Reps from the American Library Association reported that the second in-person LibLearnX conference, which began on Friday, January 19 and closed today in Baltimore, saw a decline in attendance from last year’s event. ALA officials put total attendance at 2,006 (including 391 exhibitor attendees and 109 virtual attendees) down from the 2,659 (1,712 paid; 757 exhibitors; 190 virtual) who attended the 2023 event in New Orleans.
The decline was not unexpected. A snowstorm and bitter cold offered challenges to travelers and likely impacted last minute onsite registrations. And the bi-annual Public Library Association annual conference—one of ALA’s most popular and well-attended conferences—is set for April 3-5 in Columbus, Ohio.
Despite the modest attendance, LibLearnX 2024 once again offered an engaging program for attendees. Among the show’s highlights, the event kicked off with a well-attended opening reception that honored the 2023 winners of the annual I Love My Librarians awards. And the main speaker program featured compelling talks from Mia Armstrong, Kate DiCamillo, Antonya Hylton, George M. Johnson, Michele Norris, and Jesus Trejo. In the professional program, hot topics included defending the freedom to read, sustainability, and AI.
On the awards front, the ALA’s Youth Media Awards were announced this morning (see our full coverage here), with the prestigious John Newbery Medal going to Dave Eggers, for The Eyes and the Impossible, and the Randolph Caldecott Medal going to Vashti Harrison for Big.
And on Saturday, January 20, Amanda Peters was announced as the winner of the 2024 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction for The Berry Pickers (Catapult) and Roxanna Asgarian took home the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction for We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux).
LibLearnX is the upstart reimagined replacement event for the ALA’s long-running Midwinter meeting, which often drew in the neighborhood of 7,000 total attendees (including more than 8,000 who attended the ALA’s the last in-person Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia in 2020). The pandemic forced both the final ALA Midwinter Meeting in 2021 and the inaugural LibLearnX in 2022 to go virtual only.
ALA officials will hope that warm weather (and no PLA) will draw bigger numbers to next year’s event: the 2025 LibLearnX is set for next January in Phoenix, Arizona. The show then returns to the east coast in 2026, set for National Harbor, Maryland. No LibLearnX locations are currently announced for 2027 and beyond.
This article has been updated with final attendance figures.