Support for school libraries, Youth Media Awards, growth of technology in libraries hot topics at Midwinter Meeting

For Immediate Release
Tue, 01/24/2012


Steve Zalusky

Manager, Communications

Public Information Office (PIO)

American Library Association

DALLAS—The challenges to school libraries and all library budgets were popular topics at the 2012 Midwinter Meeting.  Attendees were encouraged to support the efforts of Carl Harvey, president of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), who has launched a petition to ensure that every child in America has access to an effective school library program by providing dedicated funding as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The petition, located at, may be signed by anyone 13 and older, making it an active example of the First Amendment right to petition the United States government. Harvey emphasized the urgency of receiving 25,000 signatures by Feb. 4.

The Midwinter Meeting also was the center of the publishing world with Monday morning’s annual Youth Media Awards ceremony. The top books, video and audiobooks for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards – were announced. In addition to the 1,400  enthusiastic book lovers that attended the ceremony, more than 18,900 people watched the YMA webcast. Virtual seats were originally limited to 10,000 seats, but due to a  contribution from Web provider Unikron additional seats were made available.  Media outlets such as NPR, CNN En Espanol’s Café, New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and many others announced the winners.  Also, many winners posted their reaction following the ceremony at the YMA YouTube Channel. A list of all award-winning titles is available in this press release.

Some of the new technological trends were examined during such programs as the LITA Top Technological Trends panel discussion.  Stephen Abram from Cengage Learning (Gale) spoke about how such trends as people directly downloading digital music and books are changing traditional ways librarians serve their communities.

The ALA recognized four programs for cutting-edge technology. The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) and the Library Information Technology Association (LITA) selecting the Contra Costa County Library in Pleasant Hill, Calif., New Canaan, Conn., the New York Public Library in New York and the Scottsdale Public Library in Scottsdale, Ariz. as the winners of the third-annual contest. The Contra Costa library's Snap & Go service serves as an illustration of how traditional library services can be delivered in an innovative way, with users directed to downloadable e-books and audiobooks, virtual museum passes, catalog searches and readers' advisory tools by scanning a code with a reader on their phones.

But librarians face more than just technological change. The program “Empowering Voices: Transforming Libraries” emphasized the transformational role played by librarians today in their communities.

Rich Harwood, of The Harwood Institute of Public Innovation and ALA President’s program speaker envisioned a transformative role in society, saying, “We need you to listen to our political debate and see what’s going on in so many of our communities, to see the isolation and fragmentation of people, to see the need for us to illuminate the knowledge that we need to make choices in our democracy.”

Harwood, who has been described as “one of the great thinkers in American public life,” said, “I can think of no more important institutions than libraries to help us as Americans make those choices.”

Librarians who are making a difference were featured at this year’s event. During the program "A Library occupies Occupy Wall Street,"  librarians Betsy Fagin, Mandy Henk and Zachary Loeb shared their experiences in building Occupy Wall Street’s People’s Library, which on Nov. 15 was seized by the New York City Police Department during a planned raid to evict Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. The library held a collection of more than 5,000 items and provided free access to books, magazines, newspapers and other materials.

In a recent statement released by ALA President Molly Raphael, she said, “The dissolution of a library is unacceptable. Libraries serve as the cornerstone of our democracy and must be safeguarded.”

Loeb outlined the two main criteria for developing the collection, basing it on the questions "What books do you need?" and "What do you think we need in the collection?" The result was a varied collection that included such diverse viewpoints as Noam Chomsky and Ann Coulter.

Norton, a student of library science, said that "people engaging with us and in the process are helping to redefine the profession of librarianship."

In addition, ALA Immediate Past President Roberta Stevens introduced Susan Cain, author of "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking," who opened the Auditorium Speakers Series. Cain touted the contributions of such introverts as Charles Darwin, Dr. Seuss and Warren Buffet and said, "We need a world where it is culturally permissible to be quiet…in our schools and at work."

The Auditorium Speaker Series also included  New York Times best-selling author John Green, whose new book is “The Fault in Our Stars.” Green’s appearance was greeted with cheers from his large legion of fans. He told the audience that librarians, carrying on their historic role of organizing information, share “well-curated” information that YouTube and other sources cannot provide. He said librarians guide patrons to necessary knowledge so that “we can choose how to make our lives better.”

Author (“Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention”) and activist Jamal Joseph delivered the keynote speech at the 13th annual Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture.  Joseph's personal odyssey led him from the streets of Harlem to Riker’s Island and Leavenworth prison to the halls of Columbia University, where he is currently the chair of its School of the Arts film division.

Joseph recalled that on his first day in prison, he was told by a man with a cart of library books that “you can serve your time or you can let it serve you.” While in prison, he spent his time earning two academic degrees.

The Reverend Dr. Lewis Baldwin keynoted the Sunrise Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Baldwin is professor of religious studies at Vanderbilt University and author of “’Thou Dear God’: Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits,” the first and only collection of 68 prayers by Dr. King.

Midwinter Meeting participants were also treated to a three-hour interactive sharing of concerns and interests at the “Unconference,” which addressed such topics as the current job market for librarians, the challenges faced by library administrations and online privacy.

Pop musician and children’s recording artist Lisa Loeb entertained nearly 400 people at the Wrap Up/Rev Up Closing Session Monday afternoon.

While much of the Midwinter Meeting looked to the future, it also celebrated efforts to preserve our past.

Preservation Week @ your library, had its 2012 kickoff with its national spokesman, Steve Berry, best-selling author of "The Jefferson Key," who served as the keynote speaker for the ALCTS forum.

There were 6,236 attendees at this year’s event, as well as 3,693 exhibitors.