The 2022 American Library Association Annual Conference, the first in-person ALA annual conference since the pandemic forced the 2020 and 2021 meetings to go virtual only, officially opened today in Washington, D.C.
The main speaker program is set to kick off at 4 p.m. with FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who will appear in conversation with ALA president Patty Wong. One of the most important federal policymakers when it comes to information access (and a staunch library supporter), Rosenworcel will offer insight into a host of key policy issues central to the work of libraries, including the fight for net neutrality and strategies to close the digital divide. An opening reception in the exhibit hall will immediately follow.
The conference is set to run through June 28, and will feature a slate of authors and speakers, as well as a number of author signings in the exhibit hall, and hundreds of educational sessions in a packed professional program with issues ranging from safety issues in libraries in the wake of Covid-19, to library and education funding, broadband expansion and digital access policies, e-books and digital access, and perhaps most concerning, the rise in book bans and educational gag orders in many states threatening the freedom to read.
Librarians, meanwhile, are arriving in the nation’s capital amid widespread protest. The Supreme Court on Friday morning released its long-anticipated decision overturning Roe v. Wade, eviscerating a woman’s right to choose and, legal observers say, potentially imperiling other rights such as access to contraception and marriage equality.
It’s not the first time the Supreme Court has featured at an ALA Annual Conference. At the 2015 conference in San Francisco, many librarians took to the streets to celebrate the historic Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. Furthermore, the ALA’s keynote speaker in 2015 was Roberta Kaplan, who had two years to the day earlier argued the landmark Supreme Court case that saw the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) overturned, and her talk came at the start of Pride weekend in the Bay Area.
"It is all too easy in today's world of Twitter, of Instagram, of Fox News and MSNBC, to fall prey to a pervasive kind of cynicism. To assume that everything is part of some big, inside game and that cases don't get decided on the merits but for other less principled reasons. But I'd like to offer today's decision in Obergefell, and the 2013 decision in Windsor, as an antidote to that kind of cynicism,” Kaplan told librarians in 2015, reflecting the optimism of the day.
Suffice it to say, many librarians in Washington D.C. for the 2022 ALA Annual Conference will likely be taking to the streets again.
Among the 2022 ALA Conference highlights:
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author Maria Hinojosa will open the main speaker program (Saturday, June 25, 9–10 a.m.) Hinojosa is the author of Once I Was You, a memoir that shares her experience growing up Mexican American on the South Side of Chicago. S&S will publish a young readers’ edition of Once I Was You in August.
Korean American actor and author John Cho also appears Saturday (June 25, 11 a.m.–noon). Cho’s recently published novel, Troublemaker, follows the events of the 1992 L.A. riots through the eyes of 12-year-old Korean American Jordan.
ALA executive director Tracie D. Hall will moderate a discussion entitled “Defending the Fifth Freedom: Protecting the Right to Read for Incarcerated Individuals” (Saturday, June 25, 1–2:15 p.m.).
Grammy-winning comedian, actor, producer, and author Tiffany Haddish will take the stage (Saturday, June 25, 2:30–3:30 p.m.). Haddish recently published her first children’s book, Layla, the Last Black Unicorn.
Bestselling author, short story writer, television producer, and screenwriter R.L. Stine will close Saturday’s main speaker program (Saturday, June 25, 4–5 p.m.). Stine’s forthcoming book Stinetinglers, a collection of 10 new stories, is due in August from Macmillan.
The main speaker program continues on Sunday with bestselling author Celeste Ng in conversation with “America’s librarian” Nancy Pearl (Sunday, June 26, 9–10 a.m.).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman will speak Sunday (June 26, 11 a.m.–noon). Eastman will discuss his forthcoming book, due out in July, The Last Ronin (IDW), a collaboration with Laird and Tom Waltz that follows a lone-surviving mutant turtle in a dystopian New York City.
In a late addition to the program, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden will take the stage to discuss the role of libraries and librarians in the age of misinformation (Sunday, June 26, 1-2 p.m.).
The ALA President’s Program will close Sunday’s main program (June 26, 3:30–5:30 p.m.) with ALA president Patty Wong hosting a panel of authors, including Malinda Lo, the National Book Award–winning, bestselling author of Last Night at the Telegraph Club; Jane Park, a senior content strategist for Google Kids & Families; Linda Sue Park, the bestselling author of numerous books, including most recently The One Thing You’d Save, a collection of linked poems; Philip Lee, cofounder of Lee & Low books and founder of Readers to Eaters, a program that promotes food literacy through stories about our diverse food cultures; and Christina Soontornvat, the author of more than a dozen books for children of all ages, including her most recent novel, The Last Mapmaker.
And on Tuesday, June 28, the closing general session will feature author, speaker, and podcast host Luvvie Ajayi Jones in conversation with Nicole A. Cooke, Augusta Baker Endowed Chair and an associate professor at the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. Jones will discuss her new book, Rising Troublemaker: A Fear-Fighter Manual for Teens, which was published in May.
Virtual Programs, Exhibits, and More
Having now hosted a number of successful virtual conferences since the start of the pandemic, organizers understand how powerful the online format can be for expanding member participation in ALA conferences. And the 2022 ALA Annual Conference will feature a robust virtual component, dubbed the Digital Experience, for those who can’t be there in person.
The Digital Experience will feature simulcasts of the main stage speakers, dozens of education sessions, and some high-profile, virtual-only speakers. Sessions will also be archived for later viewing.
ALA conference organizers say they are excited for the return of a bustling show floor featuring hundreds of exhibitors. The hall will be open through Tuesday morning.
And finally, check the conference website for a host of available tours and ticketed events, including the return of the reception honoring the winners of the ALA’s adult book award, the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Fiction and Nonfiction (Saturday, June 25, 8–10 p.m., at the Marriott Marquis).
The reception will feature this year’s winners Tom Lin, author of The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu, and Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Little Devil in America: In Praise of Black Performance, as well as Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin as keynote speaker. As always, check the online program for any last-minute changes.