American Library Association Conference

Barbara Vey -- July 2nd, 2013

Working the PW booth at ALA

Thousands of librarians descended on Chicago to get the latest on books, learn about new programs for their libraries and interact with others. I attended my first ALA conference this weekend, but definitely not my last.  In June I was at the Book Expo America in New York and both conferences are similar in their set up.  There’s author signings, publishers, speakers and giveaways.  The big difference is the audience.   But most surprising to me was that the majority were there for the technology.

I guess I always think of books as being the heart of the library, but I should have realized that libraries also have to keep up with the times.  Sometimes, I think, we get stuck in the nostalgia of our pasts.  How things were when we were kids and unless you work in that field on a daily basis, you don’t see the behind the scenes stuff that goes on and needs to be done.

YA author Mari Mancusi signing her new dragon series

As the attendees walked by with their badges, I noticed that many were technical specialists.  People who work on the actual running of the library.  Books, dvds, e-readers and computers to be checked out and checked back in.  Lots of libraries offer a do it yourself service for patrons.  Lots of vendors were offering new and state of the art services.



Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of librarians.  They stood in long lines for free books and to get books signed by the attending authors.  I saw them struggle to carry around bags and armfuls of books, posters, reference material and purchases.  Many swore to me that they promised themselves every year that they wouldn’t take so much home, but once they got a gander at the wealth of free offerings, it was difficult to refuse.  Others came prepared for the inevitable, with rollered bags and carts.

On one of the shuttle rides from the hotel to the convention center, I met Carol from Ohio.  She is a teacher/librarian at the embassy in Bangladesh.  Her school has 750 elementary students from all nationalities.  They all speak English in the classrooms.  While Carol is on summer break, she stopped by ALA to talk to the Overdrive company about the system they had installed a week before school ended.  Apparently, there are several issues that are unique to servicing an American school overseas.  There are rules applied here that don’t make any sense there.  She was pleased with the outcome of the meeting and happy she now has a US contact for any future problems.  Carol is not taking any books back with her because of “the security checkpoint nightmares,” but is taking a lot of new ideas back.

Karen and Joanne Rock signing their YA book

Ran into one of my favorite authors, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who confirmed she’ll be at my luncheon next year!









Other librarians I talked to were anxious to learn about new library programs to add and after hours library activities to offer to the community.  I noticed a lot more Young Adult and children librarians.  Most of the exhibits seems geared to that genre including one that featured special library furniture to use.  They all seemed excited about their young readers and couldn’t wait to take back new books, ideas and enthusiasm.


Signing at the Sisters in Crime booth

Ok, I just loved this sign at the RWA booth.







Of course, I had to stop at the Romance Writers of America booth to say hi and all their signings had long lines.  I had to laugh when I went by the Sisters in Crime booth and saw a man signing.

I only managed one party for the short weekend, but had a blast with the Sourcebooks group at a champagne bar.  A first for me, but a bit of the bubbly, tasty hors d’ovres and scrumptious desserts made the time fly.  Jade Lee was there and for those who know her, know that there was plenty of entertainment.

Bottom Line:  On the train ride home I was thinking that I now discovered a new conference I don’t plan on missing in the future.

5 thoughts on “American Library Association Conference

  1. Missy Taylor

    Wow that sounds like a good time and all those free books. *Drool* hehe. Glad you enjoyed it and your list of do not miss must be getting huge right now. :)

  2. Cari

    I organized that SinC booth (I’m the library liaison) – Stan was one of the two men we had that whole weekend! But hey, misters can be sisters too :-) Glad you had a good time.

  3. Ramona Richards

    ALA is a fabulous conference. Some writers think of it as only librarians shopping for their library, but they forget that librarians are first and foremost readers. Readers who recommend and support and engage other readers far beyond their libraries, especially in this day and age. No better book folks on the planet.

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