More than 11,000 librarians, publishers, and vendors gathered in Boston January 8–12 for the 2016 ALA Midwinter Meeting, a slight rise over the attendance at last year’s event in ALA’s hometown of Chicago. In all, 11,716 total attendees made it to Boston, an especially impressive turnout considering there is a biannual Public Library Association Meeting on the calendar this spring.
Among the highlights at ALA were an opening session on the nature of creativity, featuring documentarian Ken Burns, and authors Mark Kurlansky and Terry Tempest Williams; a rollicking talk by fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, about his upcoming memoir; and an inspirational talk from United States senator Cory Booker, who keynoted the ALA President’s Program (and whose forthcoming United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good will be published this spring by Penguin Random House).
Always the highlight of the ALA Midwinter Meeting, the Youth Media Awards were announced early on January 11, with Matt de la Peña winning the 2016 John Newbery Medal for his picture book Last Stop on Market Street (Putnam). Sophie Blackall took home the 2016 Randolph Caldecott Medal for Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, written by Lindsay Mattick (Little, Brown). And Laura Ruby won the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award for Bone Gap (HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray).
For the first time in their five-year history, the American Library Association’s adult book awards, the Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, were announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. In fiction, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press) took home top honors, while Sally Mann’s Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs (Little, Brown) took home the award for nonfiction. Both books also earned starred reviews from PW. A reception for the winning authors will be held during the ALA Annual Conference in June, where each author will be awarded their medal and a $5,000 prize.
In the professional program, e-books remained a subject of intense interest. At a session sponsored by the ALA’s Digital Content Working Group, librarians reported that despite now having secured basic access to e-books, more work needed to be done. E-lending remains complex to manage and difficult for users, attendees said, and e-book prices remain unsustainably high.
Also on the digital side, the staff of Digital Public Library of America, led by executive director Dan Cohen, held its annual meet and greet, just days after the New York Public Library, one of DPLA’s partnering institutions, released 180,000 digitized items for anyone to download for free in high resolution, bringing DPLA’s growing national collection to a total of 11.5 million items and growing. “The power of DPLA is really merging here in our third year,” Cohen said, “as you can see and really use these new synthesized collections.”
And in a session sponsored by the ALA Washington Office, New York Public Library officials demonstrated a new app to bring free e-book access to low-income students. Done in conjunction with First Book (a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging reading in low-income communities) and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the app includes a range of public domain books, but also millions of dollars’ worth of popular titles donated by publishers. The program was first announced this spring by President Barack Obama, at the Anacostia Branch of the District of Columbia Public Library.
The Public Library Association Meeting is up next for librarians, set for April 5–9, in Denver, Colo., and the ALA annual conference is set for Orlando, Fla., June 23–28.