February 17, 2018

WHO Targets Toronto for SARS; City Officials Furious, Conference Questioned

By LJ Staff

American Library Association officials, who were staunch in their statements that the Annual Conference in Toronto would go forward, found themselves on the defensive April 23 after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement advising against all but essential travel to Toronto. The WHO said it would reevaluate its warning in three weeks. ALA apparently does not have three weeks to wait to make its decision.

ALA’s Executive Board will meet tomorrow to discuss its options; they include proceeding as planned, moving the conference to another location, or canceling the conference.

Given the size of the conference–over 25,000 people, the largest in Toronto this year–it would be difficult to move logistically. ALA President Mitch Freedman issued a statement April 23, “The American Library Association (ALA) is taking the occurrence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in Toronto very seriously and is evaluating reports from the city of Toronto, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on a daily basis. The health of our members, staff, exhibitors and wider library community is our primary concern. The ALA Executive Board…is looking at all of our options relating to the joint conference with the Canadian Library Association. We will do what is necessary to best protect everyone’s health and safety.”