2014 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition—thousands of engaged attendees, lively programs and events
For Immediate Release
CHICAGO — 18,626 librarians, library workers and library supporters (including 5,607 exhibitors) from around the world joined energetically in the shared endeavor of “Transforming our libraries, ourselves” at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition, June 26-July 1 in Las Vegas. Attendees took part in spirited and productive conversations, sessions, problem-solving, events, discovery of the latest products and services and networking throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues. The program included more than 2,700 scheduled programs, sessions and events.
Well attended policy sessions hosted by the ALA Washington Office explored net neutrality, copyright trends, ebook access, e-government services and surveillance. During the Washington Update session, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb spoke about the upcoming national election season. At other sessions, publishing and library experts discussed the best ways libraries can bring together authors and readers in the digital age. Gigi Sohn, special counsel for the Federal Communications Commission's External Affairs, discussed the dynamics and history of net neutrality debates, and a panel of surveillance and library experts discussed the challenges and implications of the government's invasive surveillance practices.
Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), the two-year ALA initiative that seeks to strengthen libraries’ roles as core community leaders and change-agents by developing and distributing tools and support for library professionals, offered four related Turning Outward to Lead Change in Your Community training sessions—Aspirations, Turn Quiz, Intentionality, Sustaining Yourself. Each session focused on a single tool that, taken together, offer a framework for engaging community and leading change, while developing a “turned outward” mindset. Many of the dozens of participants attended all four sessions.
Building on small-group conversations at the last several ALA conferences, 12 facilitated “kitchen table” conversations allowed small groups of members to dig into shared aspirations for ALA, with a special focus on advocacy and how to collaborate creatively for maximum impact. Also under the advocacy umbrella, attendees who hadn’t yet signed the “Declaration for the Right to Libraries” had the opportunity to do so at the Membership Pavilion.
Providing an increased focus on community, innovation and advocacy, the newly formed IMLS-supported ALA Center for the Future of Libraries launched its work as an association-wide incubator for experimentation. 2013-14 ALA President Barbara K. Stripling hosted a related panel to stimulate thinking about the future and the place libraries will have in it. Miguel Figueroa, director of the new center, said the work will include how to “get people to understand that libraries are more than books,” and enabling innovation—“how we get librarians and others to work together to keep track of cultural, environmental, technological, and economic changes.”
Much of the learning and conversation (structured and unstructured, planned and unplanned) at ALA’s face-to-face events provides important connections for subsequent online collaboration. Spaces at Annual Conference that intentionally fostered informal learning included Friday’s Unconference and Monday’s Library Camp. The Networking Uncommons has become a popular space for informal idea exchange and events such as several packed “Guerrilla Storytimes” sessions and a Night Vale listening party The popular addition of the conference selfie photo frame attracted hundreds. Multiple Conversation Starter and Ignite sessions offered short, informal presentations on hot topics.
In addition to the demonstrations and introduction of hundreds of new, updated and favorite products, technologies and titles, dozens of authors, related events and poster sessions kept the exhibit floor busy. The specialty pavilions were active, piles of ARCs were eagerly snatched up, and hundreds enjoyed readings and demonstrations at Book Buzz Theater and the Graphic Novel/Gaming, What’s Cooking at ALA? and PopTop Stages. Exhibitors commented on their quality conversations with hundreds of attendees. Bookmobiles were on display at the back of the exhibit hall.
Starting with Opening General Session speaker Jane McGonigal, world-renowned alternate-reality game developer and author of “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” the increased focus on gaming and interactivity as an integral part of learning and library programming was clear. The Games and Gaming Round Table, along with the ALA Comic Book and Graphic Novel Member Initiative Group, brought together the gaming, graphic novel and cosplay communities at the biggest ALA Play event to date. Other related sessions included “Come Make a Game” and a LITA-sponsored Game Making Interest Group’s discussion addressing how different libraries are exploring games and using game elements to help connect with and engage their student populations. Rounding out the thread, around 300 enjoyed watching their fellows battle it out at The Library Games on Monday evening.
New titles, authors and related awards were at the heart of the conference for thousands of attendees, discussed and celebrated in many venues starting with the new-format Booklist and YALSA Michael L. Printz Program and Reception on Friday evening and continuing with the third Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction announcements and celebration on Saturday, where winners Doris Kearns Goodwin (“The Bully Pulpit”) and Donna Tartt (“The Goldfinch”), and featured speaker Karin Slaughter credited librarians as instrumental in their careers. Other celebrations that honored ALA award winners and awards included The American Indian Youth Literature Awards (AIYLA), the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, the Pura Belpré Award, the Margaret A. Edwards Award, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and the Stonewall Book Awards.
At the President’s Program, ALA President Barbara Stripling interviewed two-time Newbery Medal winner and Margaret A. Edwards award-winner Lois Lowry, along with actor Jeff Bridges, star of the upcoming feature movie based on Lowry’s “The Giver.” (Completing the circle, ALA Graphics featured a new poster in the ALA Store with Bridges’ co-star Taylor Swift holding the book.) Crowded Auditorium Speaker sessions covered the ground (and thanks to high-wire artist Philippe Petit, the sky too), with Jane Fonda, Azar Nafisi, Stan Lee, Alexander McCall Smith, Ilyasah Shabazz, Barry Lopez, Philippe Petit and champion for introverts in leadership Jennifer Kahnweiler. (In what was possibly the most-viewed ALA Facebook post to date, close to 120,000 people had seen the photo of 91-year-old Stan Lee at his overflow-crowd session just one day later.) The Closing General Session featured B.J. Novak (actor and author of “The Book With No Pictures”) talking about the power of words.
The Closing General Session featured B.J. Novak (actor and author of “The Book With No Pictures”) talking about the power of words. 2013-14 ALA President Barbara K. Stripling passed the gavel to 2014-15 President Courtney Young, and the session was followed by a celebratory Inaugural Brunch where Young as well as the new division presidents, presidents-elect and new ALA executive board members were presented.
Reflecting 2013-14 AASL President Gail Dickinson’s theme "It's not about libraries. It's about learning," The Project Connect panel focused on the superintendent's view of school librarian involvement in digital learning, with speakers noting that their libraries were busier than ever, with students actively engaged in learning, as well as teachers using the library with classes, along with a high degree of engagement in planning for digital literacy integration. Despite pockets of deep financial troubles for public education, the growing recognition of the value placed on school libraries was encouraging to attendees.
SAGE joined ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom in sponsoring a Banned Books Video Readout Booth, where a nonstop line of attendees read a short passage from their selected banned book and spoke from the heart about why that book matters to them. (Readings will be featured on the dedicated YouTube channel during Banned Books Week in September.) The Intellectual Freedom Committee partnered with LHRT, the Black Caucus of the ALA and the Association of American Publishers to put a 21st-century lens on the controversy around the 1977 ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee-produced film “The Speaker,” which, on release in 1977, generated passionate discussions about intellectual freedom, censorship, racism, inclusion and process. Thoughtful discussions offering widely differing viewpoints and availability of the film on YouTube before the 2014 conference as well as screenings at Now Showing @ ALA led to a productive panel discussion on Monday, where attendees shared their differing views and requested continued and open discussion on these and related topics. Equality, diversity and inclusion were also topics central to the ALA Membership Meeting.
Two 75th anniversaries were celebrated—ALA’s largest division, the Association of College of Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Library Bill of Rights. The latter—refreshed in 1944, 1948, 1961, 1980 and 1996—remains the library profession’s major policy document on intellectual freedom. Marking the 45th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, “Let Our Rejoicing Rise,” was an enlightening dialogue with past and present award recipients, led by publisher and author Andrea Davis Pinkney.
Dozens more speakers, associated professional development opportunities including preconferences and the Spectrum Leadership Institute, events such as ALA’s new Programming Librarian Membership Interest Group first meeting, United for Libraries Gala Author Tea and many more highlights all added energy to the conference. ALA association business was conducted throughout the conference, including several resolutions passed by ALA Council, each of which will be described in detail in a news release on the ALA news feed.
Channels for active communication before, during and after the conferences (including some non-attendees who use the hashtag #ALAleftbehind) include blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram and Flickr. Options for reviewing the Annual Conference include extensive American Libraries’ coverage and the show daily Cognotes. The post-conference Highlights issue of Cognotes will be available online in mid-July. Any handouts available from sessions are listed in the Scheduler, and full conference registrants will be informed in a few weeks when available recordings from Annual Conference are accessible.
Social media channels and virtual meetings will help continue the conversations between conferences, and Annual Conference conversations will be picked up face to face again at 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Chicago. Bundle registration for 2015 events opens Sept. 9, 2014. Midwinter-only registration and housing open Oct. 1, 2014. Annual Conference-only registration and housing open Jan. 12, 2015.