February 16, 2018

Mile High | ALA Midwinter Preview 2018

 

ALA’s Midwinter Meeting will reach new heights in Denver

The American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting returns to Denver, February 9–12, at the Colorado Convention Center. While the later-than-usual timing pushes the conference closer to March’s Public Library Association (PLA) biennial gathering, a potential bottleneck for some, Midwinter offers plenty of compelling content to pull librarians to the Mile High City.

The Symposium on the Future of Libraries, launched at Midwinter 2017, returns this year, but it’s far from the only attention to the future in the mix. As you’ll see in the LJ editors’ selections below, considerations of futuristic technology (including virtual assistants, self-driving cars, and augmented reality) and preparing for future challenges (the catastrophic impacts of climate change) are woven into the fabric of the full schedule—as well, of course, as grappling with the greatest problems and opportunities of the present, including the opioid crisis and the ongoing fight for equity inside and outside of libraries.—Meredith Schwartz


Mahnaz Dar

Reference & Professional Reading Editor, LJ & SLJ

Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session
Sat., Feb. 10, 1–2:30 p.m., Colorado Convention Center (CCC) 201

After holing up with my colleagues at our sister publication School Library Journal to determine the best books of the year, I know which titles editors and librarians love, but what do young people think? Teens will tell us how they really feel about the nominations for YALSA’s 2018 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.

There’s a Dog at the Library: Therapy Dogs Program Discussion
Sat., Feb. 10, 1–2:30 p.m. CCC 703

There’s no denying that cats are an integral part of libraries, but canines are quickly catching up. This session focuses on therapy dogs’ roles in the library, such as helping college students relax during exam week and aiding younger students to practice reading via an uncritical ­audience.

Answering the Questions Alexa Can’t: How Are Digital Assistants and Artificial Intelligences Impacting Reference Services?
Sun., Feb. 11, 1–2:30 p.m. CCC 207

Having recently learned about some of the positive outcomes of bringing digital assistants into the library world (such as Brooklyn Public Library using Amazon’s Alexa to engage patrons with dementia), I’m especially intrigued by this program.

Public Libraries Supporting the Health and Wellness of Your Community
Sun., Feb. 11, 1–2:30 p.m. CCC 110

Come prepared to ask questions about health issues in the library, from privacy concerns to staff well-being. I’m eager to hear more about librarians’ efforts in combating the opioid epidemic.


Matt Enis

Senior Editor, Technology

Creating Inclusive CS/Coding Programs for Youth
Fri., Feb. 9, 1:30–4 p.m. CCC 702/704/706

I’m a big fan of what Google has enabled schools to accomplish with its CS First coding programs. The company is now proving to be a great partner for public libraries on coding education initiatives. In this session, representatives from Google, ALA’s Libraries Ready To Code, and the National Center for Women and Information Technology will lead discussions on computational thinking, community partnerships, mentoring, implicit bias, and outcome-based design, all focused on getting youth from underrepresented groups engaged with coding.

AI, Autonomous Cars, and Libraries: RMG’s Annual Presidents’ Seminar
Fri., Feb. 9, 2–4 p.m. Location TBD

Consultant Rob McGee always manages to gather a large panel of major library industry executives for this annual event, and this year is no exception. Annette Murphy (The Library Corporation), Steve Potash (OverDrive), Rich Belanger (ProQuest), Bill Davidson (SirsiDynix), James Tallman (Innovative Interfaces), Mitchell Davis (BiblioLabs), Ravi Singh (Demco Software), Sebastian Hammer (Index Data and the FOLIO project), and possibly others will discuss current technology trends inside and outside the library field.

Immersive and Interactive Virtual Reality in Academic and Medical Libraries
Sat., Feb. 10, 3–4 p.m. CCC 403

With the inclusion of Apple’s new ARKit framework in iOS 11, and the mixed reality platform incorporated into the fall 2017 update of Windows 10, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality certainly seem to be headed for the mainstream. As part of the Symposium on the Future of Libraries, Peter Schreiner, a North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries fellow, will share insights that NCSU has gleaned opening VR learning spaces and lending VR equipment. Also, representatives from the University of Washington Health Sciences Library will discuss their development of a VR studio space in the medical library and the creation of immersive VR surgical simulation experiences. [For more on VR, also see Libraries in the Age of Extended Reality, Sun., Feb. 11, 1:30–2:30 p.m. CCC 401.]

Alexa, What Does Library AI Look Like in the Future?
Sun., Feb. 11, 3–4 p.m. CCC 402

This session will explore the growth of Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Maps, and other tools that many people use to make their daily lives more convenient. The description notes that libraries “have a unique opportunity to embrace artificial intelligence and integrate [library] services into these devices,” enabling a patron to use Alexa to add a library book to a reading list, or ask Siri if their local library has a subscription to the New York Times. Hopefully, the session will also touch on the privacy and security concerns that patrons may have about always-on, voice-activated technology in the home.

Web Literate Library Staff: Keeping the Internet a Free and Public Resource
Sun., Feb. 11, 3–4 p.m. CCC 404

Representatives from the Mozilla Foundation will discuss the organization’s recent IMLS-funded “train-the-trainers” program, Web Literacy Skills for Library Staff, as part of the Symposium on the Future of Libraries. The impact of this project will begin to be felt this year, as systems nationwide launch their own local courses on topics such as Internet privacy. Discussions about scaling the project could also offer perspectives to libraries, institutions, or grant recipients developing other train-the-trainer programs.


Kiera Parrott

Reviews Director, LJ & SLJ

Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee Meeting I
Sat., Feb. 10, 8:30–11:30 a.m. Hyatt, Agate

If you’ve never attended a Best Fiction for YA meeting, you’re in for a treat. This is a panel of actual teens discussing a wide variety of books. What makes the panel so dynamic—and, by turns, funny and cringe-worthy—is the brutal honesty with which the young people evaluate the literature. No feelings are spared. For those of us interested in the YA book market and curious to know what real-life young adults want in their reading material, it’s well worth popping in for a few of the discussions.

The New Immigrant Experience: Providing a Platform for Refugee and Asylum Seekers’ Voices to be Heard
Sat., Feb. 10, 9–9:50 a.m. PopTop Stage

Services for new immigrants and refugees are not new to libraries, but recent political and global events have brought their unique needs into sharp focus. Helen Thorpe, author of The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom (Scribner), will be in conversation with a library paraprofessional from Denver’s South High School, discussing the experiences of 22 South High School immigrant students over the 2015–16 school year.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Public Libraries Discussion Group
Sun., Feb. 11, 8:30–10 a.m. Sheraton Denver Downtown, Director’s Row H

The Public Library Association’s open group for librarians interested in learning from one another’s efforts around equity, diversity, and inclusion; sharing best practices; and offering advice on addressing topics such as privilege, oppression, and identity.


Lisa Peet

Associate Editor, News

A Collaborative Future for Libraries, Museums, and More: Chicago Collections and Lifelong Learning Across the Community
Sat., Feb. 10, 10:30–11:30 a.m. CCC 403

Chicago Collections is a vibrant consortium of Chicago-area libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, and scientific organizations. This session, part of the Symposium on the Future of Libraries, will offer ideas for other cultural heritage organizations and communities to build on its successful, creative model.

Seeding the Future: The Innovation in Libraries Awesome Foundation Chapter
Sat., Feb. 10, 1–2:30 p.m. CCC 403

The Innovation in Libraries Awesome Foundation Chapter supports the prototyping of citizen-library collaborations that promote diversity, inclusivity, creativity, and risk-taking. This session, also part of the Symposium on the Future of Libraries, is an opportunity to hear about the chapter’s history, check out funded projects, and find out more about future awesome initiatives.

Denver’s Take on “Fusion” Libraries: Part 1—Informal Tour of the Auraria Library of the Auraria Higher Education Center
Sat., Feb. 10, 5–6:30 p.m. Off-Site

The nation’s only tri-institutional academic library, downtown Denver’s Auraria Library serves the University of Colorado, Denver; Metropolitan State University of Denver; and the Community College of Denver. A thorough tour of the facility will look at how staffing, scheduling, maintenance, collections, and programming are managed, with debriefing at a local craft brew pub.

Crisis and Community: How Can the ALA Support Libraries in Communities That Are Most Vulnerable To the Effects of Climate Change?
Sun., Feb. 11, 1–2:30 p.m. Embassy Suites, Crystal Salon B

Libraries and the communities they serve have been increasingly hit by catastrophic weather events—floods, fires, drought, and more—as well as economic disruptions. This discussion group invites librarians working in vulnerable areas to provide options as to how ALA’s Sustainability Roundtable can help support them and their constituents.


Meredith Schwartz

Executive Editor

Library Security Trends: The Opioid Epidemic and Libraries
Sat., Feb. 10, 1:30–2:30 p.m. CCC 401

Some trends we could do without. But since it’s a fact not only that libraries have patrons impacted by the opioid epidemic but that it’s coming right to our doorstep with users buying, selling, and taking drugs in libraries, I look forward to hearing Steve Albrecht, retired police officer and author of Library Security: Better Communication, Safer Facilities (ALA Editions), address safety and security issues resulting from opiate use, particularly strategies for recognizing and responding to opiate users in medical distress.

F3: Fine-Free Future
Sat., Feb. 10, 3–4 p.m. CCC 402

After LJ’s Fines and Fees survey in spring 2017 (see “Doing Fine(s)?”) and the news that several libraries of various sizes have done away with fines either altogether or at least for children, I am looking forward to this session, in which directors who have taken the leap share their strategies and their plans to measure impact.

ALA President’s Program
Sun. Feb. 11, 3:30–5:30 p.m. CCC Mile High Ballroom 2 & 3

The topic “Are Libraries Neutral? Have They Ever Been? Should They Be?” is important and timely, as debates on this very subject roil the social media, Listservs, and even the LJ comment section—anywhere the field is in dialog. But it’s the members of the panel that really get me excited: with Em Claire Knowles (assistant dean, Simmons LIS) and James LaRue (director, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom) arguing for and Chris Bourg (director of libraries, MIT) and R. David Lankes (director, USC library school) arguing against, this is bound to be one heck of a debate. ALA president Jim Neal will moderate, and Emily Drabinski (coordinator of library instruction, Long Island University, Brooklyn), Kathleen de la Peña McCook (distinguished university professor, University of South Florida library school, Tampa), Emily Knox (assistant professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s library school), and Kelvin Watson (director, Broward County Libraries, FL) will offer ­commentary.

Equity-Driven Services and Programs: Exploring Alternative Information Services at the Library
Mon., Feb. 12, 10:30–11:30 a.m. CCC 401

Following another of Michael Stephens’s recommendations—learning from the host city—I chose this program, which will explore Denver Public Library’s (DPL) efforts to understand community needs better and develop equity driven services and programs—and their continuing evolution in response to impact and user feedback. I’ve long been an admirer from afar of DPL’s innovations in this area, including adding Peer Navigators to its social work team; I look forward to hearing about them up close and personal.

This article was published in Library Journal's January 1, 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Comments

  1. Is there going to be a galley guide for Midwinter this year?

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