VRA President’s Post Conference Letter

Hello, VRA colleagues —

I was thrilled to see many of you in Seattle for the 3rd Annual VRA + ARLIS/NA Joint Conference. This year’s joint conference exposed us to cutting-edge information, inspiring ideas, and opportunities to collaborate with colleagues beyond the VRA. I, personally, left the conference feeling saturated with new ideas and perspectives to pursue in my work, and I hope that you did as well.  I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience both VRA and ARLIS communities jointly; two organizations that engage in rich conversations, share ideas openly, and adapt quickly to change.

Before I launch into the daunting task of acknowledging and reflecting on the impressive qualities of this year’s joint conference and conference participants, I’d like to remind you all that the attendees’ post-conference evaluation survey is open ( https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BPL99TV )and will remain open until March 31st, 2016. The Executive Board encourages everyone to take just a few moments to share feedback, which will be vital to planning future conferences.

First and foremost, I want to thank all members of the Joint Conference Planning Committee for the collegial and efficient ways that they worked across both VRA and ARLIS/NA to ensure a successful conference.  Their collaborative perspectives and working relationships set the tone for all conference planning and arrangements. I will mention many of them by name throughout the course of this message, but for a more complete list of those involved in making this joint conference happen, please visit the joint conference website.

Honoring our members.

Our annual conference gathering gives us the opportunity to personally honor colleagues for distinguished achievement and outstanding career contributions to the field of visual resources and image management.

Congratulations go to this year’s joint recipients of The Nancy DeLaurier Award: VRA Core 4.0 creators Kevin Esmé Cowles, Janice Eklund, Benjamin Kessler, and Trish Rose-Sandler. Their groundbreaking work developing VRA Core 4.0 and the accompanying metadata schema has made a huge impact on colleagues working in a variety of disciplines both nationally and internationally. In her letter of support for the recipients, Elisa Lanzi writes, “I’ve just returned from the Digital Library Federation conference.  I love the fact that VRA Core 4.0 is mentioned in presentations right alongside Dublin Core.  Trish, Jan, Ben, and Esme made that happen by signing on for the long haul and applying brilliant and strategic thinking to improve access to cultural heritage content.” During their acceptance speech, Trish gave a special thanks many members who’ve contributed to VRA Core 4.0 and also recognized the diligent work of VRA Core Oversight Committee members.  Trish, Jan, Ben, and Esme have exhibited particular leadership, expertise, determination, and vision to ensure that the talented contributions of many are focused and sustained.

For her many years of remarkable dedication, leadership, and service to both VRA and ARLIS/NA and to the visual resources and library professions, VRA and ARLIS/NA presented this year’s Distinguished Service Awards to Ann Baird Whiteside. In addition to serving as President of both organizations, Ann has been an initiator and leader on numerous projects such as CCO, SAHARA, and VRA Core 4.0 and has made significant contributions to ARTstor’s Shared Shelf Platform.  Ann has also worked effectively across multiple disciplines and organizations.  In her letter of support, Jolene de Verges comments, “As a leader in both ARLIS/NA and VRA, Ann has built bridges between the visual resources professional and traditional librarianship. She chaired the ARLIS/NA-VRA Joint Conference Task Force which led to a set of recommendations for streamlining the process of planning all future joint conferences between the two organizations.”

Many thanks to the Nominating Committee, chaired by Margaret Webster, and to the nominators for their work in ensuring that these contributions to the field have been formally recognized and celebrated.

The recipients of the 2016 Travel Awards, along with the generous donors who have made these awards available, were recognized this year during the Annual Business Meeting. A total of 10 awards were given out in support of attendance at this year’s conference. The Travel Awards Committee, led by Co-Chairs Vicky Brown and Jeannine Keefer, reviewed the applications and coordinated fundraising with the Development Committee, co-chaired by Barbara Brenny and Marie Elia. Our deep appreciation for the generosity of donor sponsored travel awards goes to Kathe Hicks Albrecht and the anonymous donor who supports the “New Horizons” travel award fund. Last, but certainly not least, VRA is grateful that members like you support the Luraine Tansey Educational Fund Awards. It is heartwarming to see so many of us helping both new and veteran members attend and benefit from our annual conferences.

Absorbing new content and ideas.

The Seattle program was engaging and diverse.  It emerged from 95 submitted paper or session proposals, resulting in 39 sessions; 15 submitted workshop proposals, resulting in 6 workshops: 55 submitted poster proposals, resulting in 40 posters, and 11 SIG/SUG meetings. Topics included digital humanities, visual literacy, geospatial and visualization projects, image rights and reproductions, new technologies, museum education, environmental design, makerspaces, e-book publishing, materials education and research, diversity within our professions, RDF and LOD, crowdsourcing, cataloging, archives, visualization, open access, and more. Additionally, there were a number of productive organizational and chapter meetings held in Seattle.

Our deep thanks go to our Vice President for Conference Program, Chris Strasbaugh, for his outstanding work as he co-coordinated the program and schedule in collaboration with Program Committee Co-Chairs Dan McClure (ARLIS/NA), Denise Hattwig(ARLIS/NA) and Mar González Palacios (AASL, ARLIS/NA); to the Education Committee, co-chaired by Beth Wodnick Haas, Ryan Brubacher (past) and Marsha Taichman (present), for their invaluable contributions toward programming; and to the many presenters, instructors, and moderators who offered such timely, relevant, and forward-thinking content. Your knowledge and experiences should be disseminated to an international audience.  I hope that if you presented at the conference that you will consider taking that presentation to the next level by publishing it as an article for the VRA Bulletin (http://online.vraweb.org/).

Sarah Bergmann, design thinker and founder of the Pollinator Pathway, spoke during Convocation and shared thought-provoking perspectives on how the plight of the honey bee inspired her to consider symbiotic relationships and the importance of building and maintaining pathways to support these relationships. While Sarah’s consideration of bees inspired her to build pathways that connect city dwellers to existing green spaces, her work inspired us to think about the benefits that might be realized when we build connections across disciplines and professional organizations. Sarah’s talk was a compelling way to draw our 3rd Annual Joint conference to an end.

Enjoying the venues and the city.

Joint Conference co-chairs, Josh Polansky and Alan Michelson deserve a standing ovation for the time, enthusiasm, and thought that they each invested in this joint conference. Josh and Alan really went above and beyond in many ways to ensure that conference attendees had a positive and enriching experience in Seattle.

Sessions, workshops, speakers, meetings, and social excursions involving scheduling, AV, catering, or all of the above ran seamlessly during our entire time at The Westin Seattle Downtown. There were many others involved in the joint conference planning process who deserve our thanks when it comes to our comfort at the Westin and around Seattle, including Past-Presidents Elaine Paul (VRA) and Kristen Regina (ARLIS/NA), Local Arrangements Chairs, Cindy Abel Morris (VRA) and Traci Timmons (ARLIS/NA).   Special thanks also go to Robert Kopchinski, ARLIS/NA Executive Director, who exhibited remarkable skill coordinating, communicating, and managing a variety of conference needs and requests from both VRA and ARLIS/NA. And, of course, all of the staff at The Westin deserve recognition for their gracious service.

The city of Seattle was an added bonus alongside the excellent conference program. The Joint Conference Co-Chairs and Local Arrangements Co-Chairs helped develop tours and call attention to the city’s many fine museums, restaurants, and shopping venues, as well as offered attentive and thoughtful support and advice to attendees during the conference. From the Welcome Reception at the Seattle Art Museum to the Convocation Reception at the Seattle Public Library attendees had opportunities to explore many of the highlights that Seattle has to offer (rain or shine). Thank you to volunteers who assisted in leading these tours.

Secretary Jasmine Burns worked collaboratively with ARLIS/NA members Tad Suzuki and Suzanne Rackover to coordinate numerous registration desk volunteers, prepare conference badges and bags, and be simply hospitable during the entire conference. Thank you to all who volunteered their time to create such a welcoming and informative resource for attendees.

Past Public Relations and Communications Officer John Trendler worked with Sarah Seymore to create the conference website (http://www.arlisna-vra.org/seattle2016/index.php)

Past Treasurer Allan Kohl contributed his attention and wisdom to the joint conference budget, and as always, exhibited great care in his stewardship of the Association’s finances.

Being a new member or a first-time attendee.

Past Presidents, Kristen Regina (ARLIS/NA) and Elaine Paul (VRA) welcomed conference newcomers at the New Members and First-Time Attendees Reception, which was planned and facilitated by both VRA and ARLIS Membership Committees. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages were served while volunteer members from both organizations introduced a matchmaking activity that supported mingling and network building.

Karen Bouchard took the lead this year to offer conference mentors for those interested in connecting with a new colleague at the conference. This is a program that the VRA offers each year. If you are a new member who has yet to find your niche in VRA, please know that all committee chairs welcome inquiries about their work, and there are many opportunities to become involved (http://vraweb.org/about/committees/). You do not need to be an expert from the start; you simply need a willingness to learn and contribute. You will find that the rewards exceed the investment many times over. Please feel welcome to reach out to me as well.

Thanking our sponsors for their support.

Development Committee co-chair, Barbara Brenny, worked with ARLIS/NA Joint Conference Development Coordinators Clayton Kirking, Suzanne Rackover, and Jane Carlin to communicate closely with our conference sponsors, who provided very generous support, without which we could not offer such outstanding programming and venues. Our deep gratitude goes to our sponsors, donors, and friends for their ongoing generosity.  For a complete list of all joint conference sponsors and the levels at which they contributed, please visit the conference website’s Sponsors page.

Finally, annual conferences and joint conferences would not exist without the participation of attendees. This year’s attendance exceeded our expectations, which enriched this opportunity for us to meet and share knowledge, build connections with one another, and help shape the direction of our profession. Whether or not you were able to join us in Seattle, I hope to reconnect with as many of you as possible next year in Louisville, Kentucky.

With sincere thanks,

Jen Green

p.s. There was a professional photographer at the conference who snapped many shots. These images will be shared with the VRA Board soon, and then we can find a way to share them with you. If you took photos at the conference, feel free to join the VRA Flickr Events group and post them at https://www.flickr.com/groups/vra_events/pool/. There is also a VRA Flickr Group to share images of more general interest. If you took photographs while touring Seattle or other parts of Washington, feel free to post them here: https://www.flickr.com/groups/visualresources/pool/


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