Chicago plays host to nation’s library leaders as library use soars

Contacts: Macey Morales / Jennifer Petersen

ALA Media Relations

312-280-4393 / 5043 /


For Immediate Release

July 7, 2009

CHICAGO – As job-seekers, families and students rely on free library resources, more than 25,000 library leaders and library supporters will gather July 9 – 15 at McCormick Place West to discuss the  challenges facing U.S. libraries caused by increased usage during tough economic times. The American Library Association’s (ALA) Annual Conference is  the largest library gathering of its kind in the world.

Budget cuts are just one of the many challenges library face, and will be among the key issues discussed during the ALA Annual Conference. Other issues include the surge in library use; the changing role of libraries; technology; bandwidth challenges; new technologies; literacy; and issues affecting school libraries.

 “Libraries are part of the solution in every community that is struggling economically. From coast-to-coast libraries have been the first responders to the economic crisis, helping level the playing field for job seekers,”  says ALA President Jim Rettig.  “Library staff report a surge in use of library computers and Internet access to find work, apply for jobs online, type resumes and cover letters, open e-mail accounts and further their education in a competitive labor market.

 “As people have looked for ways to cut costs during the recession they have rediscovered the many free resources libraries offer. Americans depend on libraries not only for free access to computers, books, videos and other resources, but also for the assistance and training opportunities library staff offer. From free computer training to access to resources that support education at all levels and that can enhance resumes and cover letters, libraries are helping get Americans back on their feet,” says Rettig.

Some libraries are facing tough economic times.. Data found in the ALA’s 2009 State of America’s Libraries Report, shows 41 percent of states report declining state funding for public libraries in fiscal year 2009. Declines in state funding often are compounded by reductions at the local level – creating a snowball effect that threatens library staffing, hours open to the public, collection development and technology maintenance.

The conference will begin with “Libraries Build Communities,” a daylong community service effort taking place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, July 10. Conference attendees will lend support to various elementary school libraries in Chicago, and assist library staff with cataloging and archiving materials.

The ALA Office for Literacy and Outreach Services (OLOS) will hold its third annual “Bookmobile

Sunday” from 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 12, which will include a parade of bookmobiles from 12 local communities. The event will serve as an opportunity for libraries to share best practices, and will be the site of the launch of an epic bookmobile journey! Author/broadcaster/journalist Peter Laufer, PhD, and author/producer Tom Corwin will begin a road trip across America in a bookmobile filled with donated books. The duo will stop in small towns to offer a free book in exchange for a short interview on how books have changed their lives. The entire trip will be filmed for a documentary.

Later in the day, Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, will keynote ALA’s President’s Program from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. After the 9-11 attacks the federal government’s desire for secrecy grew dramatically. Blanton will discuss limits imposed on access to government information.

Also on Sunday, from 4 – 5:30 p.m., the fifth annual Library Book Cart Drill Team Championship will showcase library workers performing inspired dance routines with costumes and creatively decorated book carts. Â

On Monday, July 13, from 5 – 6:30 p.m., Cokie Roberts will keynote the Public Library Association President’s Program. Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and a senior news analyst for National Public Radio. In addition , Roberts, co-authors a weekly syndicated column, and is the author of “We Are Our Mothers' Daughters,” “Ladies of Liberty” and “Founding Mothers.” Â The program is part of the Auditorium Speaker Series.

Other speakers include Christie Hefner, director of the Center for American Progress; civil rights icon Melba Pattillo Beals; best-selling mystery writer Michael Connelly; Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz; crime writer James Ellroy; Pulitzer Prize winning author Tracy Kidder; best-selling author Gregory Maguire; best-selling author Lisa Scottoline; author and neuroanatonomist Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.; ‘green living’ expert Wanda Urbanska; and author and medium James Van Praagh.

Approximately 950 exhibiting companies will feature the latest in books, videos, computers and other materials vital to today's libraries, librarians and their users. New to the exhibit floor this year is the Cookbook Pavilion, where Chefs provide daily cooking demonstrations and will sign their latest books. Other exhibit floor highlights include Gaming, Graphic Novel and Green Pavilions. Â

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. On Tuesday, July 14, from 7 – 9 a.m., during the 2009 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Breakfast, attendees will celebrate the valuable contributions of current and past winners of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards honor African American authors and illustrators of children’s literature. Â

Also on Tuesday, author and journalist Steve Lopez, will keynote the Closing Session, from 8 – 9 a.m. Lopez is the author of  “The Soloist: A Lost Dream,” a story of a remarkable bond between a journalist in search of a story and a homeless musician struck down in his prime. The Soloist was recently adapted into a major motion picture starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx.

The conference offers more than 2,000 meetings, discussion groups, programs on various topics affecting libraries and librarians as well as tours and special events.

For more information on the ALA Annual Conference, please visitÂ