(Washington, D.C.) Author and radio personality Garrison Keillor, who stated that "libraries are the best counter terrorism tool we have," brought to a close the largest conference in the history of the American Library Association (ALA). More than 28,635 librarians, exhibitors and library supporters attended the 128th ALA Annual Conference at the Washington Convention Center from June 21 to 27. According to the Washington, D.C. Tourism Bureau, the conference generated more than $15.6 million in revenue for the local economy.
The conference, which topped the record set at ALA’s 2005 Annual Conference in Chicago of 27,962 attendees, served as a national forum for discussions on key library issues that included technology, library users' privacy, literacy and providing services to new Americans and those with disabilities.
Library supporters participated in more than 300 conference programs, and attended special events featuring a variety of newsmakers and best-selling authors.
"This was the largest attended ALA conference in history," said Deidre Irwin Ross, director, ALA Conference Services. "Washington, D.C., was an excellent venue for the ALA, and we look forward to returning in 2010."
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian sponsored a native honor dance for ALA President Loriene Roy (2007-2008). The event recognized Roy’s accomplishment as the first American Indian to serve as ALA president and paid homage to American Indian veterans. More than 500 well-wishers participated in a circle honor dance with Roy and her family. Roy took office as ALA president on June 28, 2007.
The premiere of "The Hollywood Librarian: A Look at Librarians through Film," gave conference attendees an opportunity to experience a traditional Hollywood-style red-carpet walk. Written and directed by Ann Seidl, the documentary featured interviews with real librarians and movie clips of librarians, and focused on the themes of censorship, intellectual freedom, children and librarians, funding issues and the value of reading. The film was warmly received by those in attendance. Seidl has plans to distribute the film, funded in part by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, later this year. Details are available http://www.hollywoodlibrarian.com .
Former Chief Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court Royce Lamberth made national headlines while giving attendees a glimpse into the secret process of how FISA court requests are handled. Lamberth provided examples of how the USA PATRIOT Act has been instrumental in the fight on terrorism, but cautioned that even though we are a nation at war, we should protect our civil liberties while in the process of defending freedom.
Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, who served as keynote speaker at the Opening General Session, discussed the changes that need to be made in our political parties, in our politics, and in citizen activism to ensure Americas future. "We need collective caring and individual action as in the story of Flight 93," stated Bradley. "We share so much more than what divides us." Dr. Vartan Gregorian, president of the philanthropic Carnegie Corporation of New York, joined Bradley and discussed what the next 100 years is likely to bring for libraries. Dr. Vartan saluted librarians and their work calling them "one of three necessary professions along with teachers and journalists."
Robert Kennedy, Jr. joined ALA President Leslie Burger (2006 – 2007) for a discussion of the important role the public plays in preserving the environment. Before a crowd of thousands, the program entitled, "A Contract With Our Future," fostered a discussion on what steps need to be taken in order to ensure that future generations live in an environment that is safe, clean, and beautiful.
Entertainment icon Julie Andrews served as the keynote speaker for a special program celebrating the centennial of ALA’s American Libraries magazine. Thousands filled the ballroom, and hundreds more filled an overflow room, to listen to Andrews’ remarks on her career and support of America’s libraries. " I so applaud the work you do and the difference you make in the lives of our youngsters," Andrews said. " The library takes the gift of reading on step further, and is an antidote to the isolation of the Web." It was announced during the session that Andrews would serve as the honorary chair of National Library Week 2008.
More than 300 conference volunteers rolled up their sleeves and participated in a two-day program to help the Washington, D.C. community. Volunteers refurbished libraries and parks, helped build houses, and fed the hungry to show that libraries help transform communities.
ALA President Leslie Burger (2006-2007) and scores of librarians from around the country joined U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Vernon Ehlers (D-MI) when they unveiled the Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act. The bill reauthorizes an essential school library program. At the same time, nearly 1,000 librarians and library supporters from around the country lobbied members of Congress, as part of Library Day on the Hill, on the urgent need for funding libraries threatened by closures, shortened hours, staff shortages and diminished services; the importance of school libraries to the success of No Child Left Behind; and other critical issues.
Ten bookmobiles from across the country participated in the "Parade of Bookmobiles." Parade bookmobiles included: Cultural Exchange, Cleveland, Ohio; Adams County Library, Gettysburg, Pa; Harford County Public Library, Bel Air, Md.; Maryland Correctional Education Library, Baltimore, Md.; Jefferson-Madison Regional Library, Charlottesville, Va; Burlington County Library System, Westampton, N.J.; Bibliotheca Inc RFID Library System, Yardley, Pa; District of Columbia Public Library, Washington, D.C.; Wicomico Public Library, Salisbury, Md.; Washington County Free Library, Hagerstown, Md. Members of Congress also toured the Cleveland Public Library Bookmobile that visited the Capitol Building.
Other newsmakers and best-selling authors who spoke at the conference included documentarian Ken Burns, Judy Blume, Patricia Cornwell, Irshad Manji, Marian Wright Edelman, Nancy Pearl, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero and David Baldacci.
Approximately 950 exhibiting companies featured the latest in books, videos, computers and other materials vital to today's libraries, librarians and their users.
For more detailed information on Annual Conference events, please visit ALA’s conference publication CogNotes at http://www.ala.org/ala/eventsandconferencesb/annual/2007a/cognotes.htm.
For more information on the ALA - the voice of America’s libraries - and its Annual Conference, please visit www.ala.org/annual.