American Library Association cancels 2020 Annual Conference due to COVID-19

For Immediate Release
Tue, 03/24/2020


Communications and Marketing Office

ALA Media Relations


CHICAGO — The American Library Association’s Executive Board announced today that the 2020 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition scheduled for June 25-30 in Chicago has been canceled. 

“ALA’s priority is the health and safety of the library community, including our members, staff, supporters, vendors and volunteers,” said Wanda K. Brown, ALA president. “As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, it’s become clear that in the face of an unprecedented situation, we need to make tough choices.” 

2020 will mark the first time in 75 years that ALA has not held an Annual Conference. The last cancellation took place in 1945 as World War II neared its end. 

“We recognize the magnitude of this decision for the association and our membership,” said Tracie D. Hall, ALA executive director. “The Annual Conference brings together tens of thousands of passionate professionals and hundreds of authors and exhibitors every year to celebrate the transformative work of libraries across the country and around the world. Our coming together not only galvanizes the library and information profession and its stakeholders, but also provides opportunities for attendees to explore and connect with our host cities. This year, we were especially looking forward to the conference taking place in ALA’s hometown of Chicago; however, the well-being of our library community, staff and fellow Chicago residents has to be the number one concern, and that drove our decision-making."

Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., ALA president-elect, agreed: “At this unprecedented and historic time the health and safety of our members and their families are our primary concern. I want us all to focus on our collective health so we may live to advocate for libraries and library workers another day.” 

Brown continued, “I am so sorry that this difficult decision had to be made, but I am certain that it is the right one. One of our greatest strengths is our ability to adapt and reinvent ourselves when needed the most. May these challenging and uncertain times find us working even closer together so that our libraries, our communities, our association and our families will all thrive.” 

ALA supporters EBSCO Information ServicesFollett | Baker & TaylorGale, a Cengage CompanyHarperCollinsOverDrive, Penguin Random House, ProQuest and Simon & Schuster also offered words of support. 

The association will be working with conference registrants directly over the coming weeks. As well, ALA staff, in partnership with ALA member leaders, are developing plans to carry out the important business of the association, such as council and board meetings. 

“Although this is a great disappointment, ALA is far from the only organization taking a hard look at its events,” Hall said. “We are using this to fuel our planning for Midwinter conference in Indianapolis in January 2021 and look forward to Annual Conference 2021 scheduled to be held in Chicago. We want to make both of those meetings incredible experiences. We want them to serve as opportunities for the profession to regroup and recharge.”

About the American Library Association

ALA is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, ALA has been the trusted voice of libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit   

“EBSCO appreciates the value of coming together at ALA and we will miss the opportunity to do so in June. But, we certainly understand and agree with the decision that has been made by ALA leadership to cancel the ALA Annual Conference.   Now is time to focus on our collective health and safety as the top priority. EBSCO is proud to be part of a larger community that has rallied together during these challenging times.” —Scott Bernier, senior vice president, EBSCO Information Services 

“The Follett | Baker & Taylor team supports the difficult decision made by ALA to cancel this year’s Annual Conference. Each year, we look forward to the opportunity to connect in person with the ALA community, but the health and safety of attendees comes first. We realize that libraries are facing unique challenges during this time and applaud the work librarians are doing to continue serving their communities. As your partner, we are here to support you in any way possible.” —Britten Follett, executive vice president, Follett School Solutions and Amandeep Kochar, executive vice president and general manager, Baker & Taylor

“Gale applauds the ALA for making this difficult decision quickly, so we can all stay focused on prioritizing the safety and health of our teams first, while providing the essential content and services our students and communities need as they navigate rapid shifts to online learning and the closure of physical libraries. We remain a committed partner to the ALA and active advocate for the library community; and embrace this opportunity to work together to find new ways of offering continuity of curriculum and programs during this crisis and beyond.” —Paul Gazzolo, senior vice president and general manager at Gale, a Cengage company

“Although disappointed that we will not be able to gather for this important event that allows us to engage so fully with librarians and their work, HarperCollins fully understands and respects the difficult decision made by the American Library Association. We will work with ALA in the coming days and weeks between now and the Midwinter 2021 meeting where we will next convene on creative ways to promote other opportunities to bring our authors and librarians together to serve America’s library patrons.” —Virginia Stanley, director, library marketing, HarperCollins Publishers 

“Penguin Random House supports ALA’s decision to cancel their annual conference this year. We value our partnership with ALA and will continue to work with them and their members to explore news ways we can connect libraries, readers, and communities moving forward.” -—Skip Dye, SVP, Library Sales and Digital Strategy, SVP, Sales Operations, Penguin Random House 

“While we know this decision is incredibly difficult for ALA, prioritizing the health and safety of ALA members, vendors and staff is the right thing to do. We value our longstanding relationships with the library community and are looking forward to connecting in person as soon as circumstances permit. ProQuest’s support of our customers and ALA is unwavering; we are here to help libraries and their users, especially in this unprecedented environment.” —Jim Holmes, ProQuest senior vice president, Global Sales and Marketing  

“We support ALA’s leadership to make this decision regarding ALA Annual in the best interests of the membership.  We are confident, as we have already witnessed in the past week, that all ALA members will continue to connect with each other, exchange information and strengthen their communities in the absence of the summer conference.” —Steve Potash, CEO, OverDrive 

"While we were looking forward to meeting in person with our friends in the library community, Simon & Schuster fully supports ALA in its timely and proper decision regarding this summer’s annual meeting.  Our work with libraries is a year-round endeavor, and especially in this time of crisis we will work closely with our library colleagues on programs and initiatives so that they can continue to provide their vital services to patrons in their local communities." —Michelle Leo, vice president, director of Education & Library Marketing, Simon & Schuster