In March of this year, as the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic came into focus, ALA canceled its annual conference, marking the first time since the final days of WWII in 1945 that the association would not host a live annual conference. Instead, ALA will host an online event: ALA Virtual—Community Through Connection, that will run June 24–26.

Registration is now open online. The registration fee is $250 for non-ALA members, but thanks to a select group of sponsors, the fee for ALA members is just $60, and registration is free for any library professional who has been furloughed, laid off, or has had a reduction in hours. Registration closes on Wednesday, June 17, at noon (CT).

The event will feature a slate of online keynote speakers, and more than 50 educational panels and sessions on a wide array of topics. As always, check the full program online for any additions or changes.

The virtual speaker program begins with an opening keynote by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer and author Misty Copeland (Wednesday, June 24, 10–11 a.m. CT). In 2015, Copeland made history when she became the first African-American female principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Copeland’s book Bunheads (Putnam), the first in a series of children’s picture books inspired by her early dance experience, is set for a September release.

Registration is free for any library professional who has been furloughed, laid off, or has had a reduction in hours.

Following Copeland will be U.K. poet and social media influencer Sophia Thakur (Wednesday, June 24, 1–1:30 p.m. CT). Thakur’s first book, Somebody Give This Heart a Pen (Candlewick), billed as a collection of coming-of-age poems exploring the issues of identity, difference, perseverance, relationships, fear, loss, and joy, will be published this fall.

Rounding out the opening day speakers will be Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell (Wednesday, June 24, 3:30–4 p.m. CT). Cordell’s latest book, Hello, Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers (Holiday House/Porter, out now), is a picture book biography of the legendary Fred Rogers.

Thursday’s speakers begin with author and Emmy Award–winning actor Sonia Manzano (Thursday, June 25, 2–2:30 p.m. CT), perhaps best known for her role as Maria on Sesame Street. Manzano is the author of several picture books, and her new book, A World Together (National Geographic) will be published in September.

Following Manzano will be a panel discussion featuring five bestselling graphic novelists, dubbed “Breaking the Rules of Graphic Novels” (Thursday, June 25, 3:30–4 p.m. CT). The discussion will be moderated by Filip Sablik, president of publishing & marketing for Boom! Studios. Set to participate are Brian Azzarello, Roxane Gay, Ryan North, Tracy Lynne Oliver, and Gabby Rivera.

And rounding out the featured speakers will be Academy Award-winning actor, director, producer, and activist Natalie Portman. Portman's new book Natalie Portman’s Fables (Feiwel & Friends), is billed as a playful retellling of three classic tales, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Three Little Pigs, and Country Mouse and City Mouse, with artwork by illustrator Janna Mattia. The book is set for an October publication.