2022 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition ― library professionals reconnect to advance libraries

For Immediate Release
Fri, 07/08/2022


Donna Hunter

Conference Marketing Specialist

American Library Association / Conference Services


CHICAGO ― The American Library Association (ALA) hosted its 141st Annual Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C., June 23-28. The onsite conference was attended by a global audience of more than 7,738 librarians, library workers, and library supporters and 5,431 exhibitors, authors, illustrators, press, and staff. The ALA Annual Conference Digital Experience hosted 834 virtual attendees.

After three years of no in-person Annual conferences due to COVID-19, ALA, the leading convener of library practitioners and stakeholders, celebrated the significance of bringing library professionals together again with the hashtag #TogetherAgain. Registrants gathered in Washington, D.C., to reconnect, learn, and strategize for a new world of librarianship.

More than 160 education programs and 1,200+ events took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and nearby locations. The conference focused on the challenges that many libraries are facing today, with dozens of sessions related to the urgent issues and opportunities facing the field, including intellectual freedom and censorship and the alarming rise in attempts at book banning; advocacy in a highly politicized environment; digital access and literacy; ebooks and electronic resources; integrating equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice into programs, collections, staffing, and community outreach; sustainability; literacy and information literacy; outreach services; advocacy; and services to incarcerated and returning individuals. In addition, a range of programming addressed ongoing areas that underpin successful library work and are being constantly reinvented as the world changes, such as leadership and management, buildings and facilities, budget planning and finance, reference and user experience, legislation, and working with friends, groups, and trustees. 

The Annual Conference opened with a fireside conversation with 2021-2022 ALA President Patricia “Patty” Wong and FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who discussed the state of broadband and digital equity in the United States. Chairwoman Rosenworcel reported that through the $7 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund, which is part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the FCC has helped more than 900 libraries and thousands of schools representing 12 million students cover broadband costs and technology purchases.

At the ALA President’s Program, Advancing the Asian American Story: A Conversation with Publishers, Literacy Advocates, and Storytellers, Wong convened a panel that discussed: how the children’s publishing industry evolved, in terms of whose story gets told; the role that books can play to promote a more diverse and equitable world; and what the future holds for Asian American creators and their narratives. Panelists included: Jane Park, senior content strategist for Google Kids & Families; Linda Sue Park, New York Times bestselling author and creator of kiBooka.com, a listing of kids’ books by Korean Americans and Korean diaspora creators; Philip Lee, co-founder and publisher of Readers to Eaters; and Christina Soontornvat, young adult author, 2021 Kirkus Prize for Young People’s Literature recipient, and 2021 Newbery Honor recipient.

Other main stage sessions included actor and young adult author John Cho with moderator author Grace Lin, who discussed Cho’s book, “Troublemaker;” bestselling author, screenwriter, and young adult horror author R.L. Stine, who chatted about his upcoming book, “Stinetinglers;” world-renowned Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, who discussed his latest work, “The Last Ronin;” bestselling author Celeste Ng with moderator Nancy Pearl, who discussed Ng’s new book, “Our Missing Hearts;” journalist and recently-named Pulitzer Prize winner, Maria Hinojosa, who shared her upcoming memoir, “Once I Was You;” and actor, comedian, and new children’s book author Tiffany Haddish, who discussed “Layla, the Last Black Unicorn.” Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden spoke about the importance of libraries within our communities and the role that libraries and librarians play in the misinformation age.

As the issue of challenged books has become increasingly widespread in recent months, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) recently launched the Unite Against Book Bans grassroots campaign. At a Unite Against Book Bans session, participants focused on the importance of access to all books for students who want and need these books to help them understand complex and challenging issues. The session included popular young adult author Jason Reynolds; former Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library and author of the “Book Lust” series, Nancy Pearl; OIF Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone, and the students of the Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.

At  “Defending the Fifth Freedom: Protecting the Right to Read for Incarcerated Individuals,” ALA Executive Director Tracie D. Hall moderated a discussion with panelists: Reginald Dwayne Betts, McArthur Fellow and founder of Freedom Reads, an organization working to radically transform access to literature in prison; Jeanie Austin, a jail and reentry services librarian at San Francisco Public Library and author of "Library Services and Incarceration: Recognizing Barriers, Strengthening Access;" Randall Horton, recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship and Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, and the only tenured Full Professor in the United States to have had seven felony convictions; and Enrique Rivera, bilingual outreach  specialist at Multnomah County (Oreg.) Library. Through a powerful discussion, the panelists described their advocacy for libraries and how libraries can further support the “right to read” for the incarcerated community. After opening the session with the sobering fact that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and news that the most extensive book ban in America is right now happening in the prison system, Hall called on the Association’s membership to interrupt the systemic information poverty that is going on in American detention facilities.

At the Closing General Session, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, author of “Rising Troublemaker: A Fear-Fighter Manual for Teens,” and Dr. Nicole A. Cooke, Augusta Baker endowed chair and associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science in Columbia, discussed speaking up in the face of injustice. Jones charged attendees to be “professional troublemakers” and to make “good trouble,” the kind that civil rights activist and late U.S. Rep. John Lewis advocated for.  

The Library Marketplace opened immediately after the Opening General Session with a ribbon-cutting and reception. More than 561 companies and organizations showcased the latest technologies, titles, services, and products. There were eight LIVE stages (i.e., Book Buzz Theater, PopTop, Diversity in Publishing, Chapter One, Graphic Novels and Gaming, Tech Talk, ThinkFit, and the Look of Books) where authors discussed their upcoming titles. Attendees were able to meet new and established authors and request autographs and selfies. Additional opportunities included the Live at the 25 Podcast Booth, where attendees watched and listened to emerging and well-known authors record podcasts about a variety of books; the Now Showing @ ALA onsite movie theater, where attendees watched more than 15 films and documentaries; the Festival of Shorts, offering short films and trailers; and new this year, the Test Pilot Playground that offered hands-on time with robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality.

The ALA JobLIST Placement Center offered a space to those looking to advance their library careers. Attendees were able to take professional headshots for their resumes, find mentors, and attend an onsite Job Fair.  

The health and safety of all in attendance was a top priority with measures in place from the American Library Association, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and its vendors, and the conference attendees and exhibitors who provided proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to register and wore face masks onsite.  

A new virtual component of the ALA Annual Conference, the Digital Experience, was offered to those who could not attend in person. Registration included more than 70 live-streamed education, main stage, News You Can Use, and ALA Governance sessions to virtual attendees. 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, 2022.

Get additional Annual Conference coverage in  American Libraries magazine.

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 ala.org.