Conferences and Workshops

2010 Midwinter Meeting

yohannes gebregeoris

Yohannes Gebregeoris

“Librarians are the best human beings that I have known,” said Yohannes Gebregeorgis, the featured speaker at Camila Alire’s President’s Program at the 2010 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston, January 15–19. Using experience gained at the San Francisco Public Library, Gebregeorgis founded Ethiopia Reads in 1998 to bring books and reading to children in Ethiopia, where he and colleagues have established 30 children’s libraries in schools in and around Addis Ababa and Awassa. Gebregeorgis told stories about the development of the libraries and the “donkey power” that propels mobile libraries, inspiring many in the audience of about 250 to become involved in the literacy work of Ethiopia Reads.

Midwinter attendees also responded strongly to a call from ALA and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority for donations following the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti. The fundraising effort was set up in less than 24 hours; donations made by attendees were matched by the MCCA. Massachusetts State Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, the second Haitian-American to be elected to state office in Massachusetts, received the $27,084 donation on behalf of the local Haitian community, the third largest community of Haitians outside Haiti.

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Al Gore delivers the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture.

Some 3,000 attendees listened to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore discuss his new book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, at the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture. Gore talked about the environmental threat facing the planet as a result of carbon-based fuel consumption, as well as the global public policy changes needed.

The global economic crisis—and the resulting budget cuts in libraries of all types across the country—was a consistent theme. Responding to members who had lost jobs or were threatened with job loss, the JobLIST Placement Center brought résumé reviewers and career counselors to meet with job seekers. A webinar and several standing-room-only sessions gave job-seekers tips to improve their job-search strategies, and career development consultant Caitlin Williams advised the “working worried” to hone their résumés and improve their networking skills, pointing to conferences as places to strengthen connections.

The ALA Youth Media Awards Press Conference was again webcast and tweeted live. ALA President Alire represented ALA on the Today Show, along with Newbery Medalist Rebecca Stead, who won for When You Reach Me (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009) and Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney, who won for The Lion and the Mouse (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009).

The Sunrise Speaker Series featured Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who noted that she wrote her first two books in the New York Public Library. Other authors included Atul Gawande ( Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance) and Adrianna Trigiani ( Very Valentine). The ALA/ERT Author Forum carried the theme “From Book to Big Screen” and featured a distinguished panel of authors—including Eric Van Lustbader, Chuck Hogan, Tracy Chevalier, and Julie Powell—who discussed seeing their best-selling books become movies.

elizabeth gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

The ever-popular Literary Tastes Breakfast from the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) spotlighted some of the best writers of the year, including Adriana Trigiani, Dan Chaon, Laney Salisbury, David Small, and Melvin Konner.

The “Networking Uncommons”—an unstructured, wired space for impromptu meetings and presentations, where members could recharge electronic devices (and themselves)—premiered at the meeting. Among the unscheduled events were ALA’s first “Battledecks” competition, in which participants gave impromptu five-minute presentations on topics they did not know in advance, and “Set Sail for Fail,” a moderated discussion in which librarians described programs, events, and services that failed, what they learned from the experience, and how failure could be turned into success.

alsc logo The second biennial “Bill Morris Seminar: Book Evaluation Training” was held to bring Association for Library Service to Children members with limited evaluation experience together with those who have served on the ALSC’s media evaluation committees. The invitational seminar provides an environment for new and emerging leaders to learn about the group process and children’s media evaluation techniques.

During the meeting, ALA member Heather Devine implemented an event tracker at, which will serve as an official and permanent archive of the 10,069 tweets from the event. Also for the first time, a coordinated “Basecamp” in the Chicago office allowed ALA staff to monitor, respond to, and participate in the online conversations about Midwinter. The team was able to smoothly handle customer service issues while maintaining a steady flow of information for attendees and online participants.

Preconference activities––Among the preconference institutes, the Office for Library Advocacy (OLA) and the Massachusetts Library Association cosponsored “Surviving in a Tough Economy,” featuring ALA past president Carol A. Brey-Casiano. The Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) offered two workshops: “Creating Library Web Services: Mashups and APIs,” presented by Karen Coombs of the University of Houston, and “Writing for the Web,” presented by Brenda Reeb of the University of Rochester (N.Y.). LITA also held its Town Meeting, which focused on gathering member feedback on the issues identified during strategic planning over the last two years.

The Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) held two preconference institutes: “Assembling a Consulting Toolkit: What You Need to Know to Become a Successful Library Consultant” and, in partnership with the Institute for Human-Centered Design, “Breaking Down Barriers: Best Practices in Universal Design for Libraries.”

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) presented “Bringin’ ’Em On! 21st-Century Skills Aligning with Standards.” Led by Pam Berger, the institute guided attendees in best practices for infusing 21st-century skills into their school or district curriculum. Discussion centered on skills students will need in the future, as well how these resources empower students to address a global society.

RUSA offered a full-day workshop, “Behind the Genealogy Reference Desk: Our Capital’s Hidden Genealogy Gems,” as well as a half-day preconference, “Interlibrary Loan Statistics: What We Gather, How We Use Them, and Who We Provide Them To.”

yalsa logo The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) offered “Libraries 3.0: Teen Edition,” a full-day institute at which speakers discussed how to use free online tools to reach today’s teens, known as digital natives. YA author Cory Doctorow appeared via Skype; other speakers included California State Librarian Stacey Aldrich and librarians Laura Pearle, Wendy Stephens, and Buffy Hamilton.

YALSA also hosted a happy hour for members, sponsored by Disney-Hyperion Books, and a Games, Gadgets & Gurus social event at which ticket-holders played video games and tried out technology such as e-readers, digital audio recorders, and video cameras while consulting tech experts on how to use them.

Total attendance at the 2010 Midwinter Meeting was 11,095, including 8,526 members and 2,569 exhibitors, beating the 2009 Midwinter Meeting total of 10,220 (7,905 members and 2,315 exhibitors) in Denver.

Annual Conference draws 20,000 to nation’s capitol

Almost 20,000 librarians participated in more than 2,400 sessions, meetings, and events at the 2010 Annual Conference, held June 24–29 in Washington, D.C. The issue of advocacy dominated the conference, which culminated in a closing-day rally on Capitol Hill that drew 1,600 librarians and an additional 400 library supporters. Featured speakers included author Lauren Myracle, Rep. Vern Ehlers, Sen. Jack Reed, ALA President Alire, and ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels.

secretary of education arnie duncan

Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan with AASL Executive Director Julie Walker, left, and AASL President Cassandra G. Barnett.

At a meeting with the American Association of School Librarians board and elected leaders from state school library organizations, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged school librarians to “use your loud librarian voices” and push Congress for passage of the jobs bill.

Alire’s President’s Program featured inspirational speaker Eppo van Nispen, who spoke of his vision for the future of media and libraries. In addition, Alire, Past President Jim Rettig, and President-Elect Roberta Stevens launched the Spectrum Presidential Fundraising Initiative with the goal of raising $1 million to support the Spectrum Scholarship Program. Established in 1997, Spectrum is ALA’s national diversity and recruitment effort designed to address the underrepresentation of critically needed ethnic librarians within the profession while serving as a model for ways to bring attention to larger diversity issues in the future.

eppo van nispen

President’s Program speaker Eppo van Nispen

Librarians again reached out to the local community in the day-long service effort Libraries Build Communities.

Hundreds came together for the annual Many Voices, One Nation program, which highlighted President Alire’s Family Literacy Initiative. Featured authors included R. Dwayne Betts, author of the memoir A Question of Freedom (Avery/Penguin Books); Eugenia Kim, author of The Calligrapher’s Daughter (Henry Holt and Co.); Marina Budhos, author of Tell Us We’re Home (Atheneum/Simon and Schuster); cartoonist Matt Dembicki and storyteller Joseph Stands With Many, from the graphic novel Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection (Fulcrum Press); Benjamin Alire Sáenz, author of Last Night I Sang to the Monster (Cinco Puntos Press); and Kekla Magoon, author of The Rock and the River (Aladdin).

More than 600 people attended the annual Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast to celebrate winners Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Coretta Scott King Author Book winner for Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal (Carolrhoda Books); Charles R. Smith Jr., Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book winner for My People (Ginee Seo books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers); and Kekla Magoon, Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe New Talent Award Winner for The Rock and the River (Aladdin).

walter dean myers

Walter Dean Myers (AP file photo/Charles Sykes)

In addition, the inaugural Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement was given to acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers. The annual award will be presented in even years to an African American author or illustrator for a significant body of published books for children and young adults. In alternate years, the award will honor a practitioner for substantial contributions to youth education using award-winning African American youth literature.

The popular “Sunday Afternoon with LITA” began with a focus on Top Technology Trends and ended with the Library and Information Technology Association President’s Program, “Four or More: The New Demographic,” by Mary Madden, senior research specialist for the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Madden suggested that the leading-edge group of individuals who own four or more Internet-connected devices can provide an idea of what an “Internet-everywhere” future might be like.

More than 800 attendees turned out to hear Francine Berman, vice president of research at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services President’s Program, “Got Data? New Roles for Libraries in Shaping 21st-Century Research.” Berman described the emerging role for libraries as stewards of valued digital research collections.

Authors—and the relationship between authors and libraries—again played a strong role. “I suspect that every single author that speaks to librarians can tell you about his or her intimate, steady, and vital relationships to libraries,” said Pulitzer Prize–winning author Toni Morrison at the Opening General Session. ALA President-elect Roberta Stevens’s Inaugural Program included authors Maria Arana, Brad Meltzer, Sharon Draper, and Carmen Agra Deedy, who spoke of their experiences with and support for libraries.

More than 1,100 attendees celebrated Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead for When You Reach Me and Caldecott Medal winner Jerry Pinkney for The Lion and the Mouse. Additionally, the Association for Library Service to Children hosted honored guest Laura Rodgers, a fourth-grader who has read and posted reviews of the Newbery medal books on her blog.

pinkney and stead

Newbery Medal winner Rebecca Stead and Caldecott Medal winner Jerry Pinkney enter the banquet room

The ALSC’s Charlemae Rollins President’s Program opened with storytelling by award-winning author Lucía González and featured a keynote by Patricia Kuhl, whose research has played a major role in demonstrating how early exposure to language alters the brain. Kuhl discussed her findings on infants’ early language and later reading skills, teaching librarians how they can help families with literacy.

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Author John Grisham at the Auditorium Series

The Auditorium Series of speakers featured popular novelist John Grisham, who will be the 2011 Honorary Chair for National Library Week. Other speakers included Dave Isay of StoryCorps, Will Shortz, and authors Salman Rushdie, Dennis Lehane, Nancy Pearl, Mary McDonough, Sue Monk Kidd, and Ann Kidd Taylor.

American Libraries offered 12 librarians a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do a personal StoryCorps interview with an admired mentor or colleague during the conference. To win an interview slot, librarians had to explain whom they wanted to interview and what the relationship meant to their career. Like all StoryCorps interviews, the Annual Conference ones will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

booklist logo Popular Booklist events maintained their crowd-attracting track records. The Books for Youth Annual Forum, “Comic World: Graphic Novels Come of Age,” celebrated graphic novels with a program featuring comics creators and publishers, moderated by Associate Editor Ian Chipman. At the second annual Booklist Online program, “Everyone’s a Critic: The Future of Book Reviewing,” a range of expert panelists shared their insights into where book reviewing is headed and their most trusted sources of reviews. Keir Graff, Booklist Online senior editor, moderated. Sue Polanka (“Off the Shelf” columnist and Points of Reference blogger) moderated the Reference Books Bulletin program, addressing “Reference Work from Idea to Reality,” where speakers looked at the process of creating and updating reference works in print and online.

The Public Programs Office (PPO) reached an audience of more than 400 with six programs on topics including poetry programming, a literacy outreach model, new available grants, and free resources for science programming. The PPO also presented the LIVE! @ your library Reading Stage on the exhibits floor with a special focus on poetry, offering readings from award-winning, popular, and up-and-coming poets. Featured poets and authors on the stage included Laurie Halse Anderson, Roy Blount Jr., Henri Cole, Heid E. Erdrich, Marilyn Johnson, and Adriana Trigiani.

ALA leaders and literacy advocates gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the formation of the ALA Committee on Literacy (COL). COL’s achievements include sponsoring a health literacy preconference for frontline staff; collaborating with the National Institute for Literacy on an Advocacy, Libraries, and Literacy webcast; visiting community-based library-literacy programs in conference cities; and working tirelessly to advocate for literacy services across generations and in libraries of all kinds.

ala diversity fair With more than 300 attendees, the 13th Annual Diversity and Outreach Fair showcased 28 participants celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The event, organized by the Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) and sponsored by DEMCO, celebrates extraordinary examples of diversity in America’s libraries and demonstrates possibilities for other libraries in search of “diversity-in-action” ideas.

For the fourth year, OLOS and the Subcommittee on Bookmobiles presented the Parade of Bookmobiles, this year featuring 12 vehicles from across the country. The parade provides an opportunity to showcase libraries’ ability to reach rural and other communities where access to conventional library facilities is a challenge.

glbrt logo The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table celebrated its 40th anniversary, a milestone that was officially recognized with a resolution of congratulations from the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Leroy C. Merritt Humanitarian Fund, founded in 1970 to help librarians who have been denied employment rights because of their defense of intellectual freedom or because of discrimination, marked its 40th anniversary at a celebratory dinner at the world-famous Folger Shakespeare Library. The event featured a welcome from ALA President Alire and a special address by ALA Past President Brey-Casiano.

The 2010 Jean E. Coleman Library Outreach Lecture was presented by Kathleen de la Peña McCook, professor at the University of South Florida School of Library and Information Science in Tampa. McCook discussed “Librarians and Human Rights,” a historical and cultural analysis of the librarian’s role in human rights, highlighting the convergence of the goals of library workers and the human rights movement.

RUSA’s President’s Program, “From the Book and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Readers’ Advisory,” explored two forces that drive devotion to reference and readers’ advisory work: information discovery and fulfilling users’ needs.

The Public Library Association (PLA) President’s Program and Awards Presentation featured keynote speaker and puzzle master Will Shortz; the PLA also offered 20 educational programs and sponsored more than 25 onsite library consultants, providing attendees the free opportunity to meet with a library expert one-on-one for 30 minutes.

will shortz

Will Shortz

The challenge of balancing religious freedom and intellectual freedom provided a basis for a program cosponsored by ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Association of American Publishers: “Blasphemy! When Religious Values Clash with Intellectual Freedom Values.”

The ALA–Allied Professional Association hosted seven programs—many standing-room-only—including “Not So Extreme Makeovers” and “Getting Back into the Game: Advice for the Laid-off, Insecurely Employed, and Mid-Career Slump.”

“Reaching Latino Teens through Multiple Literacies: A Program for School and Public Librarians” discussed strategies and programs three librarians have used to reach out to and increase literacy among Latino teenagers in their communities.

The ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Committee on Legislation presented “Privacy, Libraries, and the Law,” examining how social networking websites are changing our understanding of privacy, as well as new threats to privacy, including data mining and data brokers.

oitp logo The Office for Information Technology Policy highlighted library applications of cutting-edge technology, including Contra Costa County (Calif.) Library’s “Library-A-Go-Go,” which features a fully automated touchscreen book-lending machine.

The Young Adult Library Services Association honored its award winners at the Edwards Luncheon and the Printz Reception and Program. YALSA also hosted the YA Coffee Klatch, where in a speed-dating format hundreds of attendees met authors who had appeared on YALSA’s selected booklists.

Preconference offerings –– YALSA hosted two preconferences: “It’s Perfectly Normal: Dealing with Sensitive Topics in Teen Services,” a full-day workshop featuring YA authors Ben Saenz, Laurie Halse Anderson, Nina LaCour, David Levithan, and Ellen Hopkins in a discussion on how to handle books that discuss abuse, sexuality, privacy, and other sensitive topics; and “Promoting Teen Reading with Web 2.0 Tools,” a half-day workshop at which authors Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Malinda Lo, John Green, and David Levithan discussed ways to use emerging technology to connect teens to books.

The Library and Information Technology Association presented three preconferences: “Migrating to Open-Source Library Systems,” “Open-Source CMS Playroom,” and “LibGuides Interface Customization.”

acrl logo The Association of College and Research libraries offered two preconferences, “Creating a Successful 21st-Century Learning Environment” and “Practical Pedagogy for Library Instructors: Designing Innovative Library Instruction,” along with programs “Teaching AAME Resources by Using Primary Source Materials from Special Collections: An Innovative Approach to Library Instruction,” “Yours, Mine, and Ours: Moving Students through the Information Literacy Ladder from High School through Community College to the College/University Level,” and “Question, Find, Evaluate, Apply: Translating Evidence Based Practice to Information Literacy Instruction.”

The ASCLA again offered a sold-out “Assembling a Consulting Toolkit” preconference, along with “Giving People What They Want,” which examined how technology challenges traditional approaches to resource sharing and content access.

A strong Exhibits program concluded with a performance by acclaimed songwriter and performer Natalie Merchant, with a set of songs adapted from the works of various classic and contemporary poets.

Closing out the program, Battledecks—which made its first ALA appearance in the “Networking Uncommons” at Midwinter—returned with an enlarged field of contestants. LITA’s Jason Griffey prevailed over eight other participants to win first prize.

According to the Event Tracker, more than 17,000 tweets used Annual hashtags, with Saturday seeing the most tweets. A staff team at “Basecamp” in Chicago again responded to help requests, monitored the buzz, and participated in the online conversation. In addition, they pushed out more information than in the past and processed incoming coverage in order to post it to the news stream, including multimedia content.

Official figures for the conference were 19,513 attendees and 6,688 exhibitors, for a total of 26,201.

Other conference offerings

AASL conference breaks attendance records

aasl A record-breaking 3,950 school librarians, educators, exhibitors, and guests attended the American Association of School Librarians’ 14th National Conference and Exhibition in Charlotte, North Carolina, November 5–8, 2009. The conference featured preconference workshops, school and educational tours, author events, more than 100 continuing education programs, and more than 200 exhibiting companies.

Educational programs focused on key topics such as teaching 21st-century skills, intellectual freedom, gaming in the school library, collaboration, collection development, storytelling, and infusing Web 2.0 tools into curriculum. The Exploratorium showcased research, projects, and best practices in the school library field, with more than 50 small programs occurring simultaneously. The Unconference, located in AASL’s Bloggers Café, held informal presentations and discussions with presenters and attendees.

Social media expert and researcher danah boyd served as keynote speaker for the opening general session, bestselling author and school library advocate James Patterson was the keynote speaker at a special author session, and Marco Torres—filmmaker, teacher, and author of a wide variety of digital content—served as the keynote speaker for the conference closing general session. The closing celebration brought more than 1,200 attendees to Charlotte’s ImaginOn, a facility that brings stories to life through extraordinary experiences that challenge, inspire, and excite young minds.

New to the conference was the “b there—Your Virtual Track Pass,” a viral community that allowed on-demand access to the conference in a virtual setting. The conference also served as a platform for the release of the P21 Milestones for Improving Learning and Education (MILE) Guide, a resource created to help educators and administrators measure the progress of their schools in defining, teaching, and assessing 21st-century skills.

The conference was also the greenest AASL conference to date. Initiatives included housing all session materials and resources on b there to reduce paper waste, using conference signage made of recyclable materials and printed with eco-friendly inks, and donating surplus promotional items, books, and bags to local charities.

PLA National Conference draws 7,500

pla logo More than 7,500 attendees gathered for the Public Library Association’s 13th National Conference, held March 23–27, 2010, in Portland, Oregon. With programming focused on such key issues as advocacy, technology, literacy, and serving adults and youth, the conference provided a national platform for sharing ideas on ways to weather the “perfect storm” of increased library use and reduced budgets brewing in many communities.

Special events included a performance by Natalie Merchant, keynote presentations by author Sarah Vowell and Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, and author luncheons with Scott Turow, Patrick Somerville, Kadir Nelson, and Alberto Urrea. The conference also offered access to 400 exhibiting companies, including top book publishers. Those who were not able to attend the conference in Portland could participate online through 10 live, interactive programs and discussion boards.

Attendees also had a chance to talk shop with some mystery authors over wine and cheese, courtesy of Booklist. Authors included Gar Anthony Haywood, John Shannon, and Dana Haynes.

LITA holds 13th annual forum

lita logo The 13th Annual LITA National Forum, with the theme “Crowd and the Cloud,” was held in Atlanta, Georgia, September 30–October 3, 2010. Keynote speakers included Ross Singer of Talis Information, Roy Tennant of OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), and Amy Bruckman of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Two preconference workshops were offered: “Redesigning a Website Using Information Architecture Principles,” by Jenny Emanuel of the University of Illinois, and “Virtualize IT: Laying the Foundation for the Library of the Future,” by Maurice York of North Carolina State University.

ALSC’s online courses address youth issues

The Association for Library Service to Children again offered multi-week courses via Moodle Web-based software, including “Introduction to Graphic Novels for Children,” “Out of This World Youth Programming,” “Children with Disabilities in the Library,” and “Information Literacy—From Preschool to High School.” More information is available at