For immediate release | July 6, 2017

2017 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition – The Librarians Call to Action

CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) hosted its 2017 Annual Conference & Exhibition, June 22-27, in the association’s home city of Chicago. The conference was attended by more than 22,700 librarians, library workers and library supporters (including more than 6,500 exhibitors) from across the world.

Bookmarked by two strong female leaders, the conference officially opened with “Girl’s Who Code“ Founder Reshma Saujani, who summoned librarians to work purposefully with girls to lead them to 21st Century jobs, while the closing keynote was presented by former First Lady and Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton regaled an enthusiastic audience with her escapism method of reading a good book and how she viewed her first library card as a “passport to the world.”

What happened between these two powerful women included over 1,800 programs and more than 2,500 events at the McCormick Place 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.

ALA’s Book Club Central was officially launched with the unveiling of its website and Honorary Chair Sarah Jessica Parker’s inaugural book selection, “No One Is Coming to Save Us,” by Stephanie Powell Watts. A story describing the American dream and the African-American experience in a struggling community in the contemporary American South. Parker revealed that she’s “jealous of anyone who gets to read it for the first time.”

Other featured speakers rounding out the speaker series included, Andy Weir, author of “The Martian,” and the soon to be released, “Artemis,” who offered a humorous view of a self-proclaimed nerd who makes it to Hollywood. Sandra Uwiringiyimana, author of “How Dare the Sun Rise” delivered a heartfelt message, the 23-year-old author had audience members in tears as she spoke about being a refugee and how the violence led her to “live everyday leading with love.” Dr. Brené Brown, expert on vulnerability, introduced a thought-provoking Four Practices of True Belonging, advice on how to find belonging within yourself, rather than others. Also historian and best-selling author of “Hamilton,” the book that led to the Broadway musical, Ron Chernow, introduced “Grant,” his new biography of Ulysses S. Grant.

Dedicated sessions focused on forecasts, resources, topical issues, and diversity and inclusion. Featured speaker and graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang spoke about the “Reading Without Walls” challenge. He urged everyone to pick up a book that you wouldn’t normally read, read about a character who doesn’t look, or live like you. Congressman John Lewis was well-received as he spoke to the importance of libraries for today’s youth, as libraries are “a place to dream.” Acclaimed environmentalist and former writer for the New Yorker, Bill McKibben presented his views on climate change and sustainability, teens were addressed in a range of innovative programs for librarians to take home to their own libraries, and a special event consisted of an evening with poet, Nikki Giovanni as the first guest of the newly opened, American Writers Museum in downtown Chicago.

The ALA Awards Ceremony, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, the Newberry, Caldecott and Wilder Medals, and more celebration events showcased excellence in the many diverse and leading writers of today. Colson Whitehead, author of “Underground Railroad,” and Matthew Desmond, author of “Evicted,” won the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, respectively.

Immediately following the first featured speaker’s presentation, the exhibit floor opened to a very excited group of attendees waiting to speak to more than 780 companies and organizations highlighting the latest products, services and technologies. They also looked for the always exciting live stages, Graphic Novels and Gaming, the Pop Top Stage, Book Buzz Theater and a new live stage, Chapter One, that featured a genre of reading materials embracing international authors, poetry, audiobooks and podcasts. Authors engaged with audiences via author readings and signings, attendees enjoyed cooking demonstrations, multi-genre live music, and took home a vast selection of advance reading copies of new titles. New to the exhibit floor this year, The Park @ ALA gave attendees a little relief from the hustle and bustle of the exhibit floor with park benches, tranquility domes and even sound-effect chirping birds, and The Playground @ ALA, an interactive area, offered future-focused technologies arriving in libraries today and tomorrow. Attendees participated in a maker space, drone piloting, coding for all ages, 3D printing in various formats, robotics and more.

2016-17 ALA President Julie Todaro inaugurated newly-elected President James (Jim) G. Neal at the final event of the conference. Jim expressed his deep interest to focus on the Libraries Transform campaign, “Libraries Transform. Libraries Lead”, and looks forward to delving more deeply into how we develop and support our library leaders.

ALA association business was conducted throughout the conference, including resolutions discussed by ALA Council. Details can be found in a news release on the ALA news feed.

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 include blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and Flickr, hashtag #alaac17. Annual Conference videos produced by Cognotes are on YouTube (search 2017 ALA Annual or #alaac17). The link to Annual Conference session recordings will be sent 4 to 6 weeks after the conference to full registrants. Social media and virtual meetings will help continue Annual Conference conversations, which will be picked up again face-to-face at the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, Feb. 9-13, in Denver, Colorado. The 2018 Midwinter Meeting will include a Symposium on the Future of Libraries. Registration opens Sept. 13, 2017.

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2017 ALA Conference & Exhibition


Donna Hunter

Marketing Coordinator

Conference Services