The 2016 American Library Association Annual Conference officially kicks off today in Orlando, with a keynote by author and public intellectual Michael Eric Dyson, followed by an opening reception on the exhibit floor. This year’s conference will feature more than 2,000 scheduled events—including hundreds of author appearances—and more than 700 exhibiting companies over the course of the five-day event.
Librarians hope to bring a much-needed shot of positivity to the city of Orlando, after the June 12 murder of 49 victims at the Pulse Nightclub there. On Saturday morning, ALA will honor the victims with a memorial (8:00-8:30 a.m. in the Chapin Theater at the Orange County Convention Center). “Our thoughts and sympathy go to the victims and their loved ones during this terribly tragic time,” said ALA president Sari Feldman, adding that “the ALA’s goal is to work to support Orlando libraries and their patrons as the world tries to make sense of this horrific crime.”
In addition to the memorial, throughout the conference, librarians will work also participate in “special relief” events. On Saturday, June 25, and Sunday, June 26, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table, REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking), and publisher SAGE will host a Read-Out, where participants will read aloud from LGBTQ challenged or banned books. The ALA also will provide rainbow ribbons in support of diversity, equity and inclusion. ALA will also host onsite blood drives on June 25 and June 26.
Meanwhile, the regularly scheduled ALA program will feature some timely messages. Among the ALA’s main auditorium speakers at this year's conference is Jazz Jennings, a 15-year-old transgender advocate (Monday, June 27, 8:30–9:30 a.m.). Jennings’ memoir was recently published by Crown.
On Sunday afternoon actor and author Diane Guerrero, best know for her work on Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, will keynote the ALA President’s Program (3:30–5:30 p.m.). Guerrero’s memoir, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, was recently published by Holt, and tells the story of how, when she was 14, her entire family was deported back to Colombia, while she (having been born in the U.S.) remained in Boston, taken in by other Colombian families. Guerrero has since become a tireless advocate and volunteer for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and in 2015 was named a White House ambassador for citizenship and naturalization. Hers will be an especially timely talk, in the wake of this week’s ruling by the Supreme Court blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
And fresh off his dramatic “sit-in” on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis is scheduled to make a special appearance in observance of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lewis will be joined by his March cocreators, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, as well as William D. Adams, the NEH chairman. The event will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.
Other A-list authors set to speak at ALA include Margaret Atwood, Brad Meltzer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Avi, and this year’s winners of the Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, who will receive their medals, offer remarks, and mingle with attendees. Viet Thanh Nguyen took home the fiction prize for The Sympathizer, and Sally Mann won the nonfiction prize for Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs. The reception will also feature poet Billy Collins.
For more on the 2016 ALA, check out our ALA preview: