ALA Midwinter Meeting attracts large number of attendees; Youth Media Award selections announced

Contacts: Macey Morales/Jennifer Petersen

ALA Media Relations


For Immediate Release,

January 16, 2008

ALA Midwinter Meeting attracts large number of attendees; Youth Media Award selections announced

(PHILADELPHIA) - More than 13,000 librarians, library supporters, publishers and guests from around the world attended the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting, held Jan. 11 to 16 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.

Approximately 2,200 discussion groups, committee meetings and events were held at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Many meetings focused on technology, teen literacy through online gaming, users' privacy, censorship, library funding, public awareness and advocacy.

Several preconferences were held on Jan. 11 that focused on how to better serve library users, including the ALA's Young Adult Library Services Association's (YALSA) 3rd Annual Gaming Night, sponsored by Teen Tech Week and Dungeons & Dragons. Experienced gamers, beginners and everyone in between shared tips on how to play online, video and tabletop games while sharing ideas on how to establish gaming programs in their libraries. In addition, the Advocacy Institute, organized by the ALA's newly established Office for Library Advocacy, was well attended.

The ALA Sunrise Speaker Series opened Saturday to an appreciative audience. William Stanton, president of the H. W. Wilson Foundation, introduced the speakers, Michael Vitez, staff writer, and Tom Gralish, editor and photographer, of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The two Pulitzer Prize winners are authors of the book "Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope and Happiness at America's Most Famous Steps." Vitez said the theme of his talk could be subtitled "How a Book was Born," adding that the story was truly a tale of "friendship and faith."

On Saturday, Jan. 12, Bassem Youssef, the highest ranking Arab-American agent employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, attended the ALA Washington Office's "Inside the FBI: A Whistleblower Speaks Out." Originally slated to give a formal presentation, Youssef was contacted on Jan. 3 by the FBI, which expressed its displeasure regarding the proposed content of his presentation and his viewpoints on National Security Letters. Youssef did not give a presentation, instead fielding questions from audience members. More than 400 Midwinter attendees heard Youssef's critical description of the Justice Department's culture. "The FBI has publicly stated that its expertise in working on counterterrorism matters and cultural understanding of the Middle East and the radical Islamic groups, as well as the language, are not necessary to running the counterterrorism division," said Youssef, speaking publicly for the first time on the subject.

Jazz violinist Regina Carter performed as part of the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture series at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12. Carter's performance offered "positive pithy stories about her musical experiences, interspersed with toe-tapping be-bop, smelly funk, lush impressionism, and hip-grinding blues," according to Ericka Patillo's review in Cognotes, ALA's Conference newspaper. A crowd of more than 450 listened to Carter, as she shared anecdotes that shaped her musical philosophy, including stories about her tutelage under jazz bassist Ray Brown. Carter is a recipient of the highly esteemed MacArthur Fellowship, which is given to individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits.

On Sunday Jan. 13, educational researchers and academic, public and school librarians watched a demonstration of the skills developed while playing board, computer and video games. With the assistance of a panel of experts, the 2008 ALA Committee on Literacy's Research-to-Practice Discussion Group examined the implications of adding games and gaming to library services. The room was filled to capacity with library staffers interested in learning more about this new trend.

Also on Sunday, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer and a prolific author, spoke to a crowd of teens, publishers and authors during the Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) program, sponsored by YALSA. "As a teen, books helped me make sense of the world around me," explained Abdul-Jabbar. "During the Civil Rights Movement, when three little girls were killed during a bombing in a church in Alabama, books were my only way to come to terms with this horrible event."

Later in the day, Abdul-Jabbar served as keynote speaker for the ALA President's Program. A gathering of 800 listened to Abdul-Jabbar discuss his book "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance." "I am not standing here as a basketball player but as an author, a historian and a book lover, all because of a library and librarians like you," he said. He encouraged attendees to "study your own people's history to know what you are capable of"; "educate yourself to think critically"; "dedicate yourself to your community"; and "sing, dance, laugh and generally be joyful and steadfast."

On Monday Jan. 14, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was honored during the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sunrise Celebration. Dr. Ganga B. Dakshinamurti, librarian at the Albert Cohen Management Library at the University of Manitoba's Asper School of Business, was the keynote speaker. The theme for this year's celebration was "A Challenging Inspiration Lighting Our Way: From Gandhi to King Jr. to Us" and reflected the power of "Satyagraha - truth and nonviolence" - a basis of Dr. King's efforts in his civil rights agenda - in overcoming aggression. The program included quotes from Dr. King's writings. Committee, round table and association of librarians of color leadership read from his speeches.

Later in the day, the winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced. Deemed the first word in children's literature, more than 1,500 librarians learned the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Printz and Schneider Family book awards. Other awards included the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award; the Margaret A. Edwards Award; the Pura Belpré Award; the Robert F. Sibert Medal; the Andrew Carnegie Medal; the Mildred L. Batchelder Award; the first-ever Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production; the Alex Awards; and the May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, the awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth.

This year's ALA Youth Media Award selections were untraditional and shocked some in the audience. Brian Selznick won the Caldecott Medal for "The Invention of Hugo Cabret," a 500-plus-page category-buster that the author has called "not exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things." Amy Schlitz won the Newbery Medal for "Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices From a Medieval Village." A collection of theatrical monologues, it was originally written as a performance piece for fifth-grade students studying the Middle Ages. The Newbery usually goes to works of narrative fiction, though other genres are not excluded.

ALA President Loriene Roy, Selznick and Schlitz appeared on NBC-TV's The Today Show on Tuesday.

More than 4,500 people logged on to a live Webcast of the awards, and more than 1,100 registered to receive Award announcement results via text message. By the end of the webcast, 7,600 people had signed on to view the awards program.

Youth Media Award press releases can be found on the ALA Web site at by clicking on the "Youth Media Awards" icon. An archived version of the Webcast can be viewed at

The Midwinter Meeting also will offer more than 800 exhibit booths that featured the latest and best in services and technology for today's library users.

To learn more about other events that took place during ALA's Midwinter Meeting, please visit ALA's Cognotes at