Winds of Change | ALA 2017 Preview

In some ways, the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference’s return to Chicago represents a tried and tested winner. Annual and the Midwinter Meeting alike both frequently revisit ALA’s home ground, where the central location helps ensure a high turnout. In other ways, however, this year’s get-together is all about change.

The American Library Association’s annual conference returns to the Windy City June 22–27

In some ways, the American Library Association (ALA) annual conference’s return to Chicago represents a tried and tested winner. Annual and the Midwinter Meeting alike both frequently revisit ALA’s home ground, where the central location helps ensure a high turnout. In other ways, however, this year’s get-together is all about change.

Externally, the political climate in which ALA and libraries operate is highly volatile: while President Trump’s attempt to zero out funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) came to naught in the 2017 federal budget cycle (see p. 14), in part owing to impassioned advocacy, the effort signaled that nothing can be assumed to be off limits and that the pressure is on to defend funding for 2018. State and local funding are also under pressure, not only from direct cuts to libraries but from cuts elsewhere in budgets that push more responsibilities back on cities and towns. Learning how to fight back effectively without being constantly on the defensive—and buying into a narrative of threats to libraries’ very existence that omits the possibility of growth—is one of the key agenda items for many librarians at conference and afterward.

Internally, ALA is also in a time of transition. As longtime executive director Keith Michael Fiels and ALA Washington Office head Emily Sheketoff depart, the organization is tasked with finding new leaders who can guide the association through challenging times and on to new triumphs. The direction some of those efforts will take is already clear: at Midwinter in Atlanta, ALA Council added equity, diversity, and inclusion as a fourth strategic direction for the organization, and those thematics are deeply embedded in the program offerings for annual, including several ticketed events that were already sold out at press time.

Also on the agenda is getting more nimble in response to late-breaking news. In that regard, ALA certainly expects librarians to practice what they preach: the association scheduled a surprise closing session speaker whose identity was revealed at the last minute—Hillary Clinton! Below, LJ’s ­editors attending annual share some of the sessions they’re hoping to catch.—Meredith Schwartz

Mahnaz Dar

Assistant Managing Editor

Healthy Aging @ Your Library: Connecting Older Adults to Health Information Sat., Jun. 24, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W175b) Are your oldest patrons being served? This session discusses how to help seniors access health-related information, touching on everything from navigating websites to coming up with appropriate programming. I Am Not a Lawyer: Providing Copyright Services in Libraries Sat., Jun. 24, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W178b) What do you do when patrons approach the reference desk with daunting queries about intellectual property, licensing, and permissions? Don’t panic—panelists Collette Mak, outreach and scholarly communications librarian, Univ. of Notre Dame, and Cindy Kristof, head of copyright and document services at Kent State, have answers. Solidarity in Action: Combating Xenophobia and Islamophobia Sun., Jun. 25, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W183b) With anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise in the wake of Donald Trump’s campaign speeches and his executive order attempting to ban those from Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, ensuring that all members of the library community feel welcome is especially crucial now. Deepa Iyer, senior fellow of the Center for Social Inclusion and author of We Too Sing America: South Asian, Muslim, Arab, and Sikh Communities Shape Our Multiracial Future (New Pr.) will discuss ways to combat xenophobia and ­Islamophobia. Helping Library Users Navigate Fake News Sun., Jun. 25, 10:30–11:30 a.m. (MCP W187c) Distinguishing “fake news!” from solid facts is harder than ever, but librarians are in a strong position to do something about it. Information literacy expert Joanna M. Burkhardt lays out just how to teach patrons to vet sources and reject misinformation—in short, how to foster a knowledgeable and skeptical populace. International Comics—Culture & Creation Beyond America Sun. Jun. 25, 1–2:30 p.m. (Hyatt Regency McCormick, Jackson Park/MCP 10ab) Graphic novels have long been one of my top formats, and some of my all-time favorites hail from beyond our shores (from Tsugumi Ohba’s manga “Death Note” to Penelope Bagieu’s recent California Dreamin’), so I’m eagerly awaiting this session about comics creation and fandom across the globe.

Matt Enis

Senior Editor, Technology

Collaborating To Promote Cultural Identity in Public Libraries Through the Portal to Texas History Sat., Jun. 24, 10:30–11:30 a.m. (MCP W181b) Jacob Mangum and Ana Krahmer from the Univ. of North Texas Libraries (UNT) will discuss “The Portal to Texas History,” a digital library created by UNT to digitize and build access to photographs, court records, maps, news videos, newspapers, and other historically relevant materials from the region. What Happens to the Library Catalog in the Age of Linked Data? Sat., Jun. 24, 3–4 p.m. (MCP S101) The title says it all, and this looks like a great panel, with John Chapman from OCLC, Stephen Meyer from the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries (UWM), David Pimentel from Denver PL, and Philip Schreur from Stanford. Debra Shapiro from UWM will moderate. The group will discuss a range of topics, including how linked data can impact the discovery of library materials on the open web and how the transition from MARC to linked data might impact cataloging. Implicit Bias in Tech: What Libraries Can Do To Shift This Dynamic Sat., Jun. 24, 3–4 p.m. (MCP W181b) Presenters from Google will discuss the company’s recent research into this issue, as well as Google’s efforts to address biases that may discourage people from choosing to pursue computer science or coding education as a career. With attendees, they will explore ways in which libraries can help address these problems. Re-Skilling for a Digital Future: Developing Capabilities and Capacities in Digital Scholarship for Academic Librarians Sun., Jun. 25, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W187c) Harriett Green (Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Angela Courtney (Indiana Univ., Bloomington), and Nora Dimmock (Univ. of Rochester, NY) will each give presentations regarding strategies for training current LIS professionals in digital scholarship tools and methods. LITA Top Technology Trends Sun., Jun. 25, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W192) This always-popular session is a reliably good place to catch up on emerging trends impacting the library field. This summer’s panel features Emily Almond from Georgia Public Library Service, consultant and founder of Library Technology Guides Marshall Breeding, Vanessa Hannesschläger from the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities, Jenny Jing from Brandeis Univ. Library, Veronda Pitchford from Reaching Across Illinois Library System, and Tara Radniecki, from Univ. of Nevada–Reno. Margaret Heller from Loyola–Chicago will moderate.

Bette-Lee Fox

Managing Editor

Chicago’s Cool Green Scene: Learning from the Best Fri., Jun. 23, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. A tour of sustainable environments around town includes Chicago PL’s Chinatown Branch and Loyola University’s Klarcheck Learning Commons. Designer Perkins+Will is shooting for LEED Platinum for its new offices in the Wrigley Building. Registration includes bus transportation, box lunch, and an optional reception. “Now Showing @ALA” Saturday through Monday (MCP) In coordination with the gala (below), see the “Now Showing” schedule at How fun to respond to colleagues who ask how you spent your time at ALA with, “I went to the movies for three days.” See documentaries of historical and current significance, for your collections and your personal benefit. Literary Tastes: Celebrating the Best Reading of the Year Sun., Jun. 25, 8–10 a.m. (Hyatt Regency McCormick, Prairie Room) The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Literary Tastes event features, among others, historical romance writer extra­ordinaire Julia Quinn. She’s here plugging her recent best seller Because of Miss Bridgerton (Avon), but her latest title (coming in June, also from Avon) changes the playing field. The Girl with the Make Believe Husband sets our British hero and heroine in New York during the War with the Colonies. Listening to her is nearly as engrossing at reading her work. VRT Gala: Tuned in, Turned On! Videofreex Tape the World Sun., Jun. 25, 7–9 p.m. (Gene Siskel Film Ctr.) As editor of LJ’s Video Reviews, I consider the Video Round Table folks my peeps. And their evening of film talk is always rated five stars. Join VRT at the Siskel Film Center for drinks and hors d’oeuvres and a presentation on Video­freex, one of the earliest radical video collectives. Hear also from Abina Manning (director, Video Data Bank). The evening coincides with the VRT and Cinema Guild cosponsored “Now Showing @ALA” (see above) screening of Here Come the Videofreex! (LJ 12/16). It is a ticketed event; popcorn supplied.

Rebecca T. Miller

Editorial Director

Outreach Outside the Box Sat., Jun. 24, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W181c) One can never have enough outreach ideas, and an emphasis on reaching those with Alzheimer’s makes this program especially relevant. Students Lead the Library: A Showcase of Student Contributions to the Academic Library Sat., Jun. 24, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W187b) Hear about the process and impact of four student-driven programs, from archives outreach to leadership development and more. Measures That Matter: Building Bridges Between Data Collection Activities in Public Libraries Sat., Jun. 24, 10:30–11:30 a.m. (MCP S106a) With data ever more important in society at large, it is critical that libraries more effectively use data as a collective tool to illustrate impact and help evaluate productive investment. The broadscale Measures That Matter effort aims to do that. Learn how you can help. The Library Card Challenge: Local Leaders Collaborating for Increased Access to Educational Resources Sat., Jun. 24, 10:30–11:30 a.m. (Hyatt Regency Chicago, Columbus EF) Collaboration between schools and public libraries continues to evolve. This look at the Leaders Library Card Challenge, a national initiative to formalize resource sharing, may just get me out of the convention center for a few hours. Growing Readership Through Diversity Sat., Jun. 24, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W190a) The push for diverse materials in our libraries includes collections for adults. Here publishers and librarians discuss. Bill McKibben: Imagining a World That Works—in Time To Preventa World That Doesn’t Sat., Jun. 24, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP S102) Don’t miss environmentalist, activist, and author Bill McKibben—a critical voice in a critical time. Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Technical Services Reaching in To Reach Out: Examining the State of Inclusivity Across Libraries, Archives, and Museums Both: Sat., Jun. 24, 3–4 p.m. (MCP W184bc/W185bc) Ideally, these important stances don’t end when the public or students aren’t in the room but extend to back room work, organizational design, and partnerships. These two programs, roomed next door to each other, promise conversation about how to imbed these ethics ever deeper in our libraries and partner organizations. Community Driven: Transforming the Subject Librarian Model in Public Libraries Sun., Jun. 25, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W175a) An intriguing approach to specialization and community engagement from Omaha PL, with librarians focused outward on “subject areas” such as Homelessness & Poverty, Health & Wellness, Seniors, Business, and Genealogy & Local History. Where There Is Thunder, There Is Lightning: EDI and Change in Libraries Sun., Jun. 25, 3–4 p.m. (MCP W176a) It’s all about how it plays out in real life. These lightning talks will share equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts across library types. From Teaching to Leading: A Learning-Centered Management Bootcamp Mon., Jun. 26, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP 179b) Those staying on longer than I am get the benefit of the chance to hear another Rebecca Miller (Penn State Libraries) and colleagues on a unique and intriguing approach to applying teaching skills to leadership, with a workshop element. Sorry to miss it!

Kiera Parrott

Reviews Director

Opening General Session featuring Reshma Saujani Fri., Jun. 23, 4–5:15 p.m. (MCP W375b/Skyline) Reshma Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that empowers young women to enter the tech workforce and helps them learn computer programming skills. Her inspiring TED Talk, “Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection,” has well over three million views. She’ll also be a special keynote speaker at School Library Journal’s SLJTeen Live digital eventthis August. You Can’t Stay Neutral on a Moving Train: Making Critical Librarianship Tangible Through Library Programs and Exhibits Sat., Jun. 24, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W187c) How does social justice fit into library work? How can librarians support marginalized groups through library services? Rather than a broad philosophical discussion, this looks to be a practical session offering concrete ways library staff can make their programs and services more diverse and inclusive. Desegregating Public Libraries: The Tougaloo Nine Sun., Jun. 25, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W184d) In 1961, nine students from Tougaloo College entered a whites-only library in Jackson, MS, and were arrested. Fifty years after the event, one of the students, Geraldine Edwards Hollis, tells her story.

Lisa Peet

Associate Editor, News

Washington Office Update Session—Be a Catalyst: Your Portfolio of Resources To Create Catalytic Change in Communities Sat., Jun. 24, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W176a) The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently launched an initiative aimed at assisting libraries and museums to develop their roles as community change agents, and IMLS director Kathryn K. Matthew, together with Kresge Foundation president and CEO Rip Rapson and Lincoln Foundation president Barbara Bartle, will discuss what it means to be catalytic and how libraries can leverage federal investments and their own assets through smart collaborations. Daytime Astronomy at Your Library Sat., Jun. 24, 1–2:30 p.m. (Hyatt Regency McCormick, Grant Park/MCP 12ab) The first solar eclipse in 40 years, coming on August 21, promises to be a great opportunity to get patrons excited. The panel will highlight participatory, multimedia activities for adults and children that can be easily implemented in the library, including tips for safe solar viewing and astronomy tools to engage customers all year long. From MLS to MLD: It’s Time To Integrate Design Thinking and Philosophy into LIS Education Sun., Jun. 25, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W192) As design thinking becomes more ingrained into library practices, it stands to reason that it should be incorporated into library education as well. The knowledgeable panel includes public and academic librarians as well as LIS instructors with hands-on design thinking experience, and the session will look at how design precepts can help prepare tomorrow’s librarians to develop a problem-finding, solution-oriented mind-set. The Knight Foundation: Innovation in Libraries, Beyond the Talk Sun., Jun. 25, 10:30–11:30 a.m. (MCP W184bc) Full disclosure: I was one of the library professionals interviewed by the Knight Foundation during the development of the featured report and attended the public library directors’ think tank where many of its ideas were surfaced. A report like this is never static, however, and I’m interested to hear how this in-depth look at ways that libraries can jump-start their innovation process has been expanded and developed by three library leaders who are taking these concepts and running with them. Crisis Communication: Who Speaks for Your Library? Sun., Jun. 25, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W194b) As LJ’s news editor, I’ve learned that libraries have their share of disasters, triumphs, conflicts, gossip, and opinions. Having the chance to tell their own stories to the media gives libraries an advantage when it comes to community perceptions, and these concerns don’t begin and end with their communications directors or PR person. This discussion group, with a panel of speakers from United for Libraries, RUSA, and Chapter Relations, will examine aspects of crisis communication so libraries can begin to formulate a communications plan.

Meredith Schwartz

Executive Editor

Protest & Preservation Sat., Jun. 24, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W176a) Activism has always produced a lot of artifacts—from posters to manifestos—and they’ve often been a challenge to document. The shift to fast, decentralized organizing via social media, from the Arab Spring to the Women’s March, only increases those challenges. LJ’s coverage of the Documenting the Now project first sensitized me to these issues; I look forward to hearing the panelists’ perspective, particularly because it includes voices from outside of libraries, including a political philosopher and a documentary filmmaker. Awesomeville All Access: Sharing Our Cities and Towns Sat., Jun. 24, 3–4 p.m. (MCP W187c) We are increasingly seeing libraries and librarians taking an active role in civic change beyond the library—not just leading by example but by getting their hands dirty to achieve larger community goals. I’m intrigued to learn how libraries are assisting access to local cultural venues, public spaces, nature, and more by “acting as agents and brokers.” Applying Racial Equity Analysis to Library Policies, Programs and Processes Sun., Jun. 25 3–4 p.m. (MCP W180) I often hear from librarians who are aware that institutionalized racism impacts their libraries but aren’t sure what to do about it, so I’m excited to hear about lessons learned and concrete tools, including resources available through the Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity and the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI), from 2016 LJ Mover & Shaker Amita Lonial as well as Simran Noor, CSI’s VP, policy and programs. Library Takeover; or, How Madison Public Library Relinquished Control of Community Programming to...Wait for It...Actual Community Members Sun., Jun. 25, 3–4 p.m. (MCP W187b) I’m excited to learn about an innovative, six-week event planning boot camp that offered up significant library resources, spaces, and money to participant teams made up of individual, nonaffiliated community members to build large-scale community events around the city, with racial equity as a key objective. Asking for a Friend: Tough Questions (and Honest Answers) About Organizational Culture Mon., Jun. 26, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W192) Organizational culture is often the make it or break it factor in whether new initiatives succeed and employees are satisfied. Yet they’re hard to initiate intentionally and often even harder to change. In this session, “several public library leaders have vowed to tell the unvarnished truth when asked about organizational culture”: Susan Brown, Chapel Hill PL; Richard Kong, Skokie PL, and Megan Egbert, Meridian District Library. Audience members can submit questions both beforehand and during the session and can “Ask for a Friend” to maintain a safe environment.

Stephanie Sendaula

Associate Editor, LJ Reviews

The (In)Flexible Box: Transforming Older Library Spaces Sat., Jun. 24, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W179a) I’ve been interested in library design since the placemaking session at this past Midwinter. Since space and cost are limitations for libraries of all types, I’m eager to hear advice from librarians and architects on how to reconfigure existing spaces to fit modern need. Aging—a New Frontier: Implications and Opportunities for Libraries and Librarians Sun., Jun. 25, 8:30–10 a.m. (MCP W175b) How can we better serve older adults? Learn more from the Retired Members Round Table, the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging, and public librarians in this informative, practical session. Whole Person Librarianship: Libraries and Social Workers in Collaboration Sun., Jun. 25, 1–2:30 p.m. (MCP W178a) Based on a standing-room-only conversation starter in 2015, this program features successful collaborations between libraries and social service providers. Libraries Unlimited is also planning a forthcoming book on the subject. Libraries and the Military/Veteran Population: Transformative Service Through Cultural Competencies Sun., Jun. 25, 3–4 p.m. (MCP W179b) I’m also eager to learn how we can engage with veterans, service members, and their families. This team of panelists includes veterans, librarians from military families, and others performing outreach. The Glass Is Half Full: Getting More out of Less Mon., Jun. 26, 10:30–11:30 a.m. (MCP W175b) We’re used to doing more with less, but we could always use new ideas on how to save both time and money. Join librarians from public libraries and government agencies to share ideas on how to lead with staffing shortages, prevent burnout, and adapt to change.


McCormick Place–Chicago, 2301 S. King Dr., Chicago, IL

With 900-plus exhibitors, the hall will offer a few new attractions in ALA’s backyard. The Park @ ALA, a designated break area, is located in the center of the hall; check out new technologies at The Playground @ ALA.

HOURS: Friday, June 23, Opening Reception, 5:30–7 p.m.; Saturday, June 24, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, June 25, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.; Monday, June 26, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

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