Michael Eric Dyson, Holly Robinson Peete, John Lewis and More to Make Appearances at 2016 American Library Association Annual Conference


What’s on tap for librarians and publishers at the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando

This year’s American Library Association Annual Conference, set for June 23–28 in Orlando, is going to be one hot show—literally. With average late-June temperatures in Orlando expected to be in the 90s (with high humidity), what better way to spend the day than in a nice air-conditioned room listening to an author, browsing titles on the exhibit floor, or catching a professional program? There will be plenty of chances to do all three, of course, as this year’s conference will feature more than 2,000 scheduled events, including hundreds of author appearances, and more than 700 exhibiting companies.

As librarians and publishers prepare to head to Orlando for what will be the third national library conference of 2016 (following the biennial Public Library Association conference in April and the ALA Midwinter Meeting in January), there are signs that libraries may at last be escaping the shadow of the Great Recession. Some 35% of respondents to a recent PW survey of public librarians said their collections budgets had grown over the past three years. But perhaps most importantly, libraries are successfully embracing the changes brought by the digital age, with expanded programs and services—a key objective highlighted by the ALA’s Libraries Transform initiative, a campaign to call attention to the transformative nature of today’s libraries and the critical role they play in the Internet age.

This year also marks the 140th anniversary of the first ALA Annual Conference. Much has changed since 103 librarians gathered for the first “Convention of Librarians” in Philadelphia, in 1876. But without question, the pace of change has accelerated in recent decades—so much so that this year’s program will look vastly different from even the previous ALA conference in Orlando, in 2004.

“Twelve years ago, makerspaces weren’t yet in the public library,” observes PW columnist Brian Kenney, director of the White Plains (N.Y.) Public Library. “App development and mobile responsiveness weren’t topics librarians—or anyone—had to worry about. And archivists simply didn’t have the issues they face now in the age of Big Data.”

One can only imagine what changes loom for libraries in the coming decade.


Of course, whatever new services libraries may be pushing into, books remain the bedrock of the profession. And what makes every ALA conference special for so many attendees are the authors. This year’s conference once again features a strong slate of authors, beginning with the conference’s main program and the Auditorium Speaker series. (Note: All of the featured speakers appear on stage at the Chapin Theater, Room W320).

The main program will kick off on Friday, June 24, with a keynote by Michael Eric Dyson, at the opening general session (4–5 p.m.). Named by Essence magazine as one of the 50 most inspiring African-Americans in the U.S., Dyson, a renowned public intellectual and prolific writer, is the author of 17 books, including the American Book Award–winning Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster. He is also a regular contributor to the New York Times and the New Republic, and a political analyst for MSNBC. His latest book is The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), which Salon praised as a “brilliant and complicated portrait of a brilliant and complicated president.”

On Saturday, June 25, Margaret Atwood takes the stage (10:30–11:30 a.m.). Atwood is the bestselling author of more than 40 books, including fiction, poetry, children’s literature, and essays. Her novel The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize. In October, Atwood will publish Hag-Seed, her retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which she called “a strenuous pleasure to wrestle with.” The book is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare project, which encourages today’s acclaimed and bestselling novelists to adapt Shakespeare’s works.

Teen entrepreneur, activist, and author Maya Penn takes the stage on Saturday afternoon (3:30–4:30 p.m.). In 2008, at the age of eight, Penn founded Maya’s Ideas, a company that sells her own eco-friendly handmade clothing and accessories online, with a portion of the profits going to charity. Penn is also the founder of Maya’s Ideas 4 the Planet, a nonprofit that helps girls in developing countries. Her TEDWomen Talk is one of the most viewed of all time. And this year, at the ripe old age of 16, Penn has published her first book: You Got This! Unleash Your Awesomeness, Find Your Path and Change Your World (S&S), in which she provides a creative blueprint for teens and young adults to pursue their goals and dreams.

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SOURCE: Publishers Weekly
Andrew Richard Albanese & Liz Hartman