2019 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition—Sending a message of advocacy for libraries

For Immediate Release
Mon, 07/08/2019


Donna Hunter


Conference Services

American Library Association


CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) hosted its 138th Annual Conference & Exhibition (https://2019.alaannual.org), June 20-25, in Washington, DC. The conference was attended by more than 21,400 librarians, library workers and library supporters (including more than 6,800 exhibitors) from across the world.

ALA took advantage of the conference’s location in the nation’s capital to send #FundLibraries messages to the Senate. During the Opening General Session, ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo asked audience members to pull out their cell phones and text the word “library” to a pre-arranged number. In less than five minutes, more than 4,000 messages were sent to Senators—and the numbers climbed throughout conference.

Attendees heard from such notables as George Takei, actor, activist and author of “They Called Us Enemy, and Tomi Adeyemi, author of the book and soon-to-be movie “Children of Blood and Bone.” The ALA President’s Program featured speaker Nnedi Okorafor, author of the book and soon-to-be HBO movie “Who Fears Death.” Other speakers included Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler, who wrote “CURSED” and are currently executive producers of a 10-part Netflix series of the same name, and Opening General Session speaker and author of “Long Way Down” Jason Reynolds. Besides the genre of Young Adult and science-fiction/fantasy, these authors shared another common bond, the strong desire to encourage a younger generation by sharing past adversity.

Journalist Hoda Kotb, author of “You Are My Happy,” Mariana Atencio  of “Perfectly You,” and Mo Rocca, Closing General Session speaker and author of “Mobituaries,” gave moving presentations. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden invited Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology and author of “Palaces for the People, as her special guest, to discuss the importance of libraries and the unique services they provide to the community.

With more than 1,800 programs and over 2,500 events taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and nearby locations, much of the program content focused on ALA’s four strategic directions: advocacy; information policy; professional and leadership development; and equity, diversity and inclusion.

On the first day of the conference, ALA asked that attendees wear rainbow colors or pick up an inclusive rainbow pin at Registration to honor the LGBTQ community, the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall riots and World Pride month. This year also marks the 50th Anniversary of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood. This year’s recipients were Claire Hartfield, author of “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919,” and Ekua Holmes, illustrator of ”The Stuff of Stars.” In Holmes’ acceptance speech, she said as a child she and her cousin would make their own books because there weren’t books in her library about or for African American children. “These stories deserve to be heard and appreciated,” she said.

The Exhibit Floor opened immediately after the Opening General Session with a ribbon cutting and reception. More than 900 companies and organizations showcasing the latest technologies, titles, services and products were on hand to meet with an excited crowd of attendees. The Exhibit Floor offered five LIVE stages (Book Buzz Theater, PopTop, What’s Cooking @ ALA, Chapter One and Graphic Novels and Gaming), each allowing attendees an opportunity to meet and engage with top authors. Now Showing @ ALA, an on-site movie theater, screened 17 films and documentaries.

New to the many offered pavilions on-site was the Diversity in Publishing Pavilion, an area of exhibits from diverse publishers, and a companion Diversity Publisher Showcase that lives online during and after the conference. The Pavilion was a home for a wide range of titles, publications and displays, one of which was a traveling exhibit dedicated to the Coretta Scott Book Awards, developed by the National Center for Children’s Literature (NCCIL).

2018-2019 ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo passed the gavel to newly elected ALA President Wanda Kay Brown at the final event of the conference. Brown’s four principle areas of focus for the next year include education; inclusion; intellectual freedom and information literacy; and professional development.

ALA association business was conducted throughout the conference, including resolutions discussed by ALA Council, among them the Melvil Dewey Medal name change. The Melvil Dewey Medal is awarded annually by ALA to a person who displays creative leadership of high order in the fields of library management; library training; cataloging and classification; and the tools and techniques of librarianship. It was cited by ALA Council to remove the name from the honor, citing Dewey’s legacy of antisemitism, sexual harassment and racism. A new name has yet to be released.

Find additional coverage of specific Annual Conference events, speakers, awards and more in American Libraries’ Annual Conference coverage (https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/tag/alaac19/) and Cognotes (https://2019.alaannual.org/general-information/news). Channels for active communication before, during and after ALA conferences include blogs, Twitter (https://twitter.com/alaannual?lang=en), Facebook events (https://www.facebook.com/events/753718321640208/), Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/alaannual/2019-ala-annual-conference-june-20-25-2019/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/americanlibraryassociation/). The Annual Conference hashtag is #alaac19. ALA News can be found at (http://www.ala.org/news/).

Annual Conference videos produced by Cognotes editors are on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLY6JdvV7ZFZv84oqmGuwvxVsYzwpQpJKQ). A link to Annual Conference session recordings will be made available four to six weeks post conference to all attendees. Social media and virtual meetings will help continue Annual Conference conversations and will be picked up again face to face at the 2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, Jan. 24-28 in Philadelphia. The 2020 Midwinter Meeting will include a Symposium on the Future of Libraries and registration will open at Noon (Central) Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019.

The 2020 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition will be hosted on June 25-30 in Chicago.