After a nine year hiatus, the American Library Association once again convened its annual conference in the nation’s capital. The 2019 annual was held in Washington, D.C. on June 20-25 and drew an enthusiastic contingent of librarians, publishers and vendors to share their concerns and perspectives about the complex issues facing libraries and the publishing industry. Fortunately, attendees were rewarded with comfortable temperatures and clear skies as they navigated the numerous conference venues and enjoyed visiting national museums and historic sites and, of course, taking advantage of the world class restaurants.
Attendance was surprisingly strong, jumping nearly 22% from last year’s New Orleans conference. Total figures rose from 17,599 to 21,460 which according to PW included “a major increase” in exhibitors from the 5.176 in New Orleans to the 6,827 who ventured to Washington, D.C.
Writing a single report that gives a full sense of the diverse complexity of a meeting like ALA Annual is nearly impossible. So rather than attempt the impossible, once again we have collected a list of posts from a variety of sources that “caught our eye” in the hopes of giving you a variety of perspectives to help you form an impression of your own.
- #alaac19 is American Libraries comprehensive collection of blog posts from their eye-witness reporters. The coverage ranges from sessions focused on relevant issues to presentations by celebrity authors; and from official actions by ALA Council to book signings in the exhibit hall. But since it goes on for seven pages, be prepared to do a bunch of clicking and scrolling.
- ALA Reports Strong Attendance at 2019 Annual Conference According to PW’s Andrew Albanese, ALA officials reported another impressive turnout for the 2019 ALA Annual Conference with “total attendance at 21,460, up sharply from the 17,599 that gathered in New Orleans for the 2018 show.” He also notes that attendees were “treated to a slate of great author talks—and wrestled with a host of thorny issues in the professional program.” Headliners included U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, activist George Takei and authors like Colson Whitehead, Kwame Alexander and Laura Lippman. Issues like increased pricing and restricted access to e-books and digital content were of major concern.
- 2019 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition—Sending a message of advocacy for libraries is the ALA News’ report on the annual conference in Washington, D.C. Author Donna Hunter, Marketing Coordinator, Conference Services points out that “with more than 1,800 programs and over 2,500 events taking place … much of the program content focused on ALA’s four strategic directions: advocacy; information policy; professional and leadership development; and equity, diversity and inclusion…”
- 2019 Annual Wrap-Up from American Libraries notes that this year’s “speakers and panelists touched on some of the most complex and urgent issues facing the country in 2019.” The sessions highlighted in this post focused on how libraries are responding to social issues ranging from white nationalism to food insecurity and from support for immigrant and refugee populations to services to the visually and physically impaired to dealing with Native American literacy issues.
News from the Show Floor | ALA Annual 2019, is LJ’s report from the exhibit hall in which Matt Enis notes those vendors that “introduced new products and debuted significant updates.” Grabbing Mr. Enis’ attention were a number of audiobook products from companies like Vox Books and Findaway; ebook collections from the Indie Author Project (IAP) and Rakuten OverDrive; virtual reality videos from ProQuest; a new discovery platform from Innovative Interfaces; Faculty Select, a new interface from EBSCO; and Gale plans to enhance the user experience across its portfolio of products.
- On Display in the Exhibit Hall: A roundup of content, tech, and services is Marshall Breeding’s post in American Libraries on the latest industry developments that he noted while exploring the exhibits. Making his list were materials-handling equipment and RFID technologies products from companies like mk Solutions, P. V. Supa, Lyngsoe Systems, D-Tech International, and EnvisionWare. And naturally, he explored the latest in the ILS space from firms like SirsiDynix, Innovative Interfaces, the Library Corporation and Autographics. He also took note of new offerings from the “Big Names” like Follett, Baker & Taylor, EBSCO, ProQuest, Gale, and OCLC as well as the major players in the digital content space like Overdrive, Bibliotheca, and Kanopy.
- Justice Sonia Sotomayor Speaks to the Power of Librarians | ALA Annual 2019 focused on the opening session of the Conference’s auditorium speaker series featuring Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Sotomayor told the audience how her local branch library became a refuge for her as a little girl and touched on the formative role reading played in her life. She also discussed her career in law as well her own writings and her published books.
- ALA Looks at “173 Days of Congress” and What’s Ahead | ALA Annual 2019 covers library legislative news reported during a “panel discussion entitled “173 Days of Congress: An Examination.” LJ’s Lisa Peet reports that during this presentation a panel of “representatives from ALA’s Washington Office and the U.S. Copyright Office looked at the successes and challenges libraries have confronted during the first six months of the 116th Congress, and identified a number of upcoming issues that advocates will want to keep an eye on…”
- ALA 2019: In Opening Keynote, Jason Reynolds Celebrates the Libraries Within Us All is PW’s take on Jason Reynolds’ keynote in which he “earned a standing ovation for an intensely personal keynote that touched on family, religion, his closest friends and relationships, the power of narrative, and the central, “sacred” role libraries play in people’s lives…”
Censorship Beyond Books | ALA Annual 2019 is LJ’s report on two sessions relating to censorship and the First Amendment. They were hosted by ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), and drew librarians seeking advice on challenges to books, programs, and more. Panels included:
- Censorship Beyond Books, with panelists Kristin Pekoll, Assistant Director, OIF; Sarah Ward, Outreach Librarian, Hunter College Libraries (NY); Phoebe Larson, Marketing and Communications Director, Saint Paul Public Library (MN); and Laura Broderick, Senior Children’s Librarian, Pikes Peak Library District (CO).
- Controversial Speaker Planned for Your Library Event? Things to Consider, with panelists Macey Morales, Deputy Director Communications & Marketing Office, ALA; Peter Coyl, Director, Montclair Public Library (NJ); Sukrit Goswami, Director, Haverford Township Free Library (PA); author Ellen Hopkins; and author Gayle Pitman.
- Carnegie Medal Authors Celebrate, Challenge Librarians | ALA Annual 2019 reports on “the eighth annual Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction ceremony and reception, … The award, cosponsored by Booklist and ALA’s Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), and supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, recognizes the “best of the best” of U.S. fiction and nonfiction published during the previous year, selected by library professionals…”
- ALA 2019: ALA Votes to Strip Melvil Dewey’s Name From Its Top Honor reports that “Citing a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment, the council of the American Library Association on June 23 voted to strip Melvil Dewey’s name from the association’s top professional honor, the Melvil Dewey Medal. The ALA Council approved the measure after a resolution was successfully advanced at the ALA membership meeting.
These are individual posts from three librarians at the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University that offer differing perspectives regarding their experiences at ALA’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
- American Library Association Annual Conference 2019 is a report by Sarah Weirich, Metadata Specialist, American Institute of Physics that offers “lessons learned from a first-time conference goer” complete with final takeaways.
- American Library Association Annual Conference & Exhibition 2019: A Recap is a blog post by Emily Parenti, Content Marketing Coordinator at IPG in which she talks about why she thinks ALA continues to be a success.
And for those who want to know the latest in ALA governance, here are links to the ALA Council reports published by American Libraries
- Council I Approves Renaming Dewey Medal
- Council II: SCOE Preliminary Recommendations;
- Council III: Memorial, Tributes, and Resolutions
Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.