ALA addresses future of libraries at Midwinter Meeting

Contact: Steve Zalusky

Manager of Communications,

ALA Public Information Office

(312) 280-1546


For Immediate Release,

January 28, 2009

CHICAGO - The future role of libraries in tough economic times and the influence libraries will exert within the new administration of President Barack Obama were key themes discussed during the American Library Association's 2009 Midwinter Meeting in Denver.

The ALA’s annual planning meeting, held Jan. 23-28 at the Colorado Convention Center, attracted 7,905 librarians and 2,315 exhibitors.

Members enjoyed such speakers as Nobel Peace Prize winner and author Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who spoke at Sunday's ALA President's Program about how institutions, such as those that provide loans to poverty-stricken individuals, and libraries can transform and build the communities they serve.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Jim Sheeler delivered the 10th annual Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture Saturday. Sheeler has written movingly about the impact of the war in Iraq on the families of fallen soldiers.

On Saturday, attendees also had an opportunity to hear from ALA presidential candidates Roberta Stevens and Kent Oliver during the annual ALA Presidential Candidates Forum. Later that day, the candidates held a joint reception to give members the opportunity to meet them and share thoughts, interests and concerns.

One of the highlights of this year's meeting was the ALA's Youth Media Awards presentation, which honors the best of the best in children's and young adult literature. On Monday, the announcement of the awards was viewed not only by attendees, but also viewers on a live Web cast and followed through a Twitter feed. More than 9,000 people signed up for the Web cast,

This year's awards included the 40th anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, which was acknowledged during the YMA presentation.…

The Youth Media Awards enjoyed extensive national attention. Award results appeared in more than 300 newspapers and online outlets through Associated Press coverage, as well as in USA Today and the New York Times. National Public Radio also covered the awards.

The high interest was also reflected in coverage from NBC-TV’s Today Show. Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee Chair Deborah Taylor appeared on the Tuesday morning broadcast with 2009 Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Caldecott Medalist Beth Krommes. Coretta Scott King Book Award winner, Kadir Nelson, was mentioned during the segment by Taylor.

Exhibits at this year’s Midwinter Meeting included the Technology Showcase. ALA also debuted a new collection of resources specifically for school library media specialists and other interested librarians, Verizon's The collection features rotating librarian-specific content from ALA and library initiatives. trainers were on hand to demonstrate how librarians can use

This year, ALA grappled with important issues facing libraries. Front and center was the economic downturn. Library attendance has climbed dramatically during the current crisis, as demand increases for, among other things, access to and assistance with job searching. However, funding for libraries in some communities has declined. In advance of the conference, ALA released its Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit,, to help members advocate more effectively for libraries in their communities.

On Saturday, ALA President Jim Rettig, and 2004-2005 ALA President Carol Brey-Casiano moderated “Building Statewide Coalitions for All Libraries,” a program focusing on the value of building statewide coalitions during times of economic downturn.

Also, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation and the ALA announced Saturday nearly $882,000 in grants to public libraries and library networks across the country through the Smart investing@your library® initiative. Administered jointly by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of ALA, and FINRA, the initiative funds library efforts to provide millions of patrons with effective, unbiased financial education resources. The latest group of 12 grantees marks the second year of this educational partnership, which awarded more than $853,000 to 13 public libraries and library networks in 2008.

President Rettig said, “This new group of Smart investing@your library® grant recipients will continue the profession’s effort to help library users gain access to unbiased investor education tools and information, which is especially critical during this time of economic turmoil.”

The ALA's own financial state was the focus of the ALA Council/Executive Board/Membership Information Session on Sunday, which featured a financial update from Jim Neal, Chair of the Budget Analysis and Review Committee (BARC).

Looking at the ALA general fund, Neal said net operating revenue improved by 44 percent from 2007. He particularly noted an “almost massive increase” in grants and awards income.

The impact of the new administration of President Obama on libraries and the role of libraries within the administration were major topics of discussion. Sessions included a Washington Office Update Session with a panel, including former Colorado State Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon, discussing what to expect from the new administration. There was also an ALA Washington Office breakout session with Stephanie Vance of Advocacy Associates in Washington, D.C. that featured a discussion of effective techniques library advocates can use to communicate their messages to the new administration and Congress.

On Saturday, librarians and library advocates also sent a direct message to President Obama in a Special Membership Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the ALA's Executive Board and Membership Meeting Committee. When he keynoted the opening general session at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago in 2005, Obama said, “More than a building that houses books and data, the library represents a window to a larger world, the place where we’ve always come to discover big ideas and profound concepts that help move the American story forward and the human story forward.”

Several ALA members in attendance approached the microphone to share their ideas.

According to ALAၼ Inside Scoop, the blog for American Libraries magazine, they included Bernie Margolis, state librarian of New York, who said, “We’ve seen (President Obama) with his Barackberry, we’ve seen him in front of computers. Can we create an opportunity for him to help us and us to help him build on the knowledge economy that is such an important part of moving this country forward?”

Sam Hastings said, “I think we should remind the (President) that the Institute of Museum and Library Services is up for reauthorization, the home of the Library Services and Technology Act, and that the research endeavors out of that institution are what lead us into future and better solutions.”

Arizona State Librarian Gladys Ann Wells suggested simply a thank-you, “Because [President Obama has] done more for public records in two days than many administrations did in 12 months.”

President Rettig and representatives from the ALA Washington Office staff were among those in attendance making note of the remarks. The information will be compiled, and the Washington Office will share it with the Obama Administration.

During this year's Midwinter Meeting, the ALA also celebrated its commitment to such issues as ethics and intellectual freedom.

On Sunday, The Committee on Professional Ethics celebrated the 70th anniversary of the ALA Code of Ethics, which states the values to which library and information professionals are committed and embodies the ethical responsibilities of the profession in a changing information environment. The keynote speaker was Rushworth Kidder, who founded the Institute for Global Ethics.

Also on Sunday, Young Adult author Lauren Myracle, whose book “ttyl” was one of the 10 most frequently challenged books of 2007, was the featured speaker at the fourth annual Freedom to Read Foundation author event, co-sponsored by Friends of the Denver Public Library,

On Monday, Dwight D. Jones, Colorado commissioner of education, was the featured speaker at the 2009 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Celebration. This year's theme was "A Testament of Hope: Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day on...Not a Day Off!” It featured readings from the speeches, writings and interviews of Dr. King.

Jones has earned statewide recognition for narrowing and eliminating the achievement gaps related to minority children and students of low-socioeconomic means.

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