March 16, 2018

Big Spenders Meet Vendors & Job Seekers

The American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting, Philadelphia, January 24–28, 2014

According to the American Library Association (ALA), 50 percent of those attending the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia will be top managers in libraries; 92 percent will have “buying influence” for products or services exhibited; and 62 percent will find new companies with which to do business during their time in the exhibits. The pitch emphasizes that the Midwinter Meeting has been redesigned to include programs and special events to “become the place where librarians from across the country discuss and explore the future of libraries and librarianship.” More than 8,000 librarians are expected in the City of Brotherly Love, and according to ALA’s message to exhibitors, “These are the decision makers you need to meet!”

But it’s not just management who will be present; the same pitch offers guidance to first-timers and new professionals on how to convince their bosses to give them the time and money to attend the meeting. Newcomers are told to send a memo listing relevant meetings they are interested in and why or how participation will help the library and their own professional development. An impressive sample is provided, loaded with good suggestions. If you decide to use it, rewrite it, in case three or four of your colleagues do, too.

Speaking of colleagues, ALA’s brand new “Statement of Appropriate Conduct at ALA Conferences” aims to provide “a harassment-free environment for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, physical appearance, ethnicity, religion, or other group identity.” The new statement also bans “sexual harassment or intimidation, including unwelcome sexual attention, stalking (physical or virtual), or unsolicited physical contact,” and “yelling at or threatening speakers (verbally or physically).” It never hurts to go on the record with expectations for behavior.

Unconference & Library Camp

ALA being ALA, it has attempted to organize some of the networking and chat for which Midwinter is known. Attendees are offered both an Unconference on Friday, January 24, and a Library Camp on Monday afternoon, January 27, where they can ask questions, explore options, make recommendations, examine ideas, and reflect on the implications of updates, conversations, and what they have learned at meetings.

The “participant-guided” Unconference (Fri., Jan. 24, 9 a.m.–noon) promises to extend the unstructured conversations people often have between sessions into the conference itself. Organized by those who attend, it is, according to ALA’s advance publicity, about “sharing the knowledge and passion we have for our profession and taking what we learn into the world to make a difference.”

To “round out” the Midwinter experience at Library Camp, attendees will gather to talk about any “library- or conference-related topics,” focusing on what inspired them at Midwinter. Everyone prepared to share experiences or discuss a topic is welcome!

The exhibits

The only vendor exhibit show that is bigger than the one at Midwinter is at ALA’s annual conference in the summer (this year in Las Vegas). The Midwinter show kicks off with a “Grand Opening Reception” on Friday, January 24, from 5:30-7 p.m., continues on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., and runs on Monday from 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

Boozing & schmoozing

Famous for networking opportunities, the boozing and schmoozing at Midwinter have always provided environments to enhance career and professional development, shared ideas, and best practices for libraries of all types and for librarians at all stages of their careers. Additionally, the conference offers a playground, in the city’s bars, restaurants, and hangouts. Sure, these gatherings often get a bit soggy in the wee hours, but, believe it or not, we’ve observed as much professional shop talk as flirtation in the gin mills, even on the hottest dance floors.

For job seekers

If you are looking for a new library job or one that is better or just different, the ALA Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment runs a JobLIST Placement Center (Sat., Jan. 25, and Sun., Jan. 26, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.). An orientation will be held on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. in the ALA JobLIST Placement Center and an open house will take place on Sunday, 10:30 a.m.–noon, to provide an opportunity for employers from libraries and information companies to talk with conference attendees.

Representatives will tell what makes their institution unique (work culture, facilities, sports, music, arts, campus and community life, etc.), showcasing the quality of life where they are located. Interested employers submit a participation form to Jobseekers can search for jobs on the JobLIST website at and can attend career guidance workshops, talk to a career counselor, have their résumé reviewed, and speak with potential employers. Find additional information at or contact Beatrice Calvin at; 800-545-2433, x4280.

Authors galore

At the Exhibits Round Table/Booklist Author Forum (Fri., Jan. 24, 4–5:15 p.m.), children’s book creators Tonya Bolden, Brian Floca, Kadir Nelson, Steve Sheinkin, and Melissa Sweet will be featured. The Auditorium Speakers include best-selling authors David Baldacci, passionate about eradicating illiteracy, (Sun., Jan. 26, 10–11 a.m.); Wes Moore, a youth advocate on a quest to “find a life that matters” (Sat., Jan. 25, 10–11 a.m.); and Matthew Quick, library enthusiast and inventor of the “Girlbrarian” (Sat., Jan. 25, 1-1:30 p.m.). Hundreds of authors will meet librarians and sign books at publishers’ booths and at the Book Buzz Theater, PopTop Stage, Meet the Authors, Spotlight on Adult Literature, and—a Midwinter Meeting first—the Cookbook Stage.

“PENS” IN PENNSYLVANIA (l.–r.) David Baldacci, Tonya Bolden, Wes Moore

Ishmael Beah will deliver the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture (Sat., Jan. 25, 4–5 p.m.). Andrew Slack is featured at the ALA President’s Program (Sun., Jan. 26, 3:30–5:30 p.m.). The United for Libraries’ Gala Author Tea, sponsored by ­ReferenceUSA, (Mon., Jan. 27, 2 p.m.) features Lisa Scottoline, Sue Monk Kidd, Laura Lippman, and Cristina Henriquez.

The ALA Youth Media Awards for books, videos, and other outstanding materials for children and teens, including the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King Book Awards, will be announced in the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Monday, January 27.

Fit, first, and food

Think Fit—Resistance Band Workout (Sat., Jan. 25, 7–8 a.m.) consists of an hourlong resistance band workout led by certified local instructors from Weston Fitness. Fitness fee: only $15.

ReadersFirst is a movement to improve ebook access and services for public library users. An introduction to the movement and promotion of the ReadersFirst Guide to Library E-Book Vendors, a tool developed for libraries to use in the evaluation of ebook vendors (Sun., Jan. 26, 11:45–12:35), will feature a discussion of how the guide and its criteria were created and how vendors were scored. Also on the docket, future plans.

A great way to meet new colleagues is through food. For more information about participating as a Dine Around Philadelphia Table Host, part of the recast Dine Around program, contact Lindsay Rosales at

ALA’s newly reinvented Midwinter Meeting is loaded with meetings and packed with authors and likely will bring thousands of librarians and their friends to Philadelphia. Any librarian who attends will learn, share ideas, network, see new products and services, and (one hopes) enjoy a harassment-free good time. That list of benefits is well worth the cost of the trip.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

John N. Berry III About John N. Berry III

John N. Berry III ( is Editor-at-Large, LJ. Berry joined the magazine in 1964 as Assistant Editor, becoming editor-in-Chief in 1969 and serving in that role until 2006.