Sweet Home Chicago: The 2023 Annual Conference Returns to ALA's Hometown

The American Library Association Annual conference is back in its hometown this year, with a full lineup designed to keep everyone engaged.

The American Library Association Annual conference is back in its hometown this year, with a full lineup designed to keep everyone engaged.

This year, for the first time since 2017, the American Library Association (ALA) Annual conference returns to the association’s home base, Chicago. The in-person event will be held June 22–27 at the McCormick Place Convention Center and surrounding venues, and will feature more than 200 education programs, some 550 exhibitors, and eight live presentation stages. Masks are strongly recommended but not required in the conference center.

This event will mark the second in-person Annual since pre-pandemic days. Last year’s, in Washington, DC, saw library leaders and staff, publishers, and exhibitors taking what was—for many—the first, tentative steps toward being in each other’s company again.

For those who can’t or don’t wish to attend in person, The Digital Experience will offer virtual access to more than 60 programs, including virtual speakers, Main Stage sessions, News You Can Use and education sessions, and ALA governance meetings.

Author Judy Blume will be the opening speaker on Friday, June 23. Other scheduled speakers include comedian, actress, writer, and disability advocate Maysoon Zayid; actor and writer Idina Menzel and author Cara Mentzel (yes, they are sisters who spell their last names differently); writer Nikki Grimes and illustrator Brian Pinkney; and authors Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro. Outgoing ALA President Lessa Kananiye‘opua Pelayo-Lozada will host Native Hawaiian teacher, cultural practitioner, and author Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu for the President’s Program. On Tuesday, June 27, author, poet, and advocate Amanda Gorman and artist Christian Robinson will close the conference out.

Authors from publishers large and small will be on hand to sign books. Want to know how much room you’ll need to leave for books in your suitcase? Keep an eye out for LJ’s Galley Guide, available on our website on June 21.

Below is a selection of events and programs that appealed to LJ editors who are attending the conference. For more, see the full schedule. —Lisa Peet

Senior Technology Editor

The Data Storytelling Toolkit for Librarians
Sat., Jun. 24, 9–10 a.m. (MPCC W176c)
In collaboration with several community college and public libraries, the University of Illinois (UI) last year began developing the “Data Storytelling Toolkit for Libraries.” The IMLS-funded resource will aim to “bring data stories to life for library advocacy.” Three representatives from UI will give an update on the project and discuss tools to persuade decision-makers, such as classic advocacy arguments, forms of data that can be used to support those arguments, narrative strategies drawn from common story structures, and tactics for engaging storytelling with different types of audiences.

Core Top Ten Technology Trends: Libraries Take On ChatGPT
Sat., Jun. 24, 2:30–3:30 p.m. (Hilton Chicago, Continental B)
Five academic, public, and school librarians will discuss the latest technology trends in the library field and beyond. Most years, the panelists in the always-popular Top Tech Trends session present on a mix of topics. This year, they’ve decided ahead of time to focus on ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence tools, their potential uses, inherent risks, ethical challenges, and emerging issues specific to libraries.

Telehealth in Libraries: What You Need to Know
Sun., Jun. 25, 11 a.m.–noon (MPCC W184a)
A growing number of libraries are offering facilities for virtual meetings with doctors, which can be a much-needed service in rural areas that are far from healthcare providers. In this presentation, George Strawley from the Network of the National Library of Medicine and Pamela DeGuzman from the University of Virginia will discuss telehealth in public libraries, outline the latest research on telehealth programs, and offer information on training and networking opportunities for those interested in learning more.

Federated Authentication: Does Enhancing User Experience Mean Libraries Need to Sacrifice Privacy?
Sun., Jun. 25, 1–2 p.m. (MPCC W176ab)
Single sign-on with federated authentication can make life easier for researchers and students, enabling them to access different applications and electronic resources with a single set of credentials. But does this convenience require users to sacrifice privacy? Win Shih, Director of ILS for the University of Southern California, will be joined on the panel by Amanda Ferrante from EBSCO and Russell Palmer from GALILEO. Thomas Dowling from Wake Forest University will moderate.

Rare Materials Video Reference on a Shoestring
Sun., Jun. 25, 2:30–3:30 p.m. (MPCC W187b)
Elena Smith and Sara Cordes from the California State Library will discuss the California History Section’s video appointments for researchers and patrons. Created out of necessity during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the video-reference program bridges the physical-access gap via 30-minute appointments in which a special-collections librarian uses a webcam to show a remote patron analog sources and discuss copying, interlibrary loan, and other access options for the materials.


Associate Editor, Fiction

Colonies in SF/F: Exploring Brave New Worlds and Oppressive Conquerors
Sat., Jun. 24, 11 a.m.–noon (Hilton Chicago, International South)
Athina Livanos-Propst from PBS Education moderates a panel of outstanding SFF authors (Edward Ashton, P. Djèlí Clark, Tochi Onyebuchi, and Annalee Newitz) as they talk about using fiction to examine the topics of exploration, oppression, and colonialism and build empathy. Months after reading it, I am still thinking about Newitz’s The Terraformers, so this should be interesting.

Transforming Readers Advisory: Read Beyond
Sat. Jun. 24, 1–2 p.m. (MPCC W179B)
Moderated by Dontaná McPherson-Joseph, chair of ALA’s Rainbow Round Table, this panel of readers’-advisory experts will share tips for recommending materials by authors from underrepresented groups and will talk about the trademarks of genre fiction, book moods, appeal factors, and how to spark interest in any potential reader. The panelists will also share their top five best books of the year so far. I’m looking forward to these expert tips and planning on my TBR list getting even longer.

Memory Cafés and Library Dementia Services
Sat. Jun. 24, 2:30–3:30 p.m. (MPCC W175AB)
Dementia profoundly affects so many, including family caregivers. Libraries are increasingly offering innovative services for people living with dementia. Come learn about how Memory Cafés can offer regular support, develop friendships, provide both cognitive and social engagement, and improve quality of life for those living with dementia and their caregivers. Full of concrete ideas and practical tips, this session will help your library provide dementia programming and consider collaborations with other community organizations.

News You Can Use—Future of Digital Collection in a Post-Pandemic Public Library
Sun. Jun. 25, 9–10 a.m. (MCCP W179A)
Deciding how to allocate resources across both print and digital collections continues to be a challenge, especially after record usage of digital collections during the pandemic. But what’s next for these collections? Hear from library leaders on identifying collection development trends, analyzing collection budgets and usage, designing impactful digital collections, and contemplating the future of digital collections.

Your Morning is Booked: ALMA/LibraryReads Adult Author Panel
Mon. Jun. 26, 8:30–10:00 a.m. (MCCP W175AB)
The Adult Library Marketing Association and LibraryReads bring together a fantastic panel of five authors, who will talk about their forthcoming books: Bonnie Jo Campbell (The Waters, Norton), Jean Kwok (The Leftover Woman), Thrity Umrigar (The Museum of Failures), Anise Vance (Hush Harbor), and Pam Zhang (Land of Milk and Honey). These are books you’ll want to know about, and how better than hearing directly from the authors themselves?


Editor, LJ Reviews

2023 Odyssey Awards
Mon., Jun. 26, 3:30–5:30 p.m. (MPCC W190)
The Odyssey Awards celebration is everything an audiophile could hope for—heartwarming, illuminating, and inspiring. Par-ticipants can hear audio clips (sometimes even live performances!) of winning books and meet Odyssey Committee members, audio producers, and the people behind the mics. This year, the children’s award goes to Stuntboy, in the Meantime, written by Jason Reynolds and narrated by Guy Lockard, Nile Bullock, and Angel Pean with a full cast. This year’s young adult award winner is The Honeys, written by Ryan La Sala and narrated by Pete Cross.

APALA President’s Program 2023: Forging a New Path: Asian American Representation in Publishing, Librarianship, and Media
Sat., Jun. 24, 10:30–11:30 a.m. (MPCC W183b)
We will always need diverse books! This year’s APALA President’s Program celebrates Asian American representation in the media, publishing, journalism, and librarianship while reflecting critically on challenges and opportunities for increasing diversity and inclusion. Michelle Li of the Very Asian Foundation, Charles Kim and Stephanie Lim of Third State Books, and Elaine Tai, author of Yes Means Yes! will discuss these issues in a conversation that is sure to be illuminating.

Help! They’re Coming for Our Books!
Sun., Jun. 25, 11 a.m.–noon (MPCC W185a)
Book challenges are scary and unsettling, but libraries don’t have to go it alone. This timely panel discussion, led by the Rainbow Round Table, features expert panelists—Angela Ocaña of the Intellectual Freedom Round Table, Christine Emeran of the National Coalition Against Censorship, EveryLibrary Founder John Chrastka, and PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman. The conversation will address the legal rights of libraries and librarians, the panelists’ experiences facing censorship, and resources that can help libraries combat censorship.


Editor, Prepub Alert

First Author, First Book
Sat., Jun. 24, 1–2 p.m. (MPCC W185d)
I’ve moderated this panel for United for Libraries (UFL) for over 25 years, and it remains my favorite, a real act of discovery that has introduced me to exciting new voices. The authors confirmed so far include Rosey Lee (The Gardins of Edin) and Ghassan Zeineddine (Dearborn). Check out other UFL book panels, which include Isn’t It Romantic?, Reads Like Fiction, It’s a Mystery to Me, and Friends & Fiction Live! featuring the likes of Mary Kay Andrews and Kristin Harmel.

United for Libraries: Gala Author Tea, Sponsored by Data Axle Reference Solutions
Mon., Jun. 26, 2–4 p.m. (Hyatt Regency McCormick, Grant Park ABCD)
It’s not just the tea, the treats, and the talk with fellow attendees that make this event so special. It’s the top-notch authors. Last year’s tea alone included authors ranging from Buzz Bissinger to Catherine Adel West, and Lindsay Hunter (Hot Springs Drive), Ayana Mathis (The Unsettled), and Anise Vance (Hush Harbor) are promised so far this year.

Booklist and LibraryReads Read ‘N’ Rave
Mon., Jun. 26, 10:30–11:30 a.m., (MPCC W176ab)
This longstanding panel builds on the idea that word of mouth is the way to go; it’s not just fun but really informative to hear what’s grabbing other librarians now. Collection development librarians from around the country including Migdalia Jimenez, Chicago Public Library; Rebecca Vnuk, LibraryReads; Magan Szwarek, Schaumburg Township District Library, IL; and Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie Public Library, IL will be raving about their faves.

Socioeconomic Mixing: Creating Public Libraries Where Everyone Belongs
Sat., Jun. 24, 9–10 a.m. (MPCC W175ab)
As we address racism, homophobia, and reactionary violence, it’s important to remember that classism is a crucial issue as well. This panel seems designed not simply to preach how important it is to facilitate interaction among different socioeconomic groups but to explain concretely how that goal can be achieved. Moderated by shamichael hallman, ’23 Loeb Fellow, Harvard Graduate School of Design, with presenters Bridget Marquis, director of Reimagining the Civic Commons; and Keenon McCloy, director of Memphis Public Libraries.


Executive Editor

Be Fierce: How to Harness Your Power for Your Libraries
Sat., Jun. 24, 9–10 a.m (MPCC W187a)
I’m generally all about the content, but every so often a program title pulls me in. This session, made up of library staff, trustees, and foundation members, will offer first-person “boots on the ground” accounts of stepping up to meet book challenges and censorship attempts, and to advocate for the library—using both its successes and pitfalls.

Finding a New Normal: Library Policies and Practices
Sat., Jun. 24, 11 a.m.–noon (MPCC W179b)
A library’s best defense against challenges of all kinds is having actionable and responsive policies in place around safety, programming and services, collection development, and more. This session caught my interest because of the number and range of participants and its aim to help libraries craft policies and practices that balance the needs of the organization, staff, and users and center inclusion and accessibility.

News You Can Use—Books Under Fire: Law and the Right to Read, 2023
Sat., Jun. 24, 1:00–2:00 p.m. (MPCC W180)
Have you been to one of these conference sessions on First Amendment and freedom to read rights before? Wonderful—go to this one too. As challenges to libraries grow in scope and become increasingly sophisticated, the resources needed to combat them are changing and strengthening as well. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has knowledge of current legislation, case histories, and critical resources to learn from and share—there’s always something new and valuable here.

Learnings from Cities: How the Library Catalyzes a City’s Equity-Driven Community Economic Development Agenda
Sat., Jun. 24, 2:30–3:30 p.m. (MPCC W185bc)
As libraries work to bring innovative, necessary change to their neighborhoods, their civic partnerships—and the data involved—have grown increasingly creative. Panelists, including library leaders and elected officials from a range of cities, will discuss collaboration and coalition building to develop co-located facilities, out-of-the-box partnerships, and community co-created initiatives, demonstrating how place-based practices can help foster development and boost the health of their communities.

The Storm is Already Here: A National Study on Public Library Disaster Preparedness and Community Resilience
Sun., June 25, 2:30–3:30 p.m. (MPCC W176ab)
Climate change is bringing about a worldwide state of emergency, visible everywhere in the form of severe weather. Libraries have a role to play in preparing their communities for natural disasters and stepping in to help when they do occur. This team from across the country—including Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, who writes LJ’s Sustainability column—will offer input on the creation of readiness and recovery plans plus institutional partnering and training efforts.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing