For the second time in two years, librarians will have a home game: the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting officially kicks off this afternoon (Jan. 30 to Feb. 3) in the organization’s home base of Chicago. And despite weather-related travel snarls, ALA officials are expecting more than 10,000 attendees.

The main conference program kicks off with the popular Exhibits Roundtable/Booklist Author Forum, (4 p.m at McCormick Place West, room W375a/Skyline). This year, Booklist associate editor Sarah Hunter will offer a look into the world of graphic novels, featuring several of the genre’s popular authors and artists.

Scheduled to appear: CeCe Bell, whose most recent book for young readers, El Deafo, explores what it is like to grow up deaf; author Jeff Smith, who is perhaps best known as the creator of the comic book series Bone, and a board member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Gene Luen Yang, whose first book, American Born Chinese, won the Printz Award and was a National Book Award finalist; And Françoise Mouly, art director at the New Yorker and publisher and editorial director of Toon Books, an imprint of comics and visual narratives for young readers. Along with her collaborator and husband, the legendary Art Spiegelman, Mouly created the groundbreaking comics anthology Raw and the New York Times’ bestselling Little Lit series of comics.

Immediately following the opening author forum, the exhibit hall will open with an evening reception, featuring food, drink, and entertainment. Throughout the conference,some 700 publishers and vendors will be on hand in the exhibit hall. And, there will hundreds of sessions on panels focusing on professional issues.


Among the main conference program highlights, the Auditorium Speaker Series kicks off on Saturday, January 31, with a talk by award-winning author Alice Hoffman (McCormick Place West room W375a/Skyline, 10 a.m.). Among Hoffman’s more than 30 bestselling works of fiction are Practical Magic, Here on Earth, and the highly praised historical novel The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novel, Night-bird, her first for middle-grade readers, will be published in March 2015.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author of the bestselling books Infidel and Nomad, will give this year’s Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture (McCormick Place West room W375a/Skyline, 4 p.m.). Born in Somalia, Hirsi Ali grew up in Africa and Saudi Arabia before fleeing to the Netherlands in 1992, where she eventually won a seat in the Dutch Parliament. Her forthcoming book, Heretic (March 2015), calls for an Islamic reformation to end the current wave of violence and repression of women.

On Sunday, February 1, author, literacy advocate, actor, producer, director, and educator LeVar Burton takes the stage (McCormick Place West room W375a/ Skyline, 10 a.m.). Burton is co-founder of the award-winning Reading Rainbow digital library and recently published his first children’s book,

Later on Sunday, ALA President Courtney Young will welcome Mick Ebeling (McCormick Place West room W375a/Sky-line, 3:30 p.m.), author of Not Impossible: The Art and the Joy of Doing What Couldn’t Be Done (Atria Books, January 2015), and the founder the Ebeling Group, an award-winning international production company and creative think tank. Ebeling promises attendees “an inspiring message about finding creative solutions to real-world problems by looking at them differently.”

On Monday, February 2, renowned author and intellectual Cornel West (McCormick Place West room W181, 6:30 a.m.) will keynote the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance and Sunrise Celebration.

And immediately after (McCormick Place West room W375a/Skyline, 8 a.m.) comes the highlight of the ALA Midwinter Meeting: the Youth Media Awards. The awards include the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Coretta Scott King Book awards, recognizing the very best in children’s and young adult literature and media.