2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits Comes to a Close with Focus on Transformative Role of Libraries

For Immediate Release
Tue, 02/20/2018


Donna Hunter

Marketing Coordinator

ALA / Conference Services


DENVER – Where society’s institutions leave off, our nation’s libraries pick up. This is especially true in Denver, where public libraries provide social workers to address such instances as substance abuse, housing and mental health services.

The American Library Association (ALA) hosted its 2018 Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Denver at the Colorado Convention Center and nearby locations for national discussions on the transformative role of libraries. The conference was attended by more than 8,000 librarians, library workers, and library supporters, including more than 2,600 U.S. exhibitors.

For the second year, the Symposium on the Future of Libraries produced a collection of more than 40 daily and concurrent sessions in formal and informal settings, and through engaging conversations and problem-solving methods. Many of the peer-to-peer sessions were dedicated to community-centric resources in education, technology, diversity and inclusion, government, and social justice. The plenary sessions featuring Denver-based social, civic and educational innovators looked beyond the library field to explore change and spark engaged discussions about how their work relates to libraries and the potential for partnerships to increase their impact. The Symposium also included the popular News You Can Use and ALA Masters Series

Library advocacy and future-focused sessions were delivered through the Libraries Transform-Libraries Lead message. Transformation was a key focus of training and other events related to ALA’s national public awareness campaign, Libraries Transform.  Meeting content throughout included key messages of the campaign: that libraries are committed to advancing their legacy of reading and developing a digitally inclusive society; that libraries of all kinds add value in the key areas of education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and engagement; and that library professionals facilitate individual opportunity and community progress.

A tone of inspiration was evident throughout the conference, particularly with the exciting roster of featured speakers. #BlackLivesMatters co-founder, Patrisse Cullors opened the Midwinter Meeting, along with #1000blackgirlbooks founder and 13-year old girl-wonder, Marley Dias. A standout interview took place as Dias instantly began with a lightening-round suite of questions - from Cullors’ motivation to take action with regard to her community - to how she navigates her physical and mental health in what could be considered a stressful life’s path. Cullors replied that she makes time for family and friends and sometimes gets sad, but stated, “People before me fought harder fights and won. But I believe we will win.” Questions were often reciprocated to Dias who demonstrated a proficiency well beyond her years. Just as exciting as the Opening session, was the Closing, with TV personality Bill Nye and his co-author, Gregory Mone on the 3-book series, Jack and the Geniuses.  Nye and Mone inspired the audience with their tremendous passion for science and their assertion that being a critical-thinker will get us all safely to the future. Nye states “The big skill we need from you now is how to sort out the bad information. You know there is no shortage of information now.”

Other featured speakers included author, Dave Eggers who spoke about the impetus for his non-fiction, children’s picture book, Her Right Foot. He remembered visiting the Statue of Liberty as a young child and noticing her firm stride. His new book, The Monk of Mokha, a true story, narrates the courageous journey of a young Muslim and U.S. citizen who follows the most American of dreams. Poet and author, Elizabeth Acevedo initiated her Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture speaker presentation with a rousing and vibrant poem. Acevedo offered a candid representation of social justice views as she recalled being the youngest child of Dominican immigrants, how she always knew she would become a writer, and why she chose to write her new novel, Poet X.  Author, Junot Díaz, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic as a child spoke frankly about his tough childhood as he navigated a not-so-diverse world. But how his local library, more than 4 miles from his home was a refuge used sometimes 3-4 days per week when he would skip classes in high school. He asked rhetorically, “Why didn’t’ the librarians ever send me back to school?”  Diaz’ children’s picture book, Islandborn, available March 2018, focuses on the stories revealed to a child by her family about the place where she was born, but left too early to remember.

“Are Libraries Neutral? Have they ever been? Should they be? was the topic up for debate at the ALA President’s Program. The program, moderated by ALA President, Jim Neal, featured a sprawling discussion in which multiple definitions of neutrality were proposed, and various positions were argued for and against them. The rhetoric was lively and occasionally prickly on the stage, in the audience, and on social media.

Immediately following the first featured speaker’s presentation, the exhibit floor opened to an excited group of attendees waiting to interact with more than 400 companies and organizations highlighting the latest products, services, technologies and titles. The Now Showing stage unveiled diverse films and documentaries, while the Book Buzz Theater and PopTop live stages were at the ready with hundreds of publishers and authors on hand to sign books and give away stacks of advanced reading copies (ARCs).

Cheers and happy tears from an exuberant crowd of librarians could be found at the highly-anticipated 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards which includes the Caldecott and Newbery medals, the Coretta Scott King Book Award and the Printz Award.  Winners and honorees are selected by committees composed of librarians and other literature and media experts. Hundreds attended the live event, and many thousands more watched via live webcast.  ALA’s book and media award announcements are now consolidated at Midwinter as the RUSA Book and Media Awards, including the announcement of the winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

Find additional coverage of specific Midwinter Meeting events, speakers, awards and more in American Libraries (https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/tag/alamw18/) and Cognotes (https://2018.alamidwinter.org/general-information/news).

Channels for active communication before, during and after ALA conferences includes blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and Flikr, hashtag #alamw18.

Midwinter Meeting videos produced by Cognotes are on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ALA+Midwinter) (search 2018 ALA Midwinter or #alamw18).

A link to the 2018 Midwinter Meeting session recordings will be made available 4-6 weeks after the conference to full registrants. Social media and virtual meetings will help continue Midwinter Meeting conversations, which will be picked up again face-to-face at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference, June 21-26, 2018, in New Orleans Louisiana. Registration is now open.