For librarians, 2018 was an eventful year. And as the library community prepares to gather in Seattle for the 2019 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, January 25–29, next year is shaping up to be equally eventful. In 2019, the ALA will continue to gather input from members on how to retool the association for the future. And there are the policy and budget challenges that come with the Trump administration—including another expected proposal in February to permanently eliminate federal library funding. And, after a few relatively quiet years, digital content and e-books issues are heating up again.
In Seattle, librarians will kick-start what figures to be a busy year with a slate of inspiring authors and speakers; a strong, future-oriented professional program; a host of awards and receptions; and a full slate of author signings and product demos in the exhibit hall.
The opening general session kicks off on Friday in the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC) with Melinda Gates (January 25, 4–5:15 p.m., Ballroom 6 A–B), a speaker well-known in the library community. As cochair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world, Gates has dedicated her life to “finding solutions for people with the most urgent needs,” which has included significant support for libraries. In April 2019, Gates will publish The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World (Flatiron), a memoir that, per the publisher, traces Gates’s “awakening to the link between women’s empowerment and the health of societies.”
The Auditorium Speaker Series kicks off on Saturday with Sylvia Acevedo (January 26, 10–11 a.m., Ballroom 6 A–B), the current CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Over her remarkable career, Acevedo has worked as an engineer at IBM and a rocket scientist at NASA, and she’s been an entrepreneur, a commissioner on the White House Initiative for Education Excellence for Hispanics, and an author. Her most recent book is a memoir aimed at young readers, Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist (HMH).
Later that afternoon, Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University, will deliver the Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture (Saturday, January 26, 4–5 p.m., Ballroom 6 A–B). His latest book, Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (Crown), makes the case, according to the publisher, that “the resilience of our communities rests not on shared values but shared spaces—including libraries, daycare centers, bookstores, even coffee shops.”
The Auditorium Speaker Series continues with award-winning travel author, television host, and activist Rick Steves (Sunday, January 27, 9:30–10:30 a.m., Ballroom 6 A–B). His latest book, Travel as a Political Act: How to Leave Your Baggage Behind (Hachette), reflects on how a life of travel broadened his own perspectives, and how travel can be a significant force for peace and understanding in the world—a timely message indeed.
Author and educator Robin DiAngelo will keynote the ALA President’s Program (Sunday, January 27, 3:30–5:30 p.m., Ballroom 6 A–B). DiAngelo is the author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Beacon). The book has become a touchstone on race, exploring how “racial illiteracy” reinforces a simplistic definition of a racist as a bad person and exempts white progressives. Recently, DiAngelo was appointed to codesign the city of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative Anti-racism training.
And the closing general session speaker will be journalist and author Isha Sesay (Monday, January 28, 2–3 p.m., Ballroom 6 A–B). In 2005, she joined CNN International as an anchor and correspondent covering major breaking news stories and global events. She left this year to pursue other projects, including her forthcoming book, Beneath the Tamarind Tree, which will be published by HarperCollins in July 2019; it’s the first definitive account of Boko Haram’s abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls.
Programs, Awards, and More
The professional program at ALA Midwinter is loaded with great panels and talks, including the 2019 Symposium on the Future of Libraries, which offers, according to the organizers, three days of programs exploring “the near-term trends already inspiring innovation in libraries” as well as the longer-term trends that will help libraries adapt to the needs of their communities. Check the ALA Midwinter website for a complete schedule.
The highlight of every ALA Midwinter, of course, is the announcement of the coveted Youth Media Awards, which will take place from 8 to 9 a.m. on Monday, January 28 (Ballrooms A–C). The ALA Youth Media Awards, including the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King awards, are considered the country’s most prestigious awards celebrating children’s and young adult literature and media.
And on Sunday, January 27, from 5 to 7 p.m., the winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction will be announced at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards event.
The shortlist for nonfiction includes The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú (Riverhead); Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon (Scribner); and Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America by Beth Macy (Little, Brown). The shortlist for fiction includes Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Knopf); The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (Viking); and There There by Tommy Orange (Knopf). The two medal winners will be honored at a reception at the ALA Annual Conference this summer in Washington, D.C.
And don’t forget the exhibits: some 450 vendors and organizations will be at ALA Midwinter, showing off a range of library products, services, books, tools, and technologies, in addition to author readings, booth signings, and presentations held at multiple pavilions and on stages on the show floor.
The exhibits open with a reception on Friday evening, January 25, immediately following the opening general session.