For immediate release | February 6, 2019

2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits Closes, Community Bound

SEATTLE – The dialogue continues on the position of our nation’s libraries. As evidenced, the current role of the library, and its library workers, has become wide-ranging. In order to provide aid and transformation in our respective communities, the library field faces a sizeable challenge requiring a compound solution. Attendees dedicated to their constituents and their work took full advantage of the Midwinter Meeting to begin the build of their communities’ future.

The American Library Association (ALA) hosted its 2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Seattle at the Washington State Convention Center and nearby locations to connect with peers and leaders, participate in educational sessions, and connect through social gatherings. The conference was attended by more than 9,000 attendees, including more than 2,700 U.S. exhibitors.

Featured speakers offered sessions fresh with ideas that offered a sense of unity in their delivery and content. The conference began with philanthropist and author Melinda Gates who stated that gender equity is the goal, hence her call for women empowerment across the world. Gates was joined in conversation with NPR commentator and former librarian, Nancy Pearl as they discussed Gates’ new book, Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. Journalist and new author, Isha Sesay spoke about the heartbreaking story of 276 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram. She states that the understandably profound story had to be told, but the book, Beneath the Tamarind Tree was also important to write because she could have been one of those girls. As 112 of the girls have yet to be released, Sesay hopes that the book will ensure that the Nigerian government will reopen any investigations in hopes of bringing the girls home to their families.

Other speakers included travel host and community activist Rick Steves who passionately called for us to travel more, to surrender our fears and travel to exotic places. He stated that in years past, when someone was off to travel, the well-wisher would respond with a cheerful “Bon Voyage”. Today, the well-wisher responds with a cautionary, “Be safe”. He describes in his book, Travel as a Political Act, that only when we set out to learn about other cultures, do we know ourselves. Eric Klinenberg, sociologist and author of Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life was the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture speaker. Klinenberg is a fervent champion for libraries. He told the story of how, when in a former role, he was presented with the idea of a Center that would provide an inordinate amount of benefits to neighborhood communities. After patiently waiting for the person to conclude his jubilant presentation, Klinenberg replied simply “... are you familiar with libraries”? CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, Sylvia Acevedo spoke about giving girls the proverbial “hand in the elevator” last chance opportunity through her book Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist. She revealed that girls can learn science, technology, coding, data analytics, and she looks to make it possible in a girl-centric environment.

The ALA President’s Program speaker, Robin DiAngelo, Racial and Social Justice Consultant and Trainer and author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism offered an interesting session on the dynamics of racism, beckoning us all to ask ourselves the hard questions. As part of the Libraries=Strong Communities effort led by ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo, a public rally took place at the Seattle Public Library hosting elected officials, community-based organizations, state library associations, ALA divisions and members, and conference attendees.

In its third consecutive year, the Symposium on the Future of Libraries produced a collection of daily and concurrent sessions in formal and informal settings. Many of the peer-to-peer sessions were dedicated to community-centric resources in education, technology, diversity and inclusion, government, and social justice. The plenary sessions featuring Seattle-based social, civic, and education innovators, looked beyond the library field to explore change and spark engaged discussions on how their work relates to libraries and the potential for partnerships to increase their impact. The Symposium on the Future of Libraries also includes the popular News You Can Use and ALA Master Series.

Immediately after the Opening Session, the Exhibit Hall opened to enthusiastic attendees waiting to meet with exhibitors offering the latest in products, services, technologies, and titles. The Book Buzz Theater and PopTop live stages provided access to authors, illustrators and advanced reading copies (ARCs).

A mainstay of the Midwinter Meeting is the very popular ALA Youth Media Awards. Attendees flocked to the Convention Center very early in the morning to discover the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery medals, the Coretta Scott King Book Award, and the Printz Award. Winners and honorees are selected by committees composed of librarians and other literature and media experts. Hundreds attended the live event, while thousands more of the #alaleftbehind watched via live webcast. ALA’s book and media award announcements are consolidated at Midwinter as the RUSA Book and Media Awards, including the announcement of the winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

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

Channels for active communication before, during, and after ALA conferences includes blogs, Midwinter Meeting & Exhibit website; Twitter (@alamw and #alamw19), Facebook Events, Pinterest, Flickr, and Instagram (#alamw19).

Midwinter Meeting videos produced by Cognotes are on YouTube or search 2019 ALA Midwinter or hashtag #alamw19.

A link to the 2019 Midwinter Meeting session recordings will be made available 4-6 weeks after the conference. Social media and virtual meetings will help continue Midwinter Meeting conversations, which will be picked up again face-to-face at the 2019 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition, June 20-25, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Registration is now open.

Related Links

2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits Website

A Look Back at the 2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits


Donna Hunter

Marketing Coordinator

Conference Services