The American Library Association announced that it will be holding an online gathering to replace its now canceled Annual Conference. The event, dubbed ALA Virtual—Community Through Connection, will offer "educational programming, special author events, and social networking, and is set to run from June 24-26, 2020. Registration will open at noon (CST) on Monday, May 11, 2020.
At press time, the event format and content has yet to be announced, though details are expected to be announced soon via the new conference website. Updates will also be available under the hashtag #alavirtual20 on the ALA's social media account, including Instagram, ALA Twitter, and ALA Facebook.
"The library community is encouraged to join us online as we learn, grow, and most importantly, lean on our fellow librarians and library workers as we adapt and evolve in these changing times," reads an ALA press release.
The virtual alternative comes nearly a month after ALA announced that it had canceled the 2020 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition, which was scheduled for June 25-30 in Chicago. “We recognize the magnitude of this decision for the association and our membership,” said ALA executive director Tracie D. Hall, in a March 24 statement. “This year, we were especially looking forward to the conference taking place in ALA’s hometown of Chicago. However, the well-being of our library community, staff, and fellow Chicago residents has to be the number one concern, and that drove our decision-making."
The cancellation means that for the first time in 75 years ALA will not host an in-person annual conference, with the last cancellation taking place in 1945, during the final days of World War II. The decision to cancel the 2020 event came just days after ALA had made another unprecedented announcement, urging libraries across the nation to close their buildings to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, this week also marks the end of what has been an understandably subdued National Library Week (April 19–25), including the release of the ALA's annual State of America's Libraries report. In an editor's note, the authors of the report acknowledge that these snapshots of libraries from 2019, compiled before the Covid-19 crisis, "now read like dispatches from a distant era."
But while the pandemic has changed the way libraries are operating in the short term, the editors suggest the crisis is highlighting the crucial role public libraries play in our society. "From the vantage point of the present," the authors write, "it’s clear that, as this report attests, libraries are more important and necessary than ever—and they have an important role to play in keeping our communities strong during and after this unprecedented time."