Add the 2020 Texas Library Association Annual Conference, which had been set for March 24-27 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, to the list of canceled events in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“With a heavy heart the TLA Executive Board made the difficult decision today to transition to a streamlined, virtual event and cancel TLA 2020 activities in Houston to protect the health and safety of our members, attendees, sponsors and exhibitors,” reads a statement from TLA organizers released yesterday afternoon. The statement adds that the logistics of a virtual event were, at press time, still under discussion, including a plan to offer prerecorded programs online for registered attendees to view on demand. “While we are devastated that the TLA 2020 event will not take place in Houston, we are excited to offer a quality professional development experience to the library community,” the statement concludes.
The cancellation of the live show comes despite the best efforts of conference organizers, as well as city employees and convention center staff, to ensure a safe environment at the show, including installing more hand sanitizer units throughout the conference facility, and plans to add more cleaning crews, utilizing hospital-grade disinfectants. But by Tuesday, publishers and other TLA exhibitors began pulling out in large numbers. And on Wednesday morning, the city of Houston had also moved to pull the plug on other scheduled events, including the popular Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
As of this writing, there were 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Houston area, and Houston and Harris Counties had declared a health emergency.