The 2023 ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition will feature one of the most robust—and important—slates of programming in years, with more than 200 programs on tap in a range of formats addressing a host of urgent topics facing libraries. This year’s conference features an especially strong lineup of programs responding to the ongoing nationwide surge in book bans and legislative challenges to the freedom to read, a sampling of which are rounded up below:
A Rally for the Right to Read: Uniting for Libraries & Intellectual Freedom
Thursday, 6–9 p.m., Hilton Chicago, Boulevard Room
This special pre-ALA event will feature anti-censorship activists from around the nation and will honor the 2023 recipients of the ALA’s intellectual freedom awards. The rally will include an appearance from Ibram X. Kendi, author of numerous bestselling books, including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and the international bestseller How to Be an Antiracist. This is a ticketed event, but tickets are free and can be obtained via the ALA annual conference website.
Changing the Narrative: ALA Policy Corps Takes On Book Banners
Saturday, 9–10 a.m, McCormick W180
This program will share successful strategies for engaging legislators across the political spectrum as well as practical techniques and tools to best position one’s library to take on book banners. The panel will be moderated by former Nashville Public Library director and ALA senior policy fellow Kent Oliver, and will feature Maine State librarian Lori Fisher; Amanda Kordeliski, director of libraries and instructional technology at the Norman (Okla.) Public Schools; Becky Calzada, district library coordinator, Leander, Tex., ISD; and Erin MacFarlane, legislative committee chair for the Arizona Library Association.
Books Under Fire: Law and the Right to Read, 2023
Saturday, 1–2 p.m. McCormick W180
Attendees will learn all about new laws relating to book banning—and ways to oppose them—from two powerhouse defenders of intellectual freedom: Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, and Theresa Chmara, general counsel for the Freedom to Read Foundation, the ALA’s First Amendment legal defense arm.
SOS: Stock Our Shelves (with Challenged and Banned Books)!
Saturday, 2:30–3:30 p.m., McCormick W187b
This workshop is billed as “an SOS call” to all librarians who are interested in sharing strategies to ensure that children of all ages are offered a variety of texts in their schools and libraries. Participants will connect with colleagues, share their stories, and hear others’. It will be led by Jen Nails, multiservices librarian at the Las Vegas–Clark County Library District.
We Need Diverse Books and ALA Present: How to Fight Book Bans: Authors On Speaking Up and Fighting Back
Saturday, 2:30–4 p.m., McCormick W183a
WNDB founding member and CEO Ellen Oh will moderate a panel of authors and present concrete ideas for how to respond to censorship attempts in the classroom and the library, including strategies libraries can implement to gain community support and acquire resources from the publishing and author communities. Joining Oh will be Kyle Lukoff, author of the Stonewall Award–winning When Aidan Became a Brother; Samira Ahmed, bestselling author of Love, Hate & Other Filters and the Amira & Hamza middle grade duology; Ashley Hope Pérez, author of the bestseller Out of Darkness (#9 on the ALA’s top 10 most challenged books list for 2022); Jerry Craft, the Newbery Medal–winning author and illustrator of New Kid, Class Act, and School Trip; and Eliot Schrefer, a two-time finalist for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature and the author of Queer Ducks, which explores sexuality in the animal kingdom.
How to Navigate Book Challenges in the Teen Services Space
Sunday, 11 a.m.–noon, McCormick W194a
This panel of teen service librarians who have experienced book challenges firsthand will offer resources and advice for pushing back against censorship attempts. Moderated by YALSA president-elect Colleen Seisser, this panel will feature Sheila E. Michaels, librarian at Nixa (Mo.) High School; Jennie Stevens, adult services librarian at the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Weston Springs, Ill.; Rachel Colias, teen services librarian at the Niles-Maine District Library in Niles, Ill.; and Kathleen Breitenbach, teen librarian at the Hamilton (N.J.) Township Public Library.
United for Libraries President’s Program: Emily Amick (Emily in Your Phone)
Sunday, 11a.m.–noon, McCormick W184bc
A former counsel to U.S. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Emily Amick (@emilyinyourphone on Instagram) has grown a massive audience on social media by speaking out on some of the nation’s most important issues—and her engagement with book banning has made her a powerful advocate for the library community. In this program, Amick will review the current political climate and offer ways that library leaders and supporters can increase awareness and engagement on the essential issues impacting libraries. The session will be moderated by Gordon N. Baker, dean of libraries emeritus at Clayton State University.
Help! They’re Coming for Our Books!
Sunday, 11 a.m.–noon, McCormick W185a
This panel discussion, sponsored by the ALA’s Rainbow Round Table, will discuss the legal rights of libraries and librarians, their experiences facing censorship, and efforts to resist censorship. The program will also highlight the many resources libraries have to fight against the banning of their materials. It will be moderated by Angela Ocaña, current chair of the ALA Intellectual Freedom Round Table; Christine Emeran, Youth Free Expression program director with the National Coalition Against Censorship; John Chrastka, EveryLibrary’s founder and executive director; and Jonathan Friedman, PEN America’s director of free expression and education programs.
Make the Most of Banned Books Week
Sunday, 1–2 p.m., McCormick W194a
The ALA’s Annual Banned Books Week (set for October 1–7) is an opportunity to celebrate and emphasize the importance of the freedom to read. This panel will explore the ways libraries can use Banned Books Week to engage their communities. It will be led by ALA program officer and Banned Books Week coordinator Betsy Gomez and will feature Cheryl Davis, director of the Youth Free Expression program at the Authors Guild; Christine Emeran, director of the Youth Free Expression program at the National Coalition Against Censorship; and Sarah Miller, senior coordinator of intellectual freedom and book initiatives for the National Council for Teachers of English.
This Book Is Banned!
Sunday, 3:30–4:20 p.m., Exhibit Hall PopTop Stage (Aisle 1600)
This session will feature a conversation between two bestselling picture book authors whose works have been targeted by book bans: Raj Haldar, author of This Book Is Banned, and Juno Dawson, author of This Book Is Gay. Also known by his stage name Lushlife, Haldar is a rapper, composer, and producer from Philadelphia. Dawson, who now lives and writes full-time in Brighton, England, is an international-bestselling author of fiction and nonfiction for young adults. This Book Is Gay has been frequently targeted by book banners and came in at #10 on the ALA’s list of most challenged books in 2022.