2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits – offering visions of hope

For Immediate Release
Fri, 02/07/2020


Donna Hunter

Marketing Specialist

Conference Services

American Library Association


PHILADELPHIA – Libraries are at the heart of our communities, supplying information and resources for people to find what they need to improve their quality of life. Often, the library is the first point of contact in connecting people with very serious needs to other community agencies.

From Jan. 24-28, the American Library Association (ALA) hosted its 2020 Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and nearby locations.  The conference was attended by more than 8,000, including more than 2,600 U.S. exhibitors, and offered peers and leaders a wide variety of educational sessions, keynote presentations, and social gatherings.  It featured enlightening sessions and speakers who affirmed the many ways that libraries work to transform lives through innovative educational resources and programs.

The power of libraries to lift up, provide pathways to hope, and offer second chances echoed through the words of featured speakers.

The conference opened with bestselling author and social entrepreneur Wes Moore, who talked about the need for community support and how libraries have consistently sustained their communities, and his new book, “Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City,” a kaleidoscopic account of five days in the life of a city on the edge after Freddie Gray’s death, available Spring 2020.  

As a special guest of ALA President Wanda K. Brown, Chef Jeff Henderson shared a powerful message at the ALA President’s Program. While in prison for drug trafficking, Henderson discovered, almost by accident, a passion for cooking while working in the prison kitchen. With fierce determination and people who believed in him, he eventually became the first African American chef at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, which led to an executive chef position at Café Bellagio. He has written four books, produced a Food Network reality TV series, and is a well-admired speaker.

Artist and author Chanel Miller closed the Midwinter Meeting with an inspiring video illustrating what libraries mean to her. Miller, who stunned the world with a victim impact statement after a sexual assault on the Stanford University campus, talked about what, and who gives her hope as she moves forward. Her new book, “Know My Name: a memoir,” is available now. 

Visionary storyteller and author Echo Brown motivated attendees when she admitted that although she grew up in one of the poorest cities in the nation, she looks at her life as a series of miracles, each setback leading to a new opportunity. Her first book, “Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard,” is available now.

Two-time Olympic bronze medalists and the first ice dancers of Asian descent to medal at the Olympics, Maia and Alex Shibutani charmed the audience when they talked about their experiences in the sport and their writing debut for “KUDO KIDS: The Mystery of the Masked Medalist,” the first in a middle-grade series, available May 2020.

The Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture was given by poet and novelist Julia Alvarez. Alvarez, talked of how books and stories can help us, across the world, understand and identify with each other. Her first book for adults, the novel “Afterlife,” will be available Spring 2020.

The very popular Youth Media Awards honored books, videos, and other outstanding materials for children and teens. Attendees were in their seats waiting to cheer on the 2020 YMA winners.

New at the Midwinter Meeting was the I Love My Librarian Awards. The national award recognizes the outstanding public service contributions of librarians working in public, school, college, community college or university libraries who transform communities and improve lives. Ten winners were selected from more than 1,950 nominations submitted by library users nationwide.

After the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, the Exhibit Hall opened to an energetic group of attendees waiting to meet face-to-face with the more than 270 knowledgeable organizations onsite. The PopTop Live Stage featured favorite book genres with readings, discussions, panels, and presentations.  The Book Buzz Theater was where the newest titles from our favorite publishers would be announced.

Sponsored by ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries, the Symposium on the Future of Libraries features sessions exploring the near-term trends already inspiring innovation in libraries and the longer-term trends that will help libraries adapt to the needs of their communities. For the fourth consecutive year, concurrent sessions were dedicated to education, technology, diversity and inclusion, government, and social justice. News You Can Use sessions offered the latest updates from experts on policy, research, statistics, technology, and more, based on new surveys, reports, legislation/regulation, and projects.

Find additional coverage of specific Midwinter Meeting events, speakers, awards, and more in the American Libraries magazine.

Channels for active communication before, during, and after ALA conferences includes blogs, the Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits website; Twitter (@alamw and #alamw20), Facebook Events, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Midwinter Meeting videos can be found on YouTube or search 2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, or hashtag @alamw20.

A link to the 2020 ALA Midwinter Meeting session recordings will be made available four-six weeks after the conference. Social media and virtual meetings will help continue Midwinter Meeting conversations, which will be picked up again face-to-face at the 2020 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition, June 25-30, 2020 in Chicago.  Registration is now open.