Key facts, ALA Annual Conference "Options for the Future"

Framwework for discussion, 15 December 1998


  • Average total attendance is 25,000. Total registration typically includes 18,000 paid attendees, plus exhibitor staff, ALA staff and guests.
  • Attendance varies by city, with destination popularity, regional population density and ease of access each playing a role. Approximately 25% of attendance is regional.
  • The large attendance also means a significant demand for hotel rooms. To meet "peak night" demand (Saturday and Sunday), ALA Conference Services needs a block of 8,300-8,500 hotel rooms

Programs and meetings

  • The ALA Annual Conference is ALA's primary conference, involving all units of the Association. It is a major opportunity for continuing education, programming, informal discussion and business meetings. A typical ALA Annual Conference includes approximately 2,500 separately-scheduled events—programs, meetings, banquets and other events—over a four-day period.
  • To meet current demands, ALA Conference Services must provide an average of 325-350 meeting rooms.


  • The ALA Annual Conference tradeshow is the largest library-oriented tradeshow in the world, averaging 1400 booths.
  • The ALA Annual Conference currently requires an average of 350,000 gross square feet of convention center space (including space for aisles, food service, post office, internet access, etc.).
  • Just as there are regional attendees—members who attend Annual Conference periodically, when it is in their region, there are regional exhibitors. These are often small and alternative publishers, specialty companies and professional services providers, as well as new companies in all areas.


  • The ALA Annual Conference is budgeted to contribute an average of $2,200,000 to the ALA General Fund, including $1,500,000 in net revenue and $700,000 in general overhead (the cost of "background" services) recovered on gross revenues. These dollars are budgeted to be spent by the Association in the same fiscal year in which they are budgeted to be earned.
  • Exhibits account for the largest percentage (50%) of Annual Conference revenues, followed by registration (25%), then by other revenues (25%). "Other revenues" includes donations and sponsorships (e.g. the Gale sponsorship of the buses), meeting room rental (from non-ALA groups), advertising and commissions.
  • The largest categories of expenses include facilities rental ($350,000); conference equipment—including av, microphones, computers, some furniture ($240,000); convention center setup and drayage ($180,000); shuttle buses ($150-175,000); staff support, including hotel, travel, other expenses ($150,000); Governance, including Board, Council expenses, Presidents Program, Inaugural Banquet ($110,000); and, Registration ($100,000). Figures provided are estimated averages; specific costs will vary from year-to-year, depending on location, program patterns, market conditions, etc.

Conference sites

  • The determining factor is the combination of 350,000 gross square feet of exhibition space, 8500 hotel rooms and 325-350 meeting rooms—all within a "workable" area.
  • The "fit" between local convention bureau preferences and ALA preferences may also be a factor. Some cities prefer conferences and tradeshows that run between Monday and Friday, unlike ALA at which the "peak" activity days are Saturday and Sunday.
  • ALA Annual Conferences are currently scheduled in the following cities: New Orleans (1999), Chicago (2000), San Francisco (2001), Atlanta (2002), Toronto (2003—jointly with The Canadian Library Association), Orlando (2004), Chicago (2005), New Orleans (2006).
  • ALA Conference Services routinely tracks convention center and hotel construction, reevaluating both current and potential sites. For instance, construction activity is being closely tracked in Boston, San Diego and Washington DC.
  • Like most "city-wide" conferences, ALA needs to identify and hold sites 8-10 years in advance, in order to get the necessary combination of convention center and hotel space.
  • Site selection is approved by the ALA Executive Board, on recommendation of ALA Management with the support of the ALA Conference Committee, in consultation with the Exhibits Round Table and "host" chapters.