As expected, 2019 was an eventful year for the library world. And as librarians and publishers prepare to gather in Philadelphia for the 2020 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, which will be held Friday, January 24, to Tuesday, January 28, the dawn of the new decade is shaping up to be even more eventful.
In the coming year, the ALA will continue its ambitious plan to retool the association for the future, which will include fine-tuning the ALA’s conferences, as well as the appointment of a new executive director. The policy and budget challenges that come with the Trump administration will also continue, heightened by a presidential election and the upcoming census. And 2020 figures to be an especially critical year in the digital realm, as librarians continue to push back against new restrictions on e-books and other digital content—most prominently Amazon’s exclusives and Macmillan’s decision to delay new release e-books in public libraries.
In Philadelphia, librarians will kick-start what figures to be a busy year with inspiring authors and speakers; another diverse, inclusive, and future-oriented professional program; a host of awards, receptions, and celebrations; and a full slate of author signings and product demos in the exhibit hall.
This year’s opening general session will kick off on Friday in the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) with bestselling author Wes Moore (4–5:15 p.m.). Moore’s is a remarkable story: raised in Baltimore and the Bronx by a single mom, he went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and a captain and paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne (and was deployed to Afghanistan), and he worked as a White House fellow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. His forthcoming book, Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City, coauthored with journalist Erica Green, is billed as “a kaleidoscopic account” of five riveting days of protest and uprising in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. It will be published in spring 2020 by One World.
The Auditorium Speaker Series kicks off Saturday morning with Echo Brown (9:30–10:30 a.m., PCC). Brown is a visionary storyteller and solo performer whose first show, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters, ran for two years to sold-out crowds in the U.S. and around the world. Her first book, Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard, will be published by Macmillan Children’s Books, in January 2020.
Next up, on Saturday, the 2020 Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture will be delivered by author Julia Alvarez (1–2 p.m., PCC). A renowned poet, novelist, and essayist, Alvarez, who left the Dominican Republic for the U.S. in 1960 at age 10, is the author of six novels, three books of nonfiction, three collections of poetry, and 11 books for children and young adults, including In the Time of the Butterflies, which has more than one million copies in print. Her new book, Afterlife, is due out in spring 2020 from Algonquin.
Sunday’s program gets started with Olympic medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani (9:30–10:30 a.m., PCC). The ShibSibs, as they are known, are two-time Olympic medalists, three-time world medalists, Four Continents Figure Skating champions, and two-time U.S. National champions. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, they became the first ice dancers of Asian descent to medal at the Olympics. Kudo Kids: The Mystery of the Masked Medalist (Penguin Young Readers), coauthored by Michelle Schusterman, is the first installment in their new middle grade mystery series, due to be published in May 2020.
Later on Sunday, the ALA President’s Program will feature chef and author Jeff Henderson (3:30–5 p.m., PCC). Henderson discovered a passion for cooking while serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for drug trafficking. In the two decades since his release, he’s risen to become the first African-American chef de cuisine at Caesar’s Palace and the executive chef at Café Bellagio. He has since authored four books, including the bestselling Cooked: My Journey from the Streets to the Stove (Morrow), which is now being adapted to film by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
And on Monday, this year’s Closing General Session will feature author and artist Chanel Miller (2–3 p.m., PCC). Once known only as Emily Doe, after she was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner on the Stanford campus, Miller has penned the moving book Know My Name: A Memoir (Viking) in an effort to transform the way we think about sexual assault, and to shed light on the tumultuous reality of the healing process. Turner was sentenced to just six months in county jail after his conviction, which sparked such an outrage that it led voters to recall the judge who delivered the sentence. Miller's victim impact statement, posted on BuzzFeed instantly went viral, viewed by 11 million people within four days.
Programs & Awards
As usual, the professional program at ALA Midwinter is loaded with great panels and talks, including the 2020 Symposium on the Future of Libraries. Sponsored by the ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries, the symposium will offer a host of sessions exploring, per the organizers, “the near-term trends already inspiring innovation in libraries and the longer-term trends that will help us adapt to the needs of our communities.” Check the ALA Midwinter website for a complete schedule, last-minute changes, and room numbers.
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 (Ballrooms A–C). The Youth Media Awards—which include the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King awards—are the country’s most prestigious awards celebrating children’s and young adult literature and media.
And on Sunday 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.
And don’t forget the exhibits: hundreds of publishers, vendors, and other 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 immediately following the opening general session.