Public Library Association 13th National Conference comes to a close in Portland

Contact: Macey Morales

PLA Media Relations



For Immediate Release

March 29, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore -- After five days of workshops, programs and events devoted to enhancing public library service, best-selling author Sarah Vowell brought the Public Library Association’s (PLA) 13th National Conference to a close. Nearly 8,000 library staff, supporters, exhibitors, authors and guests gathered at the Oregon Convention Center for various workshops and discussions that focused on such key issues as advocacy, technology, literacy and serving adults and youth.

“Since the Great Depression, our nation’s libraries have never played such an important role in the communities that they serve,” said PLA President Sari Feldman. “From job-seekers to families that are trying to make ends meet, libraries are on the front lines of helping Americans get back on their feet. Yet as library visits and circulation increase, library budgets across the country are in shambles. This year’s conference provided a national platform to share ideas on how to prepare to weather the perfect storm that is brewing in many of our communities.”

Conference attendees had access to such economy driven programs as “Tough Decisions in Tough Times,” “Don’t Play Dead When Facing Life-Threatening Budget Cuts” and “Cents and Sensibility: Will your Technology Pay Off?” among others.

In addition, the conference provided the occasion for the release of “Opportunity for All: How the American Public Benefits from Internet Access at U.S. Libraries,” a study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which shows that nearly one-third of Americans age 14 or older-roughly 77 million people – used a public library computer or wireless network to access the Internet in the past year. The report is the first large –scale study of who uses public computers and Internet access in public libraries.

Preconference programming included a luncheon featuring acclaimed author Patrick Somerville (“The Cradle”), who discussed the important role libraries have within their communities and encouraged attendees to reach out to their favorite authors and ask them for books to place in their libraries. “It is far more valuable for someone to read my work then to buy it,” said Somerville.

Nancy Pearl’s preconference event “Book Buzz” drew a large and enthusiastic crowd. Pearl led a lively discussion focusing on her picks of the best upcoming books with panelists Marcia Purcell, VP and director of Library Marketing, Random House; Talia Sherer, director of Library Marketing, Macmillan; Virginia Stanley, director of Library Marketing, HarperCollins; and Alan Walker, senior director of Academic Marketing and Sales, Penguin/Putnam.

The conference opened with a heartfelt performance by Natalie Merchant. Before a crowd of more than 2,000, Merchant performed several songs from her new album “Leave Your Sleep,” a compilation of poems and nursery rhymes set to music. Audience members jumped to their feet as Merchant leaped from the stage while performing “Kind and Generous.” Merchant had to stop to compose herself and fought back tears as she shook audience members’ hands. “Thank you for being librarians,” she said as she made her way through the crowd.

Taking the stage after Merchant was Opening Session speaker and Pulitzer Prize – winning columnist Nick Kristof. Kristof moved audience members as he spoke of the importance of women’s rights in the developing world and his admiration for libraries and librarians. As a child he viewed librarians as superheroes and spent a majority of his time in the library. After his speech Kristof signed copies of his latest book, “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.”

Best-selling author Scott Turow served as keynote speaker for Thursday’s Adult Author Luncheon. Turow discussed his origins as a writer and spoke about his latest novel “Innocent,” which follows the characters of “Presumed Innocent” 20 years later. Turow said his courtroom experience showed him the dramatic power of crime and how successful prosecutors must also be compelling storytellers. During his presentation Turow stated “there really is no substitute for writing other than writing….You have to write and you have to read.”

Gamely speaking while battling a cold, Young Adult Luncheon guest Virginia Euwer Wolff discussed the importance of innovation in writing. Euwer drew audience members in by her lyrical and descriptive speaking style. She shared stories about her mother, characters and transformation of her writing style. She spoke of the need to take the lead, challenge the norm and be inspired by other art forms.

Other conference speakers included:
Chelsea Cain, author,“Confessions of a Teen Sleuth”;
Sue Grafton and
Judy Kaye, authors, “U Is for Undertow”;
Marcia Muller, author, “Locked In”; Kadir Nelson, author/illustrator, “Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit”; and
Luis Alberto Urrea, author, “The Devil's Highway.”

Those who were not able to attend the conference in Portland, Ore., had an opportunity to join their colleagues via the Web. Online subscribers participated in such activities as live, interactive Webcasts and workshops; online poster sessions; access to handouts and other presentation materials; and both general and subject-focused discussion boards.

The best-selling items in the PLA Store were PLA Conference T-shirts and baby items. The store sold out of Percy Jackson posters and bookmarks and Friends posters. Parents, teachers and others can continue to find many of these bestsellers, including celebrity READ posters online at

The conference offered access to 400 exhibiting companies, including top book publishers, who showcased the latest in products and services for public libraries and their users.

To learn more about the largest association devoted to public libraries, please visit To reach PLA, please contact ALA Media Relations Manager Macey Morales at (312)280-4393, or

The PLA 14th National Conference will be held in Philadelphia. March 13 – 17, 2012.