SAN DIEGO – Librarians and library supporters gathered to discuss issues affecting the future of libraries and examine the challenges facing them in troubled economic times at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, held Jan. 7-11 in San Diego.
This year’s event drew 7,549 attendees and 2,561 exhibitors, compared with 8,526 and 2,569 for last year’s Midwinter Meeting in Boston and 7,905 and 2,315 for the 2009 event in Denver.
One of the highlights of this year’s event was the annual celebration of the best of the best in children’s and young adult literature, the Youth Media Awards.
“Moon over Manifest,” written by Clare Vanderpool, earned the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature.
“A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” illustrated by Erin E. Stead and written by Philip C. Stead, won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children.
“Ship Breaker,” written by Paolo Bacigalupi, took home the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults.
African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults were recognized. “One Crazy Summer,” written by Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author Book Award.
“Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave,” illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Laban Carrick Hill was chosen the 2011 King Illustrator Book winner.
A number of hot topics were explored at this year’s Midwinter Meeting, among them the future of libraries in an increasingly digital world. One heavily attended event, hosted by the Washington Office Update, focused on the impact on libraries of e-books.
During “Turning the Page on E-Books,” panelist Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, declared that “The e-book thing has happened; it isn’t happening.” As evidence of the adoption of e-books, he noted that the last Barnes and Noble in San Francisco recently closed, after all Borders stores closed previously.
Kahle suggested that e-books can fit well with the core of library services. “What libraries do is we buy stuff and we lend it…. Let’s do our jobs, digitize what we have to, buy what we can, but make sure we’ve got great collections for our patrons.”
The changing climate in Washington was the focus of a session entitled, “New Congress, New Challenges.”
Casey Dominguez, assistant professor of political science at the University of San Diego, provided an overview of the November 2010 election, calling the fact that from a political science perspective Tea Party candidates did just as well as non–Tea Party candidates “interesting and puzzling.”
“Extremely liberal Democrats did not lose,” Dominguez said. She said moderates lost in three categories—in areas where there were open seats, those where Democrats won the seat from Republicans recently, and those held by long-term Democrats where President Barack Obama did not perform as well in 2008.
This year’s meeting was also an opportunity to unveil key initiatives, including two introduced by ALA President Roberta Stevens. “Our Authors, Our Advocates” is a national library advocacy public awareness campaign that enables library advocates to download
audio and video PSAs from such best-selling authors as Sharon Draper, Brad Meltzer, Sara Paretsky, and Scott Turow.
“Authors understand the key roles libraries play and are natural allies in these challenging times,” Stevens said. “‘Our Authors, Our Advocates’ highlights well-known and passionate authors that will speak out on the value of and importance of sustaining library service.”
Stevens also launched a video contest for teens at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego. Why I Need My Library, which runs through April 18, encourages teens ages 13 to 18 to create original videos on why they think libraries are needed now more than ever.
The winning videos will be showcased on ALA websites and at the 2011 ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans June 23-28. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL), the Association of Library Service to Children (ALSC), the Public Library Association (PLA) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), all divisions of ALA, are co-sponsors of the Why I Need My Library contest.
Guests enjoyed a stimulating and entertaining group of speakers during Midwinter Meeting.
Actor, environmental activist, and author Ted Danson delivered the keynote speech Sunday at the President’s Program. “Don’t focus on the negative and scary,” said Danson, who warned of the perils of over-fishing, saying “the clock is ticking,” but “the problems are fixable."
Jobs are prominent on the minds of all Americans these days. With that in mind, the ALA JobLIST Placement Center hosted a free workshop to help job seekers re-tool their skills and prepare for job searches. The session was presented by Pat Wagner of Pattern Research Inc., who worked for many years with adults changing careers and looking for jobs.
ALA JobLIST also launched a free e-newsletter to help job seekers and employers. The newsletter will present up-to-date information on what’s going on with job-seeking and hiring in the profession—including information on new publications, professional development offerings and opportunities to connect and network.
Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Nancy Pearl spent an afternoon discussing Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book,” which was the first-ever book to win both Newbery and Carnegie Medals.
The ALA/ERT/Booklist Author forum featured glimpses into the minds of some of the most prominent of today’s authors, including David Levithan (“Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist”), Stewart O’Nan (“A Prayer for the Dying”), Armistead Maupin (“Tales of the City”) and Susan Vreeland (“Luncheon of the Boating Party”).
The Sunrise Speaker Series included: Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist (one of only 82 ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology) and creator of the Fox television hit “Bones,” now in its fifth season; and Andre Dubus III, the author of “Townie” (Feb. 2011), “The Garden of Last Days” and “House of Sand and Fog” (an Oprah Book Club pick and a finalist for the National Book Award, also made into a well-received movie).
Journalist and historian Richard Rhodes delivered the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” Rhodes said that the most precious moment in his life was when he taught his 4-year-old daughter Kate (who, as an adult, was in the audience) to read. “One day in the middle of her favorite book (by Dr. Seuss), Kate understood” that those squiggles of ink on paper had meaning, and “a whole world of comprehension opened up to her right before my eyes.”
The 2011 Midwinter Meeting’s other highlights included the annual Dr.Martin Luther King. Jr. Sunrise Celebration, which this year featured Dr. Michael K. Honey, professor of Labor and Ethnic Studies and American History at the University of Washington, Tacoma as the keynote speaker. The theme was “Everybody Can Be Great.”
The ALA governing council met during Midwinter Meeting, passing a measure that encourages clarification within job listings as to the presence or absence of domestic partner benefits.
In addition, a new project was launched, aiming to raise enough money to build a library in an otherwise book-free neighborhood in India.
The Buy India a Library project, which grew out of a Twitter discussion, is hoping to raise at least 1,250 pounds (U.S. $1,943). That’s enough to pay for furniture, books, and two years of a librarian’s salary through the Good Gifts Catalogue, a British charity.