CHICAGO – 11,716 librarians, library workers and supporters, including 3,622 exhibitors, shared the latest library-related trends, updates, innovations, products, titles and services at the 2016 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting and Exhibits in Boston, Jan. 8-12. Lively conversations, productive problem-solving and networking took place throughout the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and other venues at 2,400 scheduled meetings and events.
With an emphasis on ALA’s new national public awareness campaign, Libraries Transform™, dozens of “News You Can Use” updates, discussion groups, workshops and several high-profile speakers addressed in different ways how libraries are less about what they have and more about what they do for and with people. Meeting content also encompassed 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 five key areas of education, employment, entrepreneurship, empowerment and engagement; and that library professionals facilitate individual opportunity and community progress. The “Because of You” branding at Midwinter honored library workers for their role in transforming libraries.
Members shared input into ALA’s three current strategic directions—advocacy, information policy, and professional and leadership development—including at small-group “kitchen-table” conversations. The four ALA presidential and treasurer candidates laid out their visions for 2016-17 and answered questions, and the association’s leadership groups and committees met to discuss ongoing governance and new resolutions.
Several future-forward sessions were sponsored by ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries, the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services and the Task Force on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. They included the well-attended “Libraries Transform: Understanding Change,” a three-hour interactive exploration with trainers from Kotter International, experts in the process and leadership of change, around libraries’ current context and the question, “What do I need to be doing now to move my library into the future?” “Libraries Transform: Civic and Social Innovation” offered drop-in sessions with Boston-based civic and social innovators for two outward-looking forums exploring the changes happening in our communities, leading to engaged discussion about how those changes relate to libraries.
In “Creativity, Innovation and Change: Libraries Transform™ in the Digital Age,” Harvard Law School’s Jonathan Zittrain, ALA President Sari Feldman, ALA President-Elect Julie Todaro and Director of ALA Office for Information Technology Policy Alan Inouye examined innovative library environments and how we can leverage them to illustrate our value to decision-makers and influencers at both national and local levels.
An interactive workshop, “If I Hadn’t Believed It, I Wouldn’t Have Seen It: Exploring Systemic Racism and Its Implications for Our Lives and Work,” sponsored by the Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services with the Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, engaged attendees at two sessions in an exploration of how race, systemic racism and racial privilege have implications for our personal and professional lives. At the annual MLK Sunrise Celebration, long-time social justice advocate Mary Frances Berry offered inspiration from her long engagement in fighting for peace and equality, as well as from her close relationship with Coretta Scott King, and 2013-14 ALA President Barbara K. Stripling offered the Call to Action.
Senator Cory Booker, featured speaker on the President’s Program, addressed a standing-room-only crowd. In his impassioned talk, he focused on seeing opportunity and hope rather than just challenges, and talked about libraries as “treasures for all,” and great equalizers in terms of access to technology. Auditorium Speakers were writer Andre Dubus III, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins and designer Isaac Mizrahi. The Arthur Curley Memorial Lecturer was anti-bullying activist Lizzie Velasquez, and Chelsea Clinton spoke at a special closing session.
In addition to the 400+ exhibitors demonstrating hundreds of new, updated and favorite products, technologies and titles, hundreds of authors signed thousands of books. Piles of ARCs were snatched up, decision-making attendees talked with exhibitors, and ongoing entertainment was provided at the Book Buzz Theater, and the What’s Cooking at ALA? and PopTop stages.
Books and media were discussed and celebrated in the exhibits and many other venues, starting with the conversation at the ERT/Booklist Author Forum among acclaimed writers Ken Burns, Mark Kurlansky, Terry Tempest Williams and Booklist Editor for Adult Books Donna Seaman. The usual excitement accompanied the announcements of recipients and honorees of the ALA Youth Media Awards, including the Caldecott and Newbery medals, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and the Printz Award. Hundreds attended the live event, and around 19,000 more watched a live webcast. Lists of winners and titles, as well as video highlights, can be found on ALA’s ilovelibraries website. ALA’s book and media award announcements are now consolidated at Midwinter since the RUSA Book and Media Awards included for the first time the announcement of the winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.
Peer-to-peer learning is an important development, and for the second time at Midwinter, Ignite sessions offered five-minute overviews on current projects. The 2016 ALA Masters were Jason Griffey on “Measuring the Future: How Understanding Your Spaces Can Make Your Library Better for Everyone,” and Rebekkah Smith Aldrich on “Sustainable Thinking.” Informal opportunities, in addition to scheduled events, have become a significant focus of each ALA conference; much of the learning and conversation (structured and unstructured, planned and unplanned) at ALA’s face-to-face events provide important connections for subsequent online collaboration. Posts on the Building Creative Bridges blog capture the value of participation in these informal networks, as well as how they are expanding to include more people not physically in attendance. Technological innovation, implementation and the impact on libraries were the focus of both structured and unstructured sessions and gatherings. Key themes were as always raised by the experts on LITA’s guiding and well-attended “Top Tech Trends” panel.
Three “Deep Dive” sessions for participatory learning in an interactive workshop setting, with limited registration and Continuing Education Units (CEUs), were piloted at the meeting: “We Are ALL User Experience Librarians: Creating Change from the Trenches"; “Trust and Opportunity: Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities in Mid-Sized Urban Settings"; and “Creating Out-of-This-World Children’s Science Programming with Free NASA Resources.”
ALA kicked off its 140th Anniversary at Midwinter with a “Because of You: Libraries Transform” cake celebration in front of the timeline in the ALA Lounge that offered a glimpse of how ALA has been engaged in supporting library transformation since 1876, and invited people to add their own highlights to the record.
Options for reviewing the Midwinter Meeting include extensive American Libraries coverage and the show daily Cognotes. The Highlights issue of Cognotes will be available online by late January. Selected recordings from the Midwinter Meeting will be offered free to anyone who wishes to access them (details to come).
The many Midwinter Meeting conversations, professional development opportunities and personal connections will be picked up and continued at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, where attendees will continue to work on transforming libraries. They’ll find an updated, walkable conference campus and plentiful restaurants in the adjacent Pointe Orlando. General information, social media links, and details about how to register and book housing starting Jan. 19, 2016 (noon, Central) are at alaannual.org.