2021 Vermont Library Conference

The Vermont Library Association Annual Conference 2021 will be held online May 25, 26, 27, and June 1 and 2.


Registration is now open for the Vermont Library Association’s Annual Conference 2021 — Emerging Energized — scheduled virtually over several days in order to make attendance more viable for those balancing work, family, and everything life is throwing at us during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are grateful to our conference sponsor, the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) Fair Housing Project.

Register Here




Registration is FREE to all VLA members, in recognition of the financial challenges this year has brought to many households and libraries. To renew your membership or join VLA, visit https://vermontlibraries.org/membership

The conference will kick off at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, May 25, with special guest Emily Bernard, UVM professor and author of several books, including the award-winning “Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine.” This presentation is a highlight of a number of conference programs that will explore diversity, equity and inclusion.

Ryan Dowd, author of “The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness: An Empathy-Driven Approach to Solving Problems, Preventing Conflict, and Serving Everyone,” addresses the conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 2. He will focus on ways to effectively deal with burnout, and then discuss his groundbreaking work on providing service to patrons experiencing homelessness.

Conference Speakers

Conference speakers are listed in the schedule below. For their biographies, please visit the Conference Speakers page.

Conference Schedule

Unless otherwise indicated, conference sessions will be recorded and posted after the conference to VLA’s YouTube channel.

Tuesday, May 25

10 a.m. – Emily Bernard, author of “Black is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother’s Time, My Mother’s Time, and Mine
Emily will read passages from her work, followed by a discussion centered around her writing. VLA President Kevin Unrath will moderate. Questions can be submitted in advance to kunrath@shelburnevt.org

“Black is the Body” was named one of the best books of 2019 by Kirkus Reviews and National Public Radio. It won the 2020 Los Angeles Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for autobiographical prose. Emily’s previous works include: “Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten,” a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; and “Some of My Best Friends: Writings on Interracial Friendship,” which was chosen by the New York Public Library as a Book for the Teen Age; and, with Deborah Willis, “Michelle Obama: The First Lady in Photographs,” which received a 2010 NAACP Image Award.

Emily is the Julian Lindsay Green and Gold Professor of English at the University of Vermont.  She lives in South Burlington, with her husband and twin daughters.

This session will not be recorded.

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – Section Meetings

  • College and Special Libraries, led by chair Chenfang Yang, Electronic Resources and Technology Librarian, Vermont Law School Julien and Virginia Cornell Library
  • Green Mountain Library Consortium (GMLC), led by GMLC Board President Wendy Hysko, director, Brownell Library
  • Public Libraries, led by Barbara Ball, director, Windsor Public Library
  • Friends and Trustees
    Join Jess Hyman, associate director of Housing Advocacy Programs at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s (CVOEO) Fair Housing Project, for a presentation about the barriers to safe, accessible, stable, and affordable homes for all Vermonters. Following a short presentation, Jess and Adriene Katz, chair of VLA’s Friends and Trustees Section, will moderate a discussion about how housing and housing needs directly connect to libraries and their communities. Jess and Adriene will focus on how library boards and friends groups can incorporate fair housing awareness and knowledge into policies and activities that help decrease housing discrimination and increase inclusiveness and equity for people with unstable housing or who are without a home.

These sessions will not be recorded.

12:30 – 1:15 p.m. – General Meeting and Voting

  • Hosted by VLA President Kevin Unrath and VLA Vice President/President Elect Michael Roy.
  • Current slate of candidates for election:
    VP/President-Elect: Kelly McCagg, director, Burnham Memorial Library
    Secretary: Barbara Ball, director, Windsor Public Library
    Treasurer: Lisa Milchman, assistant director, Norwich Public Library
  • Jessamyn West, VLA’s American Library Association Councilor, will present a technology overview of Slack, VLA email, and the VLA mailing list.

This session will not be recorded.

1:15 – 2 p.m. – Vermont Public Library Certification Ceremony and VLA Awards
A celebration of newly-minted recipients of the Vermont Department of Libraries Certificate of Public Librarianship, recently and soon-to-retire librarians, and library award winners chosen by YOU.  Bring your favorite sparkling beverage and join us for a virtual toast, as we acknowledge the remarkable accomplishments of our colleagues and peers, over the course of this challenging year. Open to all, VLA membership not required to attend. Hosted by Scholarships and Awards Committee Chair Lisa Milchman, and Joy Worland, Vermont Department of Libraries Library Consultant for Continuing Education and Small and Rural Libraries. NOTE: You do not need to be a VLA member or register for the conference to attend this session. If you’d like to attend, email Mike Roy at mdroy@middlebury.edu for the session’s Zoom link.

Watch the video of this event.

Wednesday, May 26

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. – Expanding Our Approach to EDISJ (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice)
Learn how to use Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) combined with a justice, equity and inclusion lens to help libraries reflect and embrace diversity.  The panel will discuss the difference between cultural competence and cultural humility; who libraries are missing with their services, outreach, and management structure; and what pragmatic tools might be used to fill these gaps.  Part two of this workshop will be presented by the Vermont Department of Libraries at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 9.  Panel members are Jonathan Clark, Lara Keenan, Mariah Lawrence, Bridget Stone, and Joy Worland.  NOTE: You do not need to be a VLA member or register for the conference to attend this session. If you’d like to attend, email Mike Roy at mdroy@middlebury.edu for the session’s Zoom link.  Resources are available online here:

Power Flower Exercise (Great to do before the session, if possible.)

Glossary of Terms from ALA Office for Diversity, Literacy and Outreach Services 

Animated Video about Asset Based Community Development

Sustainable Community Development Tedx Video by Cormac Russell

Learning Conversations Exercise

Diversity Audit Checklist

This session will not be recorded.

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. – You Don’t  Simply Walk Away from a Website Redesign
Middlebury Library User Experience and Digital Scholarship Librarian Leanne Galletly will discuss the library’s six-month collaboration between library staff, college communications staff, and information technology services staff to completely redesign the library’s website. Although the new site launched insummer 2019, it will, by design, never be finished. Galletly will describe the phased approach to the site redesign, particularly building content maintenance into ongoing workflows.

View the presentation slides.

Watch the video of this event.

2 – 3 p.m. – SimplyE and the Open Ebook Ecosystem
Libraries are part of a unique moment in history, working to unite broad technology adoption, readily-available technical training, and widespread use of the internet, while supporting open and equitable access. Robert Cartolano and James English believe open standards and open source initiatives, like SimplyE, New York Public Library’s free, open-source e-reader app, allow all involved — commercial software vendors, publishers, libraries, and consortia — to innovate. They will demonstrate the progress of SimplyE in public and academic libraries, and discuss what is yet to come. Robert is the Columbia University Libraries Associate Vice President for Technology and Preservation. James is a product strategist at LYRASIS, an academic consortium leading in open technologies for libraries.

Watch the video of this event.

7 – 8 p.m. – An Evening with Angie Thomas, author of  “The Hate U Give” (Separate Registration)
Sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council in partnership with the Vermont Department of Libraries, with funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Partnerships for Literacy and Learning, the Vermont Library Association, and the Vermont School Library Association.  Register for this free event at An Evening with Angie Thomas Registration. You do not need to be a VLA member or register for VLA’s conference to attend.

Thursday, May 27

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. – “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You” Community Read Project
As members of the Racial Equity Alliance of Lamoille (REAL) schools committee, Emily Nielsen and Amy Olsen will share the format created for using the book “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds as a community read.   Project details will include touchstones for respectful listening, themes for a close-read format, and connecting an action plan to continue the work.  “Stamped” is on the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020, and on the Green Mountain Book Award 2021-22 nominees’ list.

View the presentation slides.

Watch the video of this event.

2 – 3 p.m. – Libraries and Sustainability
From repair cafes to seed libraries, time exchanges to craft supply swaps, Vermont libraries can be the vanguard of promoting sustainability. Come learn what different libraries are doing, and how to incorporate these ideas into your own community.  Presented by Windsor Public Library Director Barbara Ball, Charlotte Public Library Director Margaret Woodruff, Carpenter-Carse Library Director Beth Royer and Reference Librarian Jill Anderson, Quechee Public Library Assistant Director Marieke Sperry, and Kimball Public Library Director Amy Grasmick.

Watch the video of this event.

Tuesday, June 1

11 a.m. – 12 p.m. – The Vermont Proposition and Future of  Vermont Project
Paul Costello, executive director of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, will discuss the Vermont Proposition initiative to develop transformational goals designed to optimize the best of Vermont’s economy, environment, communities, and people.

Watch the video of this event.

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. – Transcription in the Time of Covid
The University of Vermont’s Silver Special Collections Library transcription team will describe the project they undertook while working remotely during the pandemic. Using the 20th century diaries of Mary Jean Simpson, UVM Dean of Women from 1937 to 1953, they will discuss how they crafted the project guidelines, developed a shared workflow, and planned to make the end result available online. They will also reflect on the benefits of the work for the team, their collections, and their patrons, including support of scholarly research, classroom instruction, outreach activities to the general public, and future endeavors.  Transcription team presenters are Chris Burns, Ingrid Bower, Erin Doyle, Dorothy Dye, Ibrahim Genzhiyev, Tabitha Ireifej, Hannah Johnson, Mike Maloney, and Sharon Thayer. 

Watch the video of this event.

2 – 3 p.m. – Strategic Planning Now? Emerging from the Pandemic Energized to Engage
Lara Keenan, Vermont Department of Libraries’ statewide consultant for Governance and Management, invites you to reconsider the traditional view of strategic planning and see it as a process of meaningful community engagement that can energize the board and staff. Join her for a discussion of how COVID-19 has changed thoughts on the future of libraries and how – as we emerge from the pandemic – we can re-engage our communities, our boards, and our staff in the essential process of strategic planning.  NOTE: You do not need to be a VLA member or register for the entire conference to attend this session. If you’d like to attend this session only, without joining VLA, email Susan Larson at susanularson@gmail.com for the session’s Zoom link.

Watch the video of this event.

Wednesday, June 2

10 – 11 a.m. – Burnout and Stress: Just in case 2021 is as bad as 2020
Ryan Dowd, executive director of the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois and author of the ALA book “The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness,” explains the science behind burnout (hint: it is remarkably similar to trauma!). He will then present the research behind preventing or reducing burnout, with practical strategies for managers and non-managers. He will finish with a quick, science-based technique for stress reduction.  Dowd will use the Homeless Tranining Institute’s Burnout & Stress Workbook.  This session will not be recorded.

1 – 2 p.m. – From Advocate to Activist
Join John Chrastka, executive director of the national political action committee EveryLibrary, for a closing general session that encourages us to reconsider our advocacy and activism models. 

Library leaders need a keen understanding of the emerging post-COVID social and political climate of their towns and cities in order to position their libraries for future funding success.  This starts with the knowledge that funders are not always users — and that their decision to fund the library is not generally based on self-interest. Funders, whether elected officials or donors, are often motivated by compassion or pride, and they may be interested in evidence-based policymaking.

Librarians and library staff need to develop their “political literacy skills,” if they want to have the political and community support needed to increase funding.  He will help us reflect on what we have learned during the conference and will explore the strategies and tactics we need to get our new ideas funded and supported.

Watch the video of this event. Read the slides from this event (4MB PDF).

Conference Speakers – Read their biographies

VLA 2021 Annual Conference Planning Committee
Amy Olsen
Mike Roy
Kevin Unrath
Laura Haines
Barbara Ball
Lara Keenan
Lisa Milchman
Adriene Katz
Susan Larson
Jessamyn West
A special note of thanks to Cory Stephenson, 2020 conference planner, who shared her plans as we formulated the 2021 conference.

Last updated June 3, 2021.