ACRL 14th National Conference draws record-breaking participation

Contact: Macey Morales / Jennifer Petersen

ACRL Media Relations

312-280-4939 / 312-280-5043 /


For Immediate Release

March 31, 2009

SEATTLE - More than 4,300 library staff, exhibitors, speakers and guests from every state and twenty-two countries, met from March 12-15 at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center in downtown Seattle for the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) 14th National Conference. Combined with the more than 350 people participating online in the ACRL 2009 Virtual Conference, the Seattle conference had the highest combined registrant participation ever for an ACRL National Conference, with 3,263 face-to-face and virtual attendees.

Ira Glass, of National Public Radio’s “This American Life,” brought the conference to a close with a standing ovation after a presentation using clips of his radio and TV show to demonstrate the power of personal narrative. Glass’s talk proved a fitting close to a conference that energized academic and research librarians to take the messages and stories learned in Seattle back to their institutions.

The conference themed “Pushing the Edge: Explore, Engage, Extend,” offered more than 300 programs that explored the changing nature and roles of academic and research libraries and librarianship. Key issues included social networking technology in libraries; the future of reference and online searching; open access to research; distance learning; teaching and learning; and the impact of the changing economic conditions on higher education and library services.

“College and research libraries are an essential part of the learning community and connect their users with a world of knowledge,” said ACRL President Erika Linke. “The conference has given academic librarians the opportunity to share strategies and best practices as academic libraries continue to meet the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy constituency.”

Recognizing that travel budgets for academic librarians are being cut due to the tough economy, ACRL enhanced its 2009 Virtual Conference to allow participation for over 350 online participants from around the world. The Virtual Conference offered dynamic screen captures (audio of the session synched with PowerPoint) of more than 80 conference sessions, live, interactive Webcasts, Second Life library tours and speaker materials. The virtual conference is also provided for free to all ACRL conference registrants for one year so they can look back on any sessions they may have missed.

Attendees who arrived early had their choice of six day-long preconferences that ranged in topics from digital copyright to information literacy outreach. More than 500 others arrived early for the first-time orientation (ACRL 101) which included information about how to get more involved in ACRL, and how to make the most out of their conference experience. Another early event was the first-ever ACRL Gaming Night where approximately 200 attendees had a chance to experience the thrills, chills and occasional spills that are part of gaming at the library.

President of the Institute for Global Ethics and Author, Rushworth Kidder, opened the conference. During the Opening Keynote Session, Kidder discussed moral courage and his theory of “Right versus Right” as opposed to “Right versus Wrong.” He believes that the biggest difficulty people face on a daily basis is resolving ethical dilemmas. The most challenging of those dilemmas are between two choices that could conceivably be right. Kidder illustrated this theory through a story about an Ohio librarian who was faced with an ethical dilemma when approached by police to disclose personal information on a library patron without a warrant.

During the “Brother Can You Spare a Dime? ACRL 2009 Strategic Thinking Guide for Academic Librarians in the New Economy” session, panelists discussed the current economic and financial turmoil affecting higher education. The discussion focused on three key drivers that impact the future of academic libraries: the economy, student body and technology. Panelists stressed the need to think strategically during economic hard times through conversation, planning and action in academic libraries. The Strategic Thinking Guide is available at

The Cyber Zed Shed was jam-packed with attendees every day listening to brief 15 minute sessions on new and emerging technologies including mobile devices, pop-culture multimedia, animated subject maps, LibGuides and Sprout. The traditional poster session format also proved to be as popular as ever with attendees filling the extra-wide aisles to view and discuss the 150 posters that were presented.

Participants were also treated to a Keynote Session headlined by award-winning novelist, poet and screenplay writer, Sherman Alexie. Alexie shared a few of his poems and discussed how librarians are important because they give users a part of themselves by helping them learn about their past and empowering users to tell their stories about the world around them.

The 2009 conference was the most environmentally-friendly event ever held by ACRL. Eighty percent of conference attendees signed a “Green Pledge” that committed them to put sustainable ideas into practice while at the conference, and more than 240,000 pieces of paper were saved through green initiatives such as: digital handouts posted to the Virtual Conference Web site; bags and badge holders made of recycled materials; program books printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink; electronic press kits for the media; a green-themed opening reception; and donations of surplus food and promotional items to local charities. Invited Green Speaker Robin Chase co-founder of Zipcar and CEO of GoLoco, discussed and lead conversations regarding the roles libraries can play in shaping minds and ideas in a new world of increasingly scarce global resources.

The Exhibit Hall was filled with more than 225 exhibiting companies including top book publishers, who discussed and demonstrated the latest in products and services for academic libraries and their users. This is the highest number of exhibiting companies in the history of ACRL National Conferences.

The next ACRL National Conference, themed “A Declaration of Interdependence,” will be held in 2011 in Philadelphia from March 30 – April 2.

ACRL's 13,000 members are comprised of individuals from a wide range of academic institutions, publishers and vendors who sell in the academic marketplace. It is the largest individual membership academic library association in North America. The core purpose of the Association of College & Research Libraries is to lead academic and research librarians and libraries in advancing learning and scholarship. ACRL is a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

ACRL spokespeople are available for interviews. Interested media may contact Macey Morales, ACRL Media Relations, at 312-280-4393 or Jennifer Petersen, PR Coordinator at 312-280-5043 to schedule interviews.



Seattle 2009

“Pushing the Edge: Explore, Engage, Extend”

Registrants (Face-to-face): 2,908

Participants (Virtual Conference): 355

Guests/Staff/Others: 352

Exhibitors: 1,061

Total: 4,321

Baltimore 2007

"Sailing into the Future, Charting our Destiny"

Registrants: 3,069

Participants (Virtual Conference): 100

Guests/Staff/Others: 452

Exhibitors: 1,263

Total: 4,784

Minneapolis 2005

"Currents and Convergence: Navigating the Rivers of Change"

Registrants: 2,864

Participants (Virtual Conference): 80

Guests/Staff/Others: 268

Exhibitors: 814

Total: 3,946