culture, and art that make them the center of their community. For the Chamber of Commerce, we’ll point out the positive outcomes of library work in skills development and entrepreneurship. In academic libraries, we’ll point out to leaders that well-resourced libraries lead to higher student success, improved acceptance ratios, increased faculty retention, and positive accreditation outcomes. We’ll tailor our message and hammer it home. Because, as we have all learned from the pandemic, from the social justice movement, and from the ongoing struggle with disinformation that led to the Capitol insurrection, lives are at stake. 


Candidate for Second Vice-President (2-year position): Cynthia Hart


With varied experience in administration, supervision and programming, Cindy has worked as a public librarian for more than 30 years in progressively responsible positions with the Virginia Beach Public Library. For more than a decade, she managed the Library’s intranet and Internet sites including all virtual resources, services, and digital collections.  In addition, she established and managed the Library’s social media presence, coordinated gaming and multimedia projects as well as developed and implemented web 2.0 training and tools. Working with TagWhat, she led the Library to be the first in the nation to use augmented reality to boost local history collections and provide rich location-based storytelling.

She was responsible for planning and support for the Library Department’s integration of innovative technology initiatives and equipment. She recommended, designed, and implemented new programs system-wide. She was a trend-watcher and strategic planner, identifying and writing about emerging technologies, presenting analysis and proposals to guide planning and decision making.  In addition, she managed technology and technology programming, as well as shared daily responsibility for the TCC / City Joint-Use Library, a collaboration library between Tidewater Community College and the City of Virginia Beach.

Currently, she is the branch manager of the Oceanfront Area Library, located in the resort beach area of Virginia Beach.  Well versed in strategic planning and operations of both public and academic libraries, her qualifications are a unique combination of technological competence with managerial experience. She holds an B.S. in Business Administration / Economics from Old Dominion University and a M.S in Information Science from University of Tennessee at Knoxville. 

Candidate Statement

As a young child, I spent a lot of time in libraries. I was enchanted with words, books, and stories.  While I admired librarians, I never imagined that I’d be one when I grew up.  I chose the profession because it offers me an on-going opportunity to make a positive impact in my community.  Helping people thrive is an honorable vocation. It’s what libraries and librarians do.  I have a proven track record of delivering on the promise of preparing great plans for now and the future.

I want to work with each of you to create a vibrant future for libraries and the communities we serve.  How we do that depends on us.  We’re a strong profession that supports inclusion and diversity within our communities. I promise to work to reframe challenges into opportunities, and cultivate the necessary mindset and skill sets to move the profession forward in a changing world.   

Candidate for Treasurer (2-year position): Kyle Binaxas


Kyle Binaxas is the Technology and Content Strategy Manager for Suffolk Public Library. Previously, Kyle worked as the Student Success Librarian for Richard Bland College of William & Mary, with a student-centered approach to library services for a holistic support for students regarding their transition from high school into a college setting and their eventual transition to a four-year institution. She regularly worked with first-generation college students to provide them the skills needed to be a lifelong learner through both their college careers and the rest of their lives. Kyle Binaxas received her MLS from East Carolina University in 2017 and has worked in academic, public, school, and correctional libraries. 

While working at Richard Bland College, Kyle focused on library instruction, right-sizing the library collection, library programming, and involving faculty and students in creating a library tailored to their needs. Besides serving on various committees at her institution, Kyle sits on committees for the American Library Association with a focus on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; Intellectual Freedom, and; Professional Development.   In her role as Technology and Content Strategy Manager for Suffolk Public Library, Kyle wishes to focus on inclusivity in library spaces, accessible and assistive technology, and empowering a community for learners for practical skills to reach historically underserved populations. 

Candidate statement

It almost seems impossible to say that in my short work experience as a librarian I have worn many hats: research and instruction, cataloging, programming, public services, and much more. Not only that I have served as both a paraprofessional and professional librarian. My focus has always been to pursue passions and spark passions among others and be open to new experiences. This allows me not only to bring varying viewpoints into a situation, but it also has allowed me to be easily adaptable and hone my "eye" for different points of views and focuses. 

 Working in cataloging has given me an eye for detail and managing many responsibilities at Richard Bland College has forced me to be very organized but I believe I've always had that skill. I've always preferred myself to be a "behind the scenes" person, helping where I am needed and giving the support to the forerunners. My boss regularly hears from me, "Tell me what you need from me, and it'll be done". 

I've served on VLA Committees including the Professional Associates Forum, the Graphic Novel Diversity Award, and the Conference Committee. I am passionate about professional development and continual learning. I have served as a secretary for Richard Bland College's Workplace Enrichment Initiative, a committee member for the Richmond Academic Library Consortium, and I am involved in various online communities focused on personal development and success. It would be an honor to serve as Treasurer on VLA's Executive Committee! 

Candidate for Treasurer (2-year position): Bonnie T. Shaw


Bonnie began her library journey in April 2011, working as a library assistant with Suffolk Public Libraries. Having no library experience prior to this, within a couple of months, she was reading for storytime to toddlers and preschoolers. She received great mentoring and guidance from the staff in Suffolk and returned to community college in 2012. It was when she started working for Portsmouth Public Libraries in 2013 that she discovered her love of cataloging. She graduated with an AS from Tidewater Community College in 2015 and transferred to Norfolk State University, receiving a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2017. Around the same time of her TCC graduation, she also began working for Slover Library with the Norfolk Public Libraries.

In 2018, Bonnie had, at the time, an opportunity of a lifetime. A cataloging assistant position opened at William & Mary Libraries. She applied, interviewed, and started working for William & Mary. She also got accepted at her first-choice graduate school, The University of Alabama. Bonnie graduated with her MLIS in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been working a hybrid schedule of in-person and telecommuting since being sent home due to the virus in March 2020.

Bonnie has been a member of VLA since 2015 and has served as the chair of the VLA Professional Associates Forum 2017-2018. She has also served on the VLA conference planning committee.

Candidate Statement

It is an honor to run for Treasurer of the Virginia Library Association. VLA is an important asset to all Virginians, whether they work at a library, visit libraries, or advocate for libraries. VLA has been a great resource to meet and network with extraordinary library workers and as a socially awkward introvert, I truly appreciate that. As a cataloger, I feel my focus and attention to detail would help me serve as a great VLA Treasurer.


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!

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