For immediate release | July 11, 2023

Goal-oriented education, intellectual freedom, literacy, and community care at the ALA 2023 Annual Conference & Exhibition

CHICAGO ― The American Library Association (ALA) hosted the 142nd Annual Conference & Exhibition in its hometown of Chicago, Illinois, June 22-27, 2023. The onsite conference gathered an audience of more than 9,107 librarians, library workers, and library supporters and 6,375 exhibitors, authors, illustrators, press, and staff from around the world. The ALA Annual Conference Digital Experience hosted 369 virtual attendees.

More than 220 education and News You Can Use programs and 1,200+ sessions and activities were held at McCormick Place Chicago and nearby locations. The conference delved into the pressing challenges faced by libraries today, including intellectual freedom, censorship, book bans and threats to libraries and library workers; adult literacy and digital equity; health and wellness; justice-involved services; navigating a deeply politicized landscape; libraries in the ChatGPT age; books, authors, and reading; budget planning and finance; and advanced community user experience.

The conference kicked off with an inspiring Right to Read Rally, sponsored by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), that honored the courage and resilience of America's librarians and their persevering work to protect the freedom to read. The event featured a keynote address from author, professor, and historian Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, a panel discussion featuring librarians at the forefront of defending the freedom to read, and the ALA Intellectual Freedom Awards.

The Opening General Session provided a standing-room-only audience with words and praise from visionary leaders who offered their support of libraries and librarians, as well as new initiative announcements. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel spoke of a forthcoming Learning Without Limits plan to provide information and opportunity to all communities through a modernized E-Rate Program. Illinois Secretary of State and Illinois State Librarian Alexi Giannoulias voiced his support in the fight against book banning and his work to facilitate critical legislation for intellectual freedom, including the historic legislation that bans book bans in the state of Illinois. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson welcomed attendees to the city and asserted his staunch support of libraries, and Chicago Public Library (CPL) Commissioner Chris Brown announced a new “Library for the People” podcast, the confirmation of 81 local libraries as new “book sanctuaries,” and the assembly of 2,000 representatives from all 50 states who will collectively work together against threats to our democracy. Chicago Poet Laureate avery r. young recited an original poem, an ode to Judy Blume, and “NBC Chicago Today” anchors, Matthew Rodrigues and Cortney Hall, shared the success of their Chicago Banned Books Club, as well as the news that NBC is looking to expand the Banned Books Club to other markets throughout the country.

Legendary author, Judy Blume, discussed the contrast and irony of the present state of book banning and the censorship she endured decades ago; her documentary, “Judy Blume, Forever;” and the legions of young people that she supports through her books and as a devoted pen pal. Musician Dolly Parton was awarded the highest honor that ALA bestows, Honorary ALA Membership, for her longstanding commitment to inspiring a love for books and reading and the creation of the Imagination Library Initiative. Parton accepted the honor via a prerecorded video. ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall welcomed ALA Annual attendees and shared information on the ALA Community of Care (CoC) Program, an extension of the ALA Code of Conduct provided during the conference in Chicago. The CoC program consisted of support from more than 30 ALA staff and ALA members; a quiet and decompression room; a licensed mental health professional on call throughout the conference; and an onsite licensed body worker/massage therapist.

Native Hawaiian author Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu spoke about the mind, heart, and spirit of māhū when she joined ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada in conversation at the ALA President’s Program. Other featured speakers on the main stage included: award-winning author Cara Mentzel and entertainer and author Idina Menzel who discussed “finding your own voice” in “Proud Mouse;” New York Times-bestselling author Rick Riordan and young adult author Mark Oshiro discussed partnering for “The Sun and the Star;” author Nikki Grimes and illustrator Brian Pinkney discussed “A Walk in the Woods;” and comedian, author, and disability advocate Maysoon Zayid discussed “Shiny Misfits.” Other main stage highlights include the In Conversation with Dr. Carla Hayden session with Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, who shared the stage with Obama Presidential Center Director Dr. Louise Bernard and CPL Commissioner Chris Brown. The conversation included a discussion of the community role of the new Presidential Center, and its many features, which include a 5,000-square-foot branch of the Chicago Public Library. The Center is scheduled to open in late 2025.

At the session, Going to the Root: Libraries, Adult Literacy, and the Interruption of Generational Poverty, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and sociologist Matthew Desmond (“Poverty, By America” and “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,”), was joined by Tracie D. Hall, ALA Executive Director; Deborah Kennedy, Executive Director, National Coalition for Literacy; Ken Bigger, Senior Fellow, ALA Center for the Future of Libraries; Federico Salas-Isnardi, Director of the Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy in Houston; and panel moderator Jai Winston, Knight Foundation Director of Community and National Initiatives for Saint Paul, Minnesota. The session featured facts and data that Desmond has garnered through his research and the resourceful methods the panel members have employed to combat poverty-stricken communities.

Writer, scholar, and cultural organizer, Dr. Eve L. Ewing moderated the inspiring Closing General Session with acclaimed poet and author Amanda Gorman and award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson. Gorman treated the at-capacity audience to a contemplative and original passage before she and Robinson began their insightful discussion around hope and their new picture book, “Something, Someday.”

After the Opening General Session onstage ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Library Marketplace officially opened with a reception and opportunities to visit exhibitors. More than 610 companies and organizations showcased the latest book titles, technologies, services, and products. Established and new authors presented on nine stages (Book Buzz Theater, Chapter One, Diversity in Publishing, Graphic Novels and Gaming, Look of Books, PopTop, Tech Talk, and What’s Cooking @ ALA) throughout the marketplace during the course of the conference, discussing their upcoming titles, creative practices, and more. Additional opportunities included: Meet the Authors with more than 630 authors available for book signings, selfies, and chats; complimentary advance reading copies of books; the Podcast Recording Booth where attendees could watch and listen to authors record podcasts, and fun and relaxation at the ALA at the Park.

Popular activities included the ALA JobLIST Placement Center which offered a space for those looking to advance their careers with professional headshots, mentors, and an onsite Job Fair, the Now Showing @ ALA movie theater with 20 films and documentaries, the Christopher J. Hoy Silent Auction and Artist Alley, and new this year, the first ALA Poster Day that offered more than than 200 Poster Sessions. Hugely popular was the Banned Books from the Big Chair exhibit, sponsored by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), Unite Against Books Bans, Banned Books Week, and Sage Publishing. Authors and attendees were recorded from the Big Chair as they read from banned books, made a call to action, or pledged their support to Let Freedom Read.

Additional session highlights can be found in American Libraries magazine.

The Digital Experience, an online module available for those unable to attend in-person, and in-person attendees, included more than 60 live-streamed education, main stage, News You Can Use, and ALA Governance sessions. Registrants of the Digital Experience, as well as full conference registrants, were able to watch in real-time from any location and will have access to the sessions through August 31, 2023. Two virtual-only featured speakers included award-winning TV personality and author Graham Norton who discussed his book, “Forever Home,” and Grammy Award-winning musician and author Rhiannon Giddens who discussed her book, “We Could Fly.”

Look to join ALA and your peers at the ALA 2024 LLX: The Library Learning Experience in Baltimore, Maryland, January 19-22, and the ALA 2024 Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Diego, California, June 27-July 2.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit

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