The effort to attract members to the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting continues. It is a tough job in this economy, and especially when the conference is held in Dallas, not every librarian’s favorite destination. Still, publishers have filled the Midwinter program with authors galore and ALA has scheduled the usual load of committee and unit sessions, many of which look suspiciously like programs. Among them are some great sessions that should be a magnet to the growing constituency of ALA members who are politically activist librarians not just advocating for libraries but for social justice and much broader political change. They represent a kind of “Occupy ALA”—or at least “Occupy Midwinter”—movement.
For activist librarians
The meeting dramatically raised my hopes for a more politically active ALA when it was announced that three librarians from the front lines of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York will present a program on their experience building the People’s Library there. Featured are Betsy Fagin, Mandy Henk, and Zachary Loeb at a “Special” in ALA’s Master Series: “A Library Occupies Occupy Wall Street” (Sat., Jan. 21, 8:30–9:30 a.m.). Fagin, a 2004 ALA Spectrum Scholar, earned her MLS at the University of Maryland. Henk, a librarian since 2003, has worked reference and done instruction, but her main focus is Access Services. Loeb earned an MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin in May 2011.
Jamal Joseph (Panther Baby: A Life of Rebellion and Reinvention) will deliver the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture (Sat., Jan. 21, 4–5 p.m.). In the 1960s Joseph exhorted Columbia University students to burn down the college. Now he chairs the School of the Arts film division there. Orphan, activist, subversive, urban guerilla, FBI fugitive, drug addict, drug counselor, convict, writer, poet, filmmaker, father, professor, youth advocate, and Oscar nominee, Joseph is sponsored by Algonquin.
The ALA Washington office will have its Legislative Update, including a pair of panels, one on the dicey orphan works issue and a second on digital libraries (Sat., Jan . 21, 8–10 a.m.), to round out the Midwinter political action.
Then, of course, there’s the politics of ALA itself. That circus is not as compelling as our national political scene, but it is not as dysfunctional either. ALA comes close to being a democratic organization, and this shows at Midwinter. By hard won ALA policy the 1000 or more committee, unit, and organization meetings are all open to members. Add to that over 300 discussion groups, more loosely organized sessions sponsored by ALA units to discuss broad topics, that may or may not have a speaker, and are usually open discussions with ample interaction.
To see what is on ALA’s agenda you should go to the Council Orientation Session (Sat., Jan. 21, 8–10 a.m.). Follow that with the Council/Exec Board/Membership Session (Sun. Jan. 22, 9–10 a.m.). Then you should find out what will be debated in the Council Meetings (I, Sun., Jan 22, 11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; II, Mon. Jan. 23, 10 a.m.–noon; III, Tues., Jan 24, 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m.). Councillors also “discuss” issues at Council Forum I (Sun. Jan. 22, 8:30–10 a.m.) and again at Council Forum II (Mon., Jan. 23, 8:30–10 a.m.), although these start too early for those of us who were “busy” with the much more important activity of talking shop until the wee hours the night before. Real ALA governance junkies can watch as the ALA Executive Board (I, Fri., Jan. 20, 8:30 a.m.–noon; II, Mon., Jan. 23, 2–4:30 p.m.; III Tues., Jan. 24, 1–5:30 p.m.) mostly listens and approves endless reports.
ALA also elects a new president every year, and despite difficulty getting candidates to run, two strong candidates have been nominated for the 2013–14 term. So the big event in ALA politics at Midwinter is a Presidential Candidates Forum (Sat., Jan. 21, 11 a.m.–noon) at which Barbara Stripling and Gina Millsap will square off and make their case for member votes. Stripling, in her second run for ALA president has just moved from seven years as Director of School Library Services in New York City to the faculty at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. Millsap is the long standing CEO of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library System, KS. School librarians and public librarians are two of the strongest constituencies of ALA members, so it promises to be a close election.
The big show
The ALA Midwinter Exhibits are second only to the ALA Annual Conference in their huge array of new products, services, and specialized technology for libraries. They begin with an Opening Reception (Fri., Jan. 20, 5:30–7:30 p.m.) and continue all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (9 a.m.–5 p.m., Jan. 21 & 22; 9 a.m.–2 p.m., Jan. 23). The Exhibits Closing & Wrap Up Rev Up Celebration starts at noon on Monday, Jan. 23 and features discount sales, exhibitors offering special giveaways, a party with snacks, drinks, and raffle prizes, and a 2 p.m. appearance of pop star Lisa Loeb with songs from her Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs sponsored by Sterling Children’s Books.
Author, author, author
Helen Schulman (This Beautiful Life, HarperCollins), who teaches writing at the New School, and Hillary Jordan (Mudbound, Algonquin) are featured at the Author Forum (Fri., Jan. 20, 4–5:15 p.m.). They will sign copies of their books at their publishers’ booths during the Opening Exhibits Reception following the forum.
It will only cost you $49–$55 to hear a covey of authors while you drink tea and eat finger sandwiches at the Gala Author Tea run by the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF, 2–4 p.m., Mon., Jan. 23). Featured authors are award winner Kim Edwards (The Lake of Dreams, Viking); Erin Duffy (Bond Girl, William Morrow); Pam Houston (Contents May Have Shifted, Norton); Taylor Stevens (The Innocent, Crown); and our own (ALA and librarianship) Leonard Kniffel (Reading with the Stars, ALA Editions). For tickets visit www.ala.org/altaff, or contact Jillian Kalonick (312-280-2161; firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Auditorium Speaker Series features authors specializing in adult and youth fiction, technology, and pop culture. Susan Cain (Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Random House) will talk about how our culture undervalues introverts (Sat., Jan. 21, 10–11 a.m.).
John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Dutton Juvenile) will discuss how social networking relates to literature and how librarians can use it to reach patrons. Green is sponsored by Penguin Young Readers on Sun., Jan. 22, 10–11 a.m.
Winning books, videos, and other materials for children and teens will be announced at the ALA Youth Media Awards event in the Dallas Convention Center Theater Awards (7:45 a.m. Mon., Jan. 23). Included are the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards. These awards guide parents, educators, librarians, and others in selecting the best materials for youth, all selected by committees of librarians and other experts to encourage original and creative literature and media for children and young adults.
Rich Harwood (Hope Unraveled: The People’s Retreat and Our Way Back, Kettering Foundation Pr.) is featured at ALA President Molly Raphael’s ALA President’s Program (Sun., Jan. 22, 3:30–5:30 p.m.). Harwood, president and founder of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, is a leading authority on improving communities, raising standards of political conduct, and engaging citizens on public issues, He sees a role for libraries in all of that.
Come hear the latest about the newest titles from your favorite publishers at the Book Buzz Theater all in one easy-to-find location in the Convention Center. Check the website for schedules and participating publishers.
Jobs and connections
ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) provides a Placement Center (Sat. & Sun., Jan. 21 & 22, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.) and also offers an orientation (Sat., Jan. 21, 8:30 a.m.). Job seekers should search for jobs on the JobLIST website at joblist.ala.org. All services are free to job seekers. Registration is not required but is recommended to give registered employers access to resumes and allow for direct communication between job seekers and employers. Employers should contact Beatrice Calvin (email@example.com, or 800-545-2433 ext. 4280).
Make connections you need at the Networking Uncommons space in the Convention Center. This is a dedicated area for small groups to have quick meetings, or you can polish presentations, use free Convention Center Wi-Fi, a projector and screen, and gadgets to push content out.
All in all, we’re really looking forward to ALA Midwinter in Dallas. The program is varied enough to offer useful and/or entertaining events for any librarian, the schmoozing will be just as good as it always is, and couple the discussions with the huge exhibit and you will find the stuff to keep your library growing, changing, and relevant. So, let’s occupy Midwinter in Dallas!