Las Vegas—America’s playground: home to high rollers, showgirls, illusionists, one-arm bandits, Wayne Newton, and the most all-you-can-eat buffets per square mile in the country. And from Thursday, June 26–Tuesday, July 1, you can add librarians to the list, as some 20,000 ALA members, authors, publishers, and vendors descend on Sin City for a week of good clean, uh, professional development. The timing is just right: in 2014, librarians will hit Vegas on a bit of a winning streak, ready to place some bold bets on their future. Where the chips will finally fall, however, is far from certain.

After a patch of tough luck, libraries have seen positive developments in recent months. In a recently concluded trio of surveys from the Pew Research Center, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Americans showed major affection for libraries—96% of respondents told Pew researchers that libraries were important. Pew researchers have also developed a “marketing typology” that helps librarians better market their services, and in Las Vegas, they hope to unveil an online “widget” for librarians to assess their efforts.

Additional ALA coverage

ALA 2014: Showtime!

Brian Kenney's picks for ALA 2014

ALA 2014: ALA en Español

How to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking patrons.

ALA 2014: The Exit Interview: PW Talks with Scholastic’s John Mason

Mason reflects on 43 years in children's book publishing.

ALA 2014: Hands On

Libraries and the maker movement.

ALA 2014: Raising the Stakes

Checking in with the ALA's Digital Content Working Group.

ALA 2014: And the Winner Is...

The 2014 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence shortlist.

It’s not all sunshine and roses, of course. At ALA Midwinter, Pew director Lee Rainie acknowledged the tough spot librarians are in, balancing the provision of traditional service with the need to embrace new technology—and the disruption that often entails. “That tension is embedded in the data,” Rainie told librarians. “If you fool around with your books, you are fooling around with your primary customers. But if you don’t do it, you risk new audiences or being relevant to some of the people who you really care about serving.”

Don’t miss your chance to hear Rainie, a great, engaging speaker (and coauthor of Networked: The New Social Operating System) speak about Pew’s library research (Monday, 10:30–11:30 a.m., LVCC room N243).

On the budget front, things remain stable, if tough, for libraries. In a bit of good news, President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill in January that restores funding to the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)—the primary source of annual federal funding for libraries that had been slashed under sequestration.

For school libraries, however, the budget situation remains especially challenging. As public schools struggle WTH diminishing revenues, their libraries must cope with staffing and other cuts, noted ALA president Barbara Stripling in the recently released 2014 State of American Libraries report from ALA. But, she added, the introduction of new standards, including Common Core, could be turn out to be a major boost for school libraries.

“On one hand, budget and testing pressures have led to decisions to eliminate or deprofessionalize school libraries,” Stripling observes, “but on the other hand, the increased emphasis on college and career readiness and the integration of technology have opened an new door to school librarian leadership.”

No doubt, the Common Core will be a major topic of conversation in Las Vegas, especially given its rocky rollout so far. A Saturday morning session titled The Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries (Sunday, 10:30–11:30 a.m., LVCC room S228) should have plenty to offer on the subject. And, for more on budgetary and other political and advocacy issues, don’t miss the ALA’s Washington Update: 2014 Congressional Election & Its Impact on Libraries (Saturday, 8:30–10 a.m., LVCC room N259/261) which will feature former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, who will offer a look at the 2014 Congressional elections and the potential impact on libraries.

When it comes to technology, e-books and digital content will once again be at the forefront of conversation at ALA. And with Amazon and Hachette’s battle over terms generating national headlines, librarians would do well to seize the opportunity to educate the public on the broader issues surrounding the transition to e-books and other digital content.

On a positive note, after years of tension, the icy relations between libraries and publishers over e-book lending finally began to thaw in 2013. And as we head into ALA 2014, all of the major publishers are now in the e-book lending game, with most now offering their full catalogs to libraries. But securing that initial access was only the beginning, librarians say, with the focus now on actively pushing for what libraries really need to succeed in the e-book space: a better user experience; better pricing; experimentation with new platforms and models; programs that can mine their own collections for new digital offerings; and a role in both collecting self-published content and enabling self-published authors in their communities.

For more on these issues, don’t miss the ALA Digital Content Working Group’s Update (Saturday, 1–2:30 p.m., LVCC room N255/257) which will present different perspectives on the thorny problems facing libraries and offer a progress report on the group’s work. (For more on the ALA Digital Content Working Group check out our story “Raisin the Stakes,” in this issue.)

On the legal front, libraries have been on a bit of winning streak, too, especially in some key copyright cases. Most recently, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed judge Harold Baer’s October 2012 decision in the HathiTrust case. The suit was first filed by the Authors Guild in September 2011, as a parallel action to the Guild’s suit against Google. Baer had found the program undertaken by a coalition of major research libraries to be fair use. And last week, the appeals court upheld that verdict.”

In a statement, the American Library Association, which backed the HathiTrust, called the decision was a major victory for libraries, noting that the court had “affirmed that the fair use of copyrighted material by libraries for the public is essential to copyright law,” and recognized the “tremendous value of libraries in securing the massive record of human knowledge on behalf of the general public and in providing lawful access to works for research, educational, and learning purposes, including access for people with disabilities.”

But with an Authors Guild appeal against Google still awaiting a decision and a major appeals court decision also looming in the Georgia State E-Reserves case, this is no time to spike the ball. For more on the key copyright issues facing libraries, check out the ALA Office of Information and Technology Policy Copyright and Digitization panel (Sunday, 2014, 3–4 p.m., LVCC room S219).

Another major trend in libraries that showcases both their traditional and their future roles is the rise of makerspaces and the “maker” movement in libraries. Along with cutting edge technology like 3-D printers, the maker movement will be featured prominently in the program at this year’s show—a trend that has been ramping up steadily (see Shannon Maughan’s piece “Hands On,” also in our ALA 2014 Spotlight section, for more on the maker movement, as well as Brian Kenney’s “Showtime!” for a selection of maker sessions).

In commenting on the State of America’s Libraries report, ALA executive director Keith Fiels noted that “fundamental change in the very nature of what [libraries] do and how we do it.” He added that “increasingly, libraries are serving as conveners, first bringing community members together to articulate their aspirations and then innovating in order to become active partners with them, as well as a driving force in community development and community change.”

Indeed, the theme of ALA 2014 is transformation—and that theme is on full display in the ALA’s main program.

General Sessions and Awards

Professionals sessions aside, authors are the lifeblood of the ALA annual conference, and the ALA’s theme of transformation is also well-represented in the conference’s main program.

Jane McGonigal, a designer of alternate reality games and bestselling author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World will give the keynote address at the opening general session (Friday, 4-5:15 p.m.), offering a fascinating perspective on the rise of sophisticated games, which promise myriad possibilities for library programming.

In a starred review, PW called Reality Is Broken a “vibrant mix of technology, psychology, and sociology, told with the vision of a futurist and the deft touch of a storyteller.” And in a q&a with PW, she explained that games are a “21st Century way of thinking and leading,” particularly the new wave of Alternative Reality Game, which, (unlike Minecraft or your guilty pleasure, Candy Crush) can actually help solve real-world problems. McGonigal herself is the inventor/cofounder of SuperBetter, a game that has helped more than 250,000 players tackle health challenges such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and traumatic brain injury.

TV and film star B.J. Novak, will speak at the closing general session (Tuesday, 9:30-11 a.m.). A stand-up comedian, writer, and actor (best-known from his role as Ryan on NBC’s Emmy Award–winning “The Office” and appearances in films, including Inglorious Basterds and Saving Mr. Banks), Novak is also the author of One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (Knopf). His first children’s book, The Book with No Pictures (Dial Books for Young Readers) will be published in September.

Bestselling youth author and two-time Newbery Medal winner, Lois Lowry will speak at the ALA President’s Program and Awards Presentations (Sunday, 3:30–5:30 p.m.), followed by featured speaker, Academy Award–winning actor Jeff Bridges, who will talk about the upcoming movie version of Lowry’s beloved The Giver, in which he will star. The program will wrap up with a q&a with the audience.

In addition to Lowry and Bridges’ appearances, the ALA’s annual awards will be handed out, including Lemony Snicket author Daniel Handler’s presentation of the first-ever Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity. The award will go to New Orleans-based librarian Laurence Copel, known as “the book lady” for her dedication to her community, where, among her efforts, she has set up a library in her own home and brought books, by bicycle, to families in need. Along with a certificate and a $3,000 check, she will also receive “an odd object from Handler’s private collection.”

Auditorium Speakers

As usual, ALA has lined up a great slate of auditorium speakers. On Saturday (8:30–9:30 a.m.) bestselling author, activist, and legendary Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress Jane Fonda will discuss her love of libraries and her book Being a Teen (Random House).

Billed as a “frank, straightforward, and thorough guide to the body, sexuality, friendship, family, feelings, and more.” The book is informed by Fonda’s personal experience working with young people and experts in the field of adolescent sexuality at the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential, which she founded in 1994, and at Emory University’s Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, which she founded in 2001. Fonda’s years of independent were driven by her belief that young people are not getting the information they need—a problem libraries should be able to help with.

Following Fonda, Azar Nafisi, award-winning author of the international bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran, will discuss her latest book, Things I’ve Been Silent About (Random House), her next book, The Republic of Imagination: A Portrait of America in Three Books (Viking, Oct. 2014), and her engagement in promoting literacy (10:30–11:30 a.m.).

In what is sure to be one of the highlights of program, Stan Lee (12–1 p.m.), chairman emeritus of Marvel Comics and beloved comic book superhero creator, will talk about, among other things, his forthcoming action-packed graphic novel Zodiac (Jan. 2015, Disney).

Based on the Chinese Zodiac, the book, cowritten with Stuart Moore and illustrated by Andie Tong, follows Steven Lee, a young Chinese-American teen who is drawn into a mysterious conspiracy surrounding twelve mystical pools of energy and a power-hungry secret organization.

Saturday’s auditorium events will be closed out by prolific bestseller Alexander McCall Smith (3:30–4:30 p.m.), author of the internationally acclaimed No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and Isabel Dalhousie series, whose latest standalone novel is The Forever Girl. The author also “may or may not discuss the Really Terrible Orchestra,” which he cofounded and which features him on bassoon and his wife on horn.

On Sunday, Ilyasah Shabazz, community organizer, activist, motivational speaker, and author of the critically acclaimed Growing Up X, will talk about what inspires and motivates her (10:30–11:30 a.m.). Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, collaborated with Kekla Magoon on X and is co-editor, with Herb Boyd, of The Diary of Malcolm X.

On Monday, high-wire performer Philippe Petit (8:30–9:30 a.m.) will discuss and autograph his book Creativity: The Perfect Crime (Riverhead). Petit has performed on the high wire around the world more than 80 times; he also does street performances whenever (and wherever) he likes—for which he has been arrested more than 500 times.

Executive coach, bestselling author, and “champion for introverts” Jennifer B. Kahnweiler (10:30–11:30 a.m.) will discuss the power of introverts. She is the author of both The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength and Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference, which have sold more than 50,000 copies and are translated into 10 languages. A book signing will follow the presentation.

Themed Panels

This year’s themed panels discuss everything from social injustice to romance to the process of making a comic book. (consult your program for any last minute changes).

On Saturday, the Amelia Bloomer Project and Rainbow Project Author Panel (8:30–10 a.m.) features William Klaber, and Rita Williams-Garcia.

Romance writers participating in “Isn’t it Romantic” (8:30–10 a.m.) include Jeaniene Frost, Jill Shalvis, Deborah Coonts, and Shelley Coriell.

“Teaching with Comics” (10–11 a.m.) chats with Matt Dembicki, Jason Rodriguez, and Joel Gill.

“Quirky Books for Quirky Librarians” (3–4:30 p.m.) features Ben Parzybok, Jennifer Holland, Ian Doesher, and Caitlin Dougherty.

The invitation-only “Let Our Rejoicing Rise: 45 Years of the Coretta Scott King Book Award: A Conversation with Past and Present Winners” (5–7 p.m.) features Andrea Davis Pinkney, Bryan Collier, Nikki Grimes, Patricia McKissack, Kadir Nelson, Theodore Taylor III, and Rita Williams-Garcia.

On Sunday, “First Author, First Book: Veteran & Rookies” (8:30–10 a.m.) gathers Jim McGinty, Will Thomas, Adi Alsaid, and Kimberly Elkins.

“Hot Picks for Book Clubs” (10:30–11:30 a.m.) includes Ana Castillo, Julie Lawson Timmer, Ann Hood, and Rebecca Rasmussen; and on the Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage (3–4 p.m.), the entire creative team of a comic book—Brian Buccellato, Francis Manapul, Patrick Gleason, and Peter Tomasi—will discuss how a new project is developed.

On Monday, an “Author Illustrator Panel” (10–11 a.m.) features Raina Telgemeier, Tom Angleberger, and Cece Bell.

The PopTop Stage

This year’s PopTop Stage focuses on mystery, crime fiction, and poetry, with three days of readings, discussions, and presentations (as usual, please see the official convention schedule for final details, as the schedule is subject to change).

On Saturday, programs kick off with the “Mob Panel” (10–11 a.m.) with Geoff Schumacher, Morgan St. James, Frank Cullotta, Tony Montana, and Geno Munari. A presentation by Stephan Pastis with Teri Lesesne follows (1–2 p.m.). And don’t miss “Women in Mystery” (3–4:30 p.m.) with Rachel Howzell Hall, Hannah Dennison, Jane K. Cleland, and Kelli Stanley.

On Sunday, there’s an International Crime Fiction presentation (10–11 a.m.) with Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan.The Odyssey Award–winning Scowler Team (2–3 p.m.) presents a panel featuring Daniel Kraus;

“A Poetry Blast” (3–4 p.m.) features Margarita Engle, Joan Bransfield Graham, Nikki Grimes, K.A. Holt, Marilyn Nelson, Marilyn Singer, and Jacqueline Woodson.

On Monday, a panel explores “Seedy Criminal Underbellies” (10–11 a.m.) featuring Deborah Coonts and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

Book Buzz Theater

From Saturday through Monday, librarians can hear the latest buzz on new titles from well over a dozen publishers’ library marketing representatives. Please refer to the official convention schedule for details.

Click below for the rest of our ALA coverage:

ALA 2014: ALA en Español

ALA 2014: The Exit Interview: PW Talks with Scholastic’s John Mason

ALA 2014: Hands On

ALA 2014: Showtime!

ALA 2014: Raising the Stakes

ALA 2014: And the Winner Is...