The American Library Association has announced that its 2021 Annual Conference & Exhibition, scheduled for June 23-29 in Chicago, will now take place online only. It will be the second consecutive ALA Annual Conference to be held virtually in the wake of the pandemic, and comes just days after ALA concluded its annual Midwinter meeting, which was also held virtually.
“We had hoped that by this summer it would be safe to meet again in person. However, that is clearly not the case," said ALA president Julius C. Jefferson Jr. in a statement. “Given the success of our just-wrapped virtual Midwinter meeting, I am confident that Annual will be just as dynamic, engaging and inspiring. As always, we will have big name speakers, a full online exhibit floor, and more events and opportunities to network, learn and grow that I know participants will love.”
Registration for the virtual show will open March 1, with advance rates ending April 16.
When ALA canceled the in-person 2020 Annual Conference last March it marked the first time in 75 years that ALA has not hosted an annual conference, dating back to 1945 and the end of World War II. The 2021 show will now be the association's third straight virtual conference.
The good news is that the virtual shows have featured strong programs and drawn solid engagement. The recently concluded ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits, which was held entirely online January 22-26 attracted more than 7,100 participants, featured more than 30 educational sessions, 25 ALA division-hosted discussion groups, peer-to-peer live chat opportunities; committee meetings, and some A-list speakers including one of the first appearances by Dr. Jill Biden in her role as First Lady of the United States, and one of the last talks given by legendary actress Cicely Tyson, who passed away yesterday at the age of 96.
ALA is expecting to return to in-person events next January, however. At this week's Midwinter meeting, the 107th and final Midwinter meeting in the association's history, Jefferson announced that a new January event is set to debut in 2022, in San Antonio, dubbed LibLearnX (LLX)—the library learning experience.
“Covid-19 has profoundly changed the library world, and, of course, the wider world around us," said ALA executive director Tracie D. Hall in a statement. "But I’m buoyed by the incredible determination, resilience and community-building I’ve seen in the past year. As a body, ALA has proven nimble and unflappable in the face of adversity and we will continue to prioritize safety, even as we strive to innovate the digital conference experience to widen attendance and deepen engagement well after this period."