Experiencing the Big Easy | LibLearnX 2023 Preview

While this is the second outing for the American Library Association’s Library Learning Experience (LibLearnX), it’s the first time that attendees will convene in person for the re-envisioned conference, which replaces the former Midwinter Meeting.

LibLearnX takes its first in-person bow in New Orleans

While this is the second outing for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Library Learning Experience (LibLearnX), it’s the first time that attendees will convene in person for the re-envisioned conference, which replaces the former Midwinter Meeting. On-site attendees will gather at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, January 27–30. ALA is strongly recommending, but not requiring, masks in conference spaces.

Openers Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone (How to Be a [Young] Antiracist) and author speakers such as Clint Smith ( How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America ) and Cory Doctorow (Red Team Blues) will be joined by learning in a variety of formats: two-hour accelerators, one-hour learning labs, half-hour IdeasXchanges, and 15–20-minute ShopTalks. The conference will also host the next steps in ALA’s long process of governance transformation, a four-hour Bylaws Convention to re-envision the foundational documents of the organization. For those who get in a day early, ALA Gives Back will be reorganizing and beautifying the writing center of 826 New Orleans, an organization that “cultivates and supports the voices of young writers ages 6-18.” Below are sessions that caught the attention of LJ editors at press time; for the complete schedule, visit 2023.alaliblearnx.org. And to make the most of the in-person trade show floor, check libraryjournal.com for LJ’s Galley Guide.

For those who can’t attend in person, the LLX Digital Experience offers live and on-demand access to a subset of sessions, including the opening and closing, author speakers at the Studio stage, the Youth Media Awards and Carnegie Medals, and some educational sessions.—Meredith Schwartz

Jill Cox-Cordova
Associate Editor

Intersectional Justice in Libraries
Sat., Jan. 28, 11:40–noon, MCC ShopTalk Area 2

To help librarians understand how to make the profession more justice-centered, ALA President Lessa Kanani‘opua Pelayo-Lozada will discuss what intersectionality is and how it can be used to address systemic discrimination and oppression. Lessons learned here are also applicable to daily life.

Inclusivity in Entertainment: Uplifting Black Voices
Sat., Jan. 28, 2–3 p.m., MCC Studio Stage

Representation matters in all industries, including publishing. Pop culture expert and author Caseen Gaines (When Broadway Was Black, Feb.) moderates a panel comprised of four Black creatives who have or will have books published by Sourcebooks: actor Eriq La Salle of the TV showER (Laws of Depravity, Nov.), Carell Augustus ( Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments, Oct.), and Jorge Redmond and Ali Kamanda (Black Boy, Black Boy, Aug.). The group will take a deep dive into examining how excluding stories by and from Black creatives damages entire communities.

Organizing for Change
Sun., Jan. 29, 10–11:15 a.m., MCC 298-299

Many people say they want to improve things around them, but they do not know how. As a result, they do nothing. But two presenters plan to change that: Emily Darowski, Brigham Young University’s psychology librarian, and Leah Richardson, research and instruction librarian for special collections at George Washington University’s Libraries and Academic Innovation. The two will share effective strategies to organize people and get things done.

Making Research Relatable: Using Popular Culture and Gamification Elements in Library Instruction
Sun., Jan. 29, 2–2:20 p.m., MCC ShopTalk Area 3

Many undergraduates invest time and energy into pop culture and gaming, so why not meet them where they’re at? Natalie Marquez and Danielle Kane of University of California–
Irvine Libraries embrace that concept by showcasing the ways they use pop culture examples and gamification elements to teach students about information literacy and best practices for academic writing. Attendees are encouraged to share fun examples and stories about how they’re making research more relatable.

Trends in Research Impact Librarianship: Developing New Programs and Services
Sun., Jan. 29, 3:30–3:50 p.m., MCC ShopTalk Area 2

Presenters from the University of Houston Libraries will share what they’re doing to increase the visibility of individual researchers and the school’s research landscape. They’ll also guide attendees through how to define their own metrics literacy and conduct their own research impact needs assessment, to develop a list of steps to create a research impact program of their own.

Matt Enis
Senior Editor, Technology

Beyond “Fake News”: Updated Strategies in Digital Literacy, Misinformation, and Bias Instruction
Sun., Jan. 29, 1–2:15 p.m., MCC 283-285

Drawing on a two-year case study from the University of Utah and Utah’s Granite School District, presenters will discuss successful collaboration between K–12 and higher education institutions to improve students’ digital literacy skills. The session will use “evidence-based, practical instruction to think like a fact checker, hone ‘critical feeling’ and critical thinking skills, and better understand the factors that contribute to our complicated, and often contaminated, information environment.”

Discord Servers? In My Library?
Sun., Jan. 29, 1:30–2:45 p.m., MCC 391-392

This session will walk participants through setting up a Discord server, offering an innovative way to connect with patrons, particularly teens and tweens, through the online discussion platform. Presenters will discuss how to use Discord for virtual reference, readers advisory, and more, as well as how to manage arguments, prevent cyberbullying, and ensure that the server is a safer space for everyone.

Cory Doctorow
Sun., Jan. 29, 2:30–3:30 p.m., MCC Studio Stage (in LLX Marketplace)

Science fiction novelist, special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, MIT Media Lab Research Affiliate, and Visiting Professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science Cory Doctorow will take the stage to discuss recent trends and Red Team Blues, his upcoming thriller about cryptocurrency shenanigans.

Leverage Federal Funds to Advance Digital Equity in Your Community
Sun., Jan. 29, 3–4:15 p.m., MCC 288-290

A panel of experts will discuss opportunities for libraries to obtain federal funding through the Digital Equity Act, the Affordable Connectivity Program, and more to advance digital equity, literacy, and inclusion in their communities. Attendees are encouraged to bring questions and success stories to share.


          Cory Doctorow                    Elizabeth Rule                      Eriq La Salle


Sarah Hashimoto
Editor, LJ Reviews

Book & Media Awards
Sun, Jan. 29, 4–5 p.m., Studio Stage

Get the scoop on the year’s best fiction, nonfiction, poetry, audiobooks, reference materials, and more. During RUSA’s Book and Media Awards Ceremony, Collection Development and Evaluation Section (CODES) committee members reveal their “Best of” lists and award selections. This event will include selection lists and award announcements from Notable Books, the Reading List, the Listen List, Essential Cookbooks, Sophie Brody, Dartmouth, Outstanding Reference Sources, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

That All May Read: Resources for Your Print Disabled Community
Sat., Jan. 28, 2:10–2:30 p.m., MCC ShopTalk Area 1

As the U.S. population ages, more people are developing print disabilities, even as society also gets better at recognizing them. This presents barriers to more patrons who are unable to fully access printed materials. Sometimes libraries don’t have enough audiobooks to fill requests, and sometimes patrons struggle to navigate digital delivery systems. In this session, led by Jennifer Apgar, Youth Services Librarian at the New Jersey State Library Talking Book & Braille Center, you’ll learn how to assist patrons in getting started with talking book and braille libraries—free resources that provide access to over 100,000 audiobooks in over 40 languages.

Engaging with Native and Indigenous Heritage: Guide to Indigenous Maryland
Sun., Jan. 29, 3:30–4:45 p.m. MCC 393-394

In June 2022, the Maryland State Library Agency (MSLA) and Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) announced the launch of the Guide to Indigenous Maryland, a mobile app and website curated by Dr. Elizabeth Rule (Choctaw Nation) that enable users to learn about the history of local Native and Indigenous people (PGCMLS’s preferred wording uses both terms). This session, led by Nicholas A. Brown, Rule, and Dr. Tamar Sarnoff, provides background on the development of this resource and describes best practices for advancing the visibility of Indigenous communities.

Telling Diverse Stories through Cookbooks
Sat., Jan. 28, 2:20–2:40 p.m. MCC ShopTalk Area 2

Although Fannie Farmer and The Joy of Cooking still hold a place of honor in many home cooks’ libraries, they’ve been joined by other cookbooks that showcase cultures and experiences from around the world. This session, available both digitally and in person, features cookbooks that combine narrative storytelling with recipes and how-tos. A focus on using cookbooks in programming and displays will enhance patrons’ appreciation for how food and culture intersect.

Lisa Peet
Senior News Editor

Open Access Is Not Enough: Improving Research Accessibility in Equity-Deserving Communities
Sat., Jan. 28, 1:50–2:10 p.m., MCC ShopTalk Area 3

This session will look at the Vancouver, WA–based Making Research Accessible initiative, a collaborative effort to provide access to local research. The result, a public repository called the Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal, piloted new methods of data access by working with community members to discover what they needed.Embedded community engagement librarian Nick Ubels will offer his reflections on the initiative and how other libraries can advocate in their cities.

Centering Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Principles in a Consortial Community
Sat., Jan. 28, 3:15–3:45 p.m., MCC Ideas Xchange Area 2

The Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries (PASCAL), a 57-member academic library consortium, works to provide equitable access to academic resources through a wide range of statewide programs. Members of PASCAL’s EDI Committee will look at equity, diversity, and inclusion issues through a consortial lens, discussing challenges, plans, and how their big-picture, collaborative approach could be adopted by other consortia or individual institutions.

Addressing Toxic Positivity and Wellness in Work Spaces
Sun., Jan. 29, 10:45–11:15 a.m., MCC Ideas Xchange Area 1

As libraries begin to dig more deeply into the sources of workplace trauma, particularly as experienced during the past few years, toxic positivity and wellness—pressure to remain upbeat despite the presence of negative emotions, and an overreliance on “self-care” as a restorative practice—need to be examined alongside other sources of harm. This session will define the terms, identify where they manifest, and look at ways they can be addressed.

Civic Fluency, Libraries, and the Future of Literacy Equity
Mon., Jan. 30, 10:30–10:50 a.m., MCC ShopTalk Area 1

Among the many forms of literacy that libraries are well-positioned to address, proficiency in civic discourse and engagement is proving to be increasingly important. Ken Bigger, senior fellow at the Center for the Future of Libraries, will offer a look at the value of “civic fluency” as a framework for literacy equity—and how that focus can inform program development and serve as an alternative to “deficit discourse and rights-based thinking.”

Meredith Schwartz

ALA Council Special Session: ALA Bylaws Convention
Fri., Jan. 27, 1–5 p.m. MCC Hall I2

I rarely select governance sessions for the preview—while important and open to all members, they can be time-consuming and full of inside baseball. But this isn’t business as usual: the convention is part of a fundamental reset of the rules and structure governing the organization going forward.

Difficult Conversations: Dealing with Hostility and De-escalating Conflict in the Library
Sat., Jan. 28, 1–4 p.m., MCC 386-387

One of the most important practical sessions addressing an increasingly pressing need for staff safety and morale. This interactive presentation will teach techniques for de-escalating tense exchanges and resolving conflicts with patrons, volunteers, board members, and others, using scenarios from the library world, as well as how to facilitate difficult conversations with the community on hot-button issues such as book challenges. Presenters include experts on social work, counseling, facilitation, mediation, and conflict management.

Building a Practical Toolkit for Censorship and Challenges at your Public Library
Sun., Jan. 29, 10:30–11:45 a.m. MCC 388-390

The second essential practical session on this year’s schedule, public library directors who faced intellectual freedom challenges will share best practices and strategies for supporting staff, board, and school library colleagues throughout the different types and stages of challenges. Learn what should be included in your policy and procedures to protect materials from removal and how to prepare your board and staff for challenging situations such as First Amendment audits, formal challenges and informal complaints, and board member concerns.

Socioeconomic Mixing: Creating Public Libraries Where Everyone Belongs
Sun., Jan. 29, 1–2:15 p.m. MCC 288-290

Friendships across socioeconomic strata have been proven to have beneficial outcomes, and libraries are one of the few spaces in modern society that are frequented by people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. But that doesn’t necessarily mean people from different walks of life are using the same branches at the same time and meaningfully interacting with one another. To encourage interaction, this session will share case studies that help libraries grow social capital, improve health, provide economic opportunities, and generate trust. 

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