2018 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition – A contribution to communities

For Immediate Release
Tue, 07/03/2018


Donna Hunter

Marketing Coordinator

American Library Association


CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) hosted its 2018 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition June 21 – 26, in New Orleans. The conference was attended by more than 17,500 librarians, library workers and library supporters (including more than 5,100 exhibitors) from across the world.

The conference officially opened with great excitement when former First Lady Michelle Obama, who discussed her forthcoming book, "Becoming," took the stage. Mrs. Obama was interviewed on stage by Dr. Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress. Hayden is the first woman and first African American to lead the national library and was nominated to the position by President Barack Obama in February 2016 — and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in July 2016. Other notable speakers included actors Viola Davis, who presented her new children’s book, "Corduroy Takes a Bow," and Sally Field who presented her forthcoming memoir, "In Pieces." Both books are scheduled for release in fall 2018.

Jim G. Neal, the 2017-2018 ALA president, hosted the ALA President’s Program. He welcomed as his special guests Pulitzer Prize winners Tracy K. Smith, the 22nd United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry and author of "Wade in the Water," available now — and journalist, filmmaker and CEO of Define American Jose Antonio Vargas, who discussed his forthcoming book, "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen," available fall 2018.

The Auditorium Speaker Series featured presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of "Leadership: In Turbulent Times," available fall 2018; Jonathan Eig, author of "Ali: A Life," available now, and Robert Fieseler, author of "Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation," available in June 2018. All gave captivating presentations on their respective works. Championed slam poet Gayle Danley rounded out the exciting speaker roster when she performed stirring poems for a captivated audience.

More than 1,700 programs and more than 2,500 events took place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and nearby locations. Much of the program content focused on ALA’s four strategic directions: advocacy, information policy, professional and leadership development and equity, diversion and inclusion.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and the Tenth Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero were particularly welcomed by an audience of librarians and library workers when they presented “The Librarian and the Archivist: The Importance of Collecting Physical Information and Materials in the Digital Age”.

Just a few of the award ceremonies included, “The Michael L. Printz Program,” sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association each year to the best book written for young adults; “The Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast,” celebrating leading authors and illustrators of quality children's books; and “The Spectrum Leadership Institute’s 20th Anniversary Celebration”. The Institute provides a three-day experience that highlights cross-cultural models of leadership and features national library and community leaders and the ALA Spectrum Scholarship Program, which actively recruits and provides scholarships to American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Middle Eastern and North African and/or Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander students to assist them with obtaining a graduate degree and leadership positions within the profession and ALA. The always popular and well-attended “2018 Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet” awards medalists, honorees, authors and illustrators of the year's most distinguished books for children. Winners are awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association

Immediately following the Obama presentation, a ribbon-cutting officially opened the exhibit floor with more than 750 companies and organizations showcasing the latest technologies, titles, services and products. The floor offered live stages - the Graphic Novels and Gaming Stage, the PopTop Stage, the What’s Cooking @ ALA Demonstration Stage and the Book Buzz Theater - that produced informative entertainment and allowed attendees to engage with top authors from the graphic novel, cooking and pop culture genres. Also, on the exhibit floor, attendees were encouraged to visit the “One Time, in New Orleans” story booth, a state-of-the-art, interactive video booth constructed from a refurbished shipping container. To celebrate New Orleans’ 300th Anniversary, visitors were prompted to tell a great story beginning with “One Time, in New Orleans.” As they did, IBM Watson and other AI software generated video projections behind the storytellers (e.g., if they say the word “jazz”, footage of jazz musicians appeared). The best tales of music, food, family and friends were captured and produced into short video and attendees were encouraged to send via their social media channels. A fitting installation for the American Library Association Annual Conference, because who tells stories better than librarians?

At Now Showing @ ALA, writer, actor and director Emilio Estevez offered an advanced screening of his new film the public. The film also stars Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling and Jeffrey Wright and centers on the regular patrons of downtown Cincinnati’s public library, many of whom are homeless and marginalized, and their interactions with the library staff who have built emotional connections with them. When a bitter Arctic blast hits the city, the patrons turn the library into a homeless shelter by staging a sit-in, which escalates into a police standoff. A Q&A with Estevez moderated by Ryan J. Dowd, executive director of Hesed House Shelter followed the screening.

2017-2018 President Jim G. Neal inaugurated newly-elected ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo at the final event of the conference. Garcia-Febo communicated a special focus on the library’s contribution to communities, and the necessary support by ALA to the many librarians and library workers. She also launched “Libraries=Strong Communities,” a national advocacy effort aimed at highlighting the value of academic, public and school libraries. 

ALA association business was conducted throughout the conference, including resolutions discussed by ALA Council. Details will be found on the ALA website under News & Press Center.

Find additional coverage of specific Annual Conference events, speakers, awards and more in American Libraries and Cognotes.

Channels for active communication before, during, and after ALA conferences includes blogs, Twitter, Facebook Events, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram. The Annual Conference hashtag is #alaac18.

Annual Conference videos produced by Cognotes editors are on YouTube. A link to Annual Conference session recordings will be made available four to six weeks post-conference to full conference attendees. Social media and virtual meetings will help continue Annual Conference conversations and will be picked up again face-to-face at the 2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, Jan. 25-29 in Seattle. The 2019 Midwinter Meeting will include a Symposium on the Future of Libraries and registration will open at noon (Central) Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018.