The Road to Annual Presidential Tour

ALA President Emily Drabinski is touring the country this June to highlight the contributions of American libraries to their communities.
The Road to Annual: Illustration of a bus with the text "Honk of you love libraries" traversing a map of the United States with a final destination at ALA Annual in San Diego.

ALA President Emily Drabinski's “The Road to Annual” tour kicks off on June 3 at Cranston Public Library in Rhode Island where Drabinski will highlight the importance of federal support for libraries and the Right to Read Act.

“Libraries do good work and the goal of this tour is to elevate libraries across different communities and show how they are fundamental to our country.” —ALA President Emily Drabinski.

The tour will include stops in West Virginia, Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona culminating in San Diego at ALA Annual Conference.

With the support of the Lannan Foundation, filmmaker Nikita Carpenter will join the tour to document the work happening at the selected libraries. A reel will air during the President’s Program at Annual Conference in San Diego. A full documentary film will be made available after.

Revisit this page and follow ALA social media channels for updates from "The Road to Annual." And if you haven't already done so, you can register for ALA Annual here.

X (Twitter): @ALALibrary; Instagram: @americanlibraryassociation; Threads: @americanlibraryassociation; Facebook: @AmericanLibraryAssociation


Wednesday, June 12

A tall Whataburger sign at dusk.

We turned left out of Topeka and drove for hours and hours south and west through Oklahoma and into the panhandle of Texas. Our stops were several, food and snacks and another cup of coffee. Leah drove the first half of the day and I drove the second, cruising into the Whataburger at Exit 68B on I-40 West. Nikita told us about his library growing up in Savannah, Georgia. Apparently it’s the very best library on the planet, which is funny because so is mine.

Mileage: 557

Soundtrack: If Books Could Kill, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Tuesday, June 11

Sign on Rossville Community Library

The library in Rossville, Kansas, serves a population of just over 1000 residents as well as people from surrounding towns who flock to Rossville Community Library to take advantage of its services and resources. The library boasts some of the strongest Wi-Fi in the area (“You’ll see people on the swing shift parked here at 2am”), a book club that has been meeting monthly for seventeen years, an after school “Snack Attack” program, even children’s bingo, the boisterous and heavily-attended event that pushed our interviews to a building next door.

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Monday, June 10

Otter Bowman, Emily Drabinski, and Megan Durham pose together with big smiles in the Daniel Boone Public Library

I drove from Columbia to St. Louis to pick up my laptop and then drove back to Columbia. Happy to get “forgot my laptop” out of the way!

We met Erin Magner and Angela Scott at the entrance of Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia, Missouri, and they ushered us inside to get set up to interview a number of community partners. Libraries are fantastic collaborators, building connections between organizations that expand the power and reach of everyone. We talked with Daniel Cox, a longtime volunteer with DBRL’s Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program.

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Sunday, June 9

Emily Drabinski and Tom Bober, MASL President and librarian at Captain Elementary School, pose with smiles in a school library/

We met Tom Bober at Clayton High School in Clayton, Missouri, at 9:30 a.m. Ours were the only two cars in the parking lot, a situation that would drastically change a couple hours later when families bearing flowers streamed in to celebrate young children at a local dance recital. Missouri school librarians like Bober have been working under extremely challenging conditions since the passage of SB 775 in 2022. The law criminalizes “explicit sexual materials” in schools and libraries, language that “hits those constitutional law words ‘vague’ and ‘overbroad,” according to Gillian Wilcox, Deputy Director for Litigation at ACLU Missouri.

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Saturday, June 8

Sign at the entrance to Abraham Lincoln's Boyhood Home.

We headed west on I-64 toward our next stop just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. I’m a sucker for a National Parks Passport stamp, so when we saw the sign for President Abraham Lincoln’s Boyhood Home, I took exit 57A, drove for ten minutes, and promptly got lost and couldn’t find a parking lot. (This will surprise no one who knows me.) We tucked the van under a tree on a stretch of gravel next to the road and walked twenty minutes down a path past the Lincoln family farm to the visitor center.

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Friday, June 7

ALA President Emily Drabinski with Aaron Stone at WVOW radio in Logan, West Virginia.

I started the day talking libraries with Aaron Stone at WVOW radio in Logan, West Virginia. It was a great conversation touching on the fantastic work being done at Buffalo Creek Memorial Library and in libraries across West Virginia. So many things happen online these days–it was great to walk up a couple flights of stairs, get in studio, put on a headset, and watch Stone run his audio board. It really felt like doing radio.

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Thursday, June 6

Elizabeth Tackett, Mackenzie New Walker, Emily Drabinski, and Thomas Jude pose with smiles at the Buffalo Creek Public Library in Man, West Virgina

“If we don't have the answer, we’ll find someone who does,” says Elizabeth Tackett, former director of the Buffalo Creek Memorial Library. “If we can’t solve the problem, we’ll figure out who can.” That’s the spirit of coal country. “Everyone here is family,” director Eddie Tackett tells us.

700 people live in Man and roughly 15,000 in the surrounding area. The library is “the beating heart” of this community, board president Gretchen Donahue tells us.

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Wednesday, June 5

Chickens in a yard in Logan, West Virginia

Today was another long driving day south and west through Maryland and into southern West Virginia. We had a meetup in Charleston at noon so left Virginia early enough to miss beltway traffic. The mountains of Maryland and West Virginia aren’t like the ones back home where I grew up in Idaho. These mountains roll. We ebbed and flowed on the concrete for hundreds of miles through driving rain and the gaps between storms.

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Tuesday, June 4

Photo taken from a car window as it crosses a bridge. In the car's side mirror is a reflection of the person holding the camera, ALA President Emily Drabinski.

I have been low-key worrying about this stretch of I-95 for months. Will there be traffic, will it take too long. It turns out there’s traffic, and it takes long enough, for sure, we didn’t need it to be any longer than that, wow.

We woke up in Rhode Island and said goodnight in Virginia, halfway to our next library.

Mileage: 478

Soundtrack: Big Thief, American History Tellers: Coal Wars

Monday, June 3

Rhode Island State Representative David Morales records an interview with ALA President Emily Drabinski at Cranston Public Library.

When we asked Jessica David, President of the Cranston Public Library Association, about her first library memories, she described a feeling of abundance. “As a child, I could leave the library with an armful of books, and no one would stop me.” The library belonged to David, along with everything inside it, the books as much hers as anyone else’s. For David, her avid use of the library comes with a responsibility to defend it and expand it. The crucial role advocates like David play in growing libraries and their communities was just part of the story we captured on film in Cranston today.

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Sunday, June 2

Nikita Carpenter Jr. and ALA President Emily Drabinski pose near a sign at the Rhode Island Visitor Center.

It isn’t easy getting out of New York City. Joining a million other drivers in traffic can feel like entering a drive test simulator, dogs and bikes and kids chasing balls into the road while you dart around double-parked cars. And it isn’t any easier when you’re driving a van big enough to hold a full suite of documentary film equipment. (Note to my parallel-parking self: you’re longer than you think!) We took it slow and after an hour and change our nose was pointed north on I-95 toward the first stop on our Road to Annual: Cranston (R.I.) Public Library.

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