The 2013 American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition will be held in the great city of Chicago, where the ALA is based. And that means the show, which will run from June 27–July 2, will almost surely post the highest attendance numbers in years. And with some recent breakthroughs and headlines, librarians will gather in ALA’s hometown with a feeling that the wind may finally be at their backs.
Most prominently, after two years of strained relations between librarians and publishers, all of the Big-Six houses are now engaged with lending e-books. The last holdout, Hachette, enabled e-book lending for its full e-book catalogue, including new releases, as of May 8. The publisher’s decision came shortly after Penguin said in April that it would no longer embargo new releases from its limited e-book pilot project with libraries, and that it would expand its digital lending to libraries nationwide. Both houses indicated that after months of study, they are now confident that library e-book lending will not harm their businesses.
In addition, the e-book-lending space has proven to be a growth industry, with competing platforms gaining share from market leader OverDrive and offering libraries and publishers more choice and flexibility in serving their readers: 3M’s Cloud Library; Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360; Library Ideas’ Freading; ProQuest’s integration of eBrary; EBSCO’s netLibrary; Ingram’s MyiLibrary; and Recorded Books’ OneClick Digital platform. All of these vendors will be exhibiting in Chicago, and they’re hoping to take advantage of a digital library market that’s been walking steadily for years but is now looking to run.
The good news on e-books comes less than a year after tensions between librarians and publishers peaked, following the 2012 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif., with ALA taking its message to the public via an open letter. But the patience and hard work of the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group (DCWG), which continues to study the e-book issue and has remained engaged in conversations with publishers, now appears to be paying off. ALA attendees can hear an update on the e-book issue on Saturday, June 29, from 1–2:30 p.m. in room S502 at the McCormick Place Convention Center, from the co-chairs and other leaders of the DCWG, who will summarize recent activities and talk about the strategy and plans for the future.
Also bolstering librarians’ moods are the latest findings from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which suggest that public libraries, for all the challenges they face in the digital age, still enjoy massive popularity. Attendees will have two chances to hear Lee Rainie, director of the project and coauthor of the book Networked: The New Social Operating System (MIT Press).
First, Rainie will keynote the Reference & User Services Association Presidents program, with a talk titled “The Myth and the Reality of the Evolving Patron,” on Saturday, June 29, from 4–5:30 p.m. in room S105a-c at the convention center.
Rainie and Deborah Jacobs from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will discuss their research on libraries and families on Sunday, June 30, from 1–2:30pm in room S103d.
Another highlight of this year’s ALA will be the awarding of the second annual Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction; librarians vote to determine the winners from among books written for adult readers and published in the U.S. during the previous year. Last year’s awards went to Irish novelist Anne Enright, for The Forgotten Waltz (Norton), and Robert K. Massie, who took home top nonfiction honors for Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (Random House).
This year’s award will be picked from an impressive shortlist. In fiction, the finalists include Canada, by Richard Ford (Ecco); The Round House, by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins); and This Is How You Lose Her, by Junot Díaz (Riverhead). And for nonfiction, the finalists include The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death, by Jill Lepore (Knopf); Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, by Timothy Egan (HMH); and Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, by David Quammen (Norton).
General Sessions and Awards
As in previous year’s, the lifeblood of the 2013 ALA conference will be the authors and speakers. And once again, attendees can look forward to meeting and learning from an outstanding slate of writers and experts in a rich assortment of general sessions, auditorium speeches, and in-booth appearances.
This year’s opening general session (Friday, June 28, 4–5:15 p.m.), sponsored by HarperCollins, will be keynoted by Steven D. Levitt, the coauthor, with Stephen J. Dubner, of the bestselling Freakonomics. Levitt and Dubner’s upcoming Think Like A Freak (October, HarperCollins) analyzes our decisions, plans, and morals, yielding insights that help readers make better decisions in their daily lives. Levitt is professor of economics at the University of Chicago.
The closing general session and inaugural event (Tuesday, July 2, 9:30–11 a.m.) is sponsored by Simon & Schuster and features award-winning actress Octavia Spencer (30 Rock, The Help) as keynote speaker. She will discuss her upcoming first novel, aimed at middle-grade readers: Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit (October 2013, S&S). Randi Rhodes, the protagonist, is a 12-year-old Brooklyn vigilante with a black belt, who has moved to Tennessee after her mother dies and must solve a mystery. Spencer says she was a big fan of Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown when she was younger.
On Monday afternoon, following the closing of the exhibits, singer-songwriter Janis Ian (a two-time Grammy Award winner) will lead the Wrap Up/Rev Up Party (Monday, July 1, 2–3 p.m.), to wrap up in Chicago and rev up for the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. Ian won the 2013 Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for her audiobook Society’s Child, and she’s the author of The Tiny Mouse, a picture book based on her song of the same name, to be published this fall by Lemniscaat.
The ALA President’s Program and Awards Presentations (Sunday, June 30, 3:30–5:30 p.m.) will feature speaker Dan Cohen, founding executive director of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Cohen will introduce and describe the recently launched DPLA and its open-access offerings of millions of books, articles, photographs, historical documents, objects, and artifacts. He is the coauthor (with Roy Rozenzweig) of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving and Presenting the Past, and is also the recipient of the 2011 Frederick G. Kilgour award from ALA.
On Saturday, June 29, digital media pioneer Jaron Lanier (8:30–9:30 a.m.), author of You Are Not a Gadget, kicks off the series with a discussion of his new book, Who Owns the Future? (S&S), which argues that the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession.
In conversation with Booklist’s Donna Seaman, Afghan-born novelist and physician Khaled Hosseini (10:30–11:30 a.m.) discusses And the Mountains Echoed (Riverhead Books), his first new novel in more than six years. Following its characters from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to Greece, the story explores the many ways families nurture, wound, betray, and honor one another.
A member of President Obama’s National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Ping Fu (noon–1 p.m.) recounts her story of resilience in her memoir Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds (Penguin/Portfolio). Separated at age eight from her parents during China’s Cultural Revolution and exiled to the U.S. at 25, she quickly made a new life for herself as an entrepreneur, worked at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and AT&T Bell Labs, and is now a board member of the Long Now Foundation.
Legendary civil rights activist, Congressman, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, and award-winning author John Lewis (3:30–4:30 p.m.) explains why he chose the nonfiction comic book format for his three-volume autobiographical project, March (August, Top Shelf Comix), which documents the extreme violence that he and other activists faced during the struggle for civil rights. For the second half of the program, he will be joined by coauthor Andrew Aydin and comics artist/writer Nate Powell to discuss their collaboration.
On Sunday, June 30, bestselling author, doctor of animal science, and autism activist Temple Grandin (8:30–9:30 a.m.) discusses The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (HMH). Weaving her own experience with remarkable new discoveries, she finds a route to more effective mainstreaming and a way to unleash the unique advantages that autistic people possess.
For young foodies, Giada De Laurentiis (10:30–11:30 a.m.), the Emmy Award–winning star of Food Network’s Everyday Italian, serves up her new Recipe for Adventure book series, featuring a brother and sister whose lives take a magical turn when their fabulous great aunt comes to live with them. The first two books in the series, Naples! and Paris! (Sept., Grosset & Dunlap), are inspired by the author’s love of each respective city and its cuisine.
Bookseller and author Ann Patchett (1–2:30 p.m.), whose forthcoming title is This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Nov., HarperCollins), is the featured speaker in the PLA President’s Program. Preceding her presentation, 11 PLA award winners will be recognized and celebrated.
On Monday, July 1, filmmaker Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick (10:30–11:30 a.m.) talk about their joint project, The Untold History of the United States, a companion to the eponymous Showtime documentary series, which challenges the prevailing orthodoxies of conventional history books. Stone and Kuznick want to hear from librarians on the state of history books currently available to middle and high school students.
Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker (noon) discusses her two new books, The Cushion in the Road and The World Will Follow Joy (New Press).
The PopTop Stage
Saturday, June 29, is Mystery Day. Programs include “Mystery Solved: Introducing New Mystery Writers to Library Audiences” (11 a.m.–noon), with Jane Gibson, Peter Robertson, and Eric Lungren; “What Makes Chicago a Great Place for Murder” (noon–1 p.m.), with Claire O’Donohue, Frances MacNamara, and David Walker; and “International Crime from Independent Publishers,” (1–2 p.m.), featuring Wolf Haas, Bayo Ojikutu, Zane Lovitt, and Mark Billingham.
Sunday, June 30, is Science Fiction/Fantasy Day, with authors Jonathan Maberry, Cory Doctorow, Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, Jim C. Hines, David Brin, Elizabeth Bear, and Timothy Zahn.
Monday, July 1, is Poetry Day, with a Poetry Blast showcasing readings from Alma Flor Ada, Isabel Campoy, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Sid Farrar, Nikki Grimes, Bob Raczka, Laura Purdie Salas, Marilyn Singer, and Tamera Will Wissinger.
Saturday, June 29, 4:30–5:30 p.m., featuring Judy Goldman and René Saldaña; and “Latino Books for Youth: An Honest Conversation,” Sunday, June 30, 10:30–11:30 a.m., with Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez.
Bestselling graphic novelists Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Doug TenNapel, and Raina Telgemeier will participate in “Krosoczka! TenNapel! Telgemeier! Graphic Novels Your Kids Love by Names You Can’t Pronounce,” Saturday, June 29, 3–4:00 p.m., moderated by Jon Scieszka.
Themed programs hosted by the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF) include “Crossing Over: Teen Books for Everyone!” (Saturday, June 29, 10:30–11:30 a.m.), with Tod Davies, Anton DiSclafani, Darynda Jones, Richard Kadrey, and Amanda Sun; “Quirky Books for Quirkier Librarians” (Saturday, June 29, 3–4 p.m.), featuring Josh Hanagarne, Stephen Kiernan, John Scalzi, and Abby Stokes; “First Author, First Book” (Sunday, June 30, 10:30–11:30 a.m.), spotlighting Janice Clark, Matthew Guinn, Amy Gail Hansen, Elliott Holt, Jason Mott, Jessica Soffer, and Kent Wascom; and “Shoot Between the Lines: Mystery Writers Reveal All” (Sunday, June 30, 3–4 p.m.) featuring Jeff Abbott, John Dufrense, Sara Gran, Michael Harvey, Lars Kepler, and Ingrid Thoft. There’s also the ticketed Gala Author Tea, sponsored by ReferenceUSA (Monday, July 1, 2–4 p.m.), with Melanie Benjamin, Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver, Wally Lamb, and Jojo Moyes.
Book Buzz Theater 
From Saturday through Monday, in back-to-back sessions, librarians can hear the latest buzz on new titles from various publishers’ library marketing representatives; please refer to the official convention schedule for details.