ALA forges new path with Midwinter Virtual

For Immediate Release
Wed, 01/27/2021


Donna Hunter

Marketing Specialist

Conference Services

American Library Association

CHICAGO — The American Library Association hosted the 107th and final Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits online Jan. 22-26, 2021. The event attracted more than  7,100 participants.

The second ALA conference to be presented virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Midwinter Virtual connected librarians and library workers and offered inspiring educational sessions, featuring tools and best practices to navigate new paths in this time of uncertainty.

The conference offered more than 30 educational sessions in the Symposium on the Future of Libraries and News You Can Use programs; more than 25 ALA Division-hosted discussion groups; peer-to-peer live chat opportunities; and more than 50 committee meetings, most of which were open to observers.

ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. opened the event by welcoming attendees and noting that librarians have faced the need to pivot during the pandemic with innovation and resilience.

Opening session speakers Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain discussed their co-edited book, “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,” a "choral history" of African Americans covering 400 years of history in the voices of 80 writers. The ALA President’s Program featured Joy Harjo, a member of the Muskogee (Creek) Nation and the first Indigenous US Poet Laureate, who read several poems, including, “My Man’s Feet” from her latest collection, “An American Sunrise.” Other featured speakers included actor, author and member of the New York Public Library Board of Trustees Ethan Hawke, who lauded libraries; actor and author Cicely Tyson, who shared stories from her memoir, “Just As I Am;” Grammy-winning musician and children’s book author (“Music Is in Everything” and “My Dog Romeo”) Ziggy Marley, who explained his motivation for writing his children’s books; author Natalie Baszile, who offered a heart-rending discussion about her new non-fiction book, “We Are Each Other’s Harvest: A Celebration of African American Farmers, Land & Legacy”; and author Emmanuel Acho, who explained why he chose to write his first book, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”

Special featured guests included National Youth Poet Laureate and Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman, who read from her lyrical picture book debut “Change Sings,” and U.S. Senator Jack Reed who, in his special interview with ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr., spoke of his advocacy for public libraries and how it stems from a desire to help library staff on the front lines tackle such issues as information literacy and the digital divide.

Attendees visited with more than 220 participating exhibitors and enjoyed programs on 11 presentation stages in the Library Marketplace: Exhibits, Stages & Resources. They could browse Library Champion Spotlight sessions featuring new book titles; Book Buzz Bites; “Live from the 25”, a podcast listening booth; the “Festival of Shorts,” featuring short films and trailers; the Diversity in Publishing Showcase, an exhibit of diverse books and authors; and Swag-a-Palooza, with hundreds of free items for attendees. The Library Marketplace was open to all attendees from Jan. 22-25.

Attendees also enjoyed Library Marketplace keynote presenters, including comics authors Stan Sakai, Max Brooks and Christian Cooper; children’s book authors Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson; HGTV host and new author Mina Starsiak-Hawk; organizational psychologist and author Adam Grant; and activist Ruby Bridges in conversation with Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress.

A highlight for many members of the library community and beyond, the celebration of the annual ALA Youth Media Awards honored the top books, digital media, video and audiobooks for children and young adults—including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards. The John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature was awarded to “When You Trap a Tiger,” written by Tae Keller, and the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children went to “We Are Water Protectors,” illustrated by Michaela Goade.

Another fan favorite, the I Love My Librarian Awards, were presented to 10 outstanding winners, whose exemplary service positively impacted their communities. The winners came from academic, public and school libraries and were nominated by patrons nationwide for their expertise and dedication to their work. ALA received 1,865 nominations for this year’s award, and the 10 winners demonstrated the incredible achievements of librarians across the country. Their swift and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic included hosting virtual programs, distributing books and technology safely to those in need, and ensuring uninterrupted access to books and resources.

Before the closing session, ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Jr. announced the long-awaited new meeting concept from ALA. Kicking off January 2022 in San Antonio, LibLearnX (LLX), the library learning experience, will be a dynamic, member-focused education experience designed to motivate, inspire, and engage attendees in discussions that will shape the future of libraries and their communities. LLX will emphasize active and applied learning, networking opportunities for library professionals and a celebration of the positive impact libraries have on society.

First Lady Jill Biden, in a memorable closing session conversation with Jefferson, shared her commitment to education and literacy—and her love for libraries. Dr. Biden addressed the audience of librarians saying, “Never forget that what you’re doing matters. Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you. Someone is standing a little taller because you helped them find the confidence they need.”

Event sponsors included EBSCOGale, a Cengage companyOverDriveOCLCinnovative, a ProQuest Company, and Mango Languages. ALA Student Members and library professionals who have been furloughed, laid off, or are experiencing a reduction of paid work hours attended the event at no cost.For additional event information please visit the 2021 ALA Midwinter Virtual websiteALA Instagram, @ALAConferencesALA Facebook, and follow hashtag, #alamw21.