If you’re going to San Francisco for the 2015 American Library Association Annual Conference, June 25–30 at the Moscone Center, you may want to wear some flowers in your hair—it should be quite a party. More than 20,000 librarians are expected to descend on the Bay Area for the conference, which coincides with San Francisco’s annual Gay Pride Parade (Sunday, June 28). And with the Supreme Court expected to rule this month on same-sex marriage, this year’s parade could be one for the ages.

It may not exactly be the dawning of the Age of Aquarius for librarians, but the library community does head into San Francisco on something of an upswing compared to previous years. Budgets, while still not ideal, have begun to stabilize. The federal government has announced plans to boost broadband connectivity across the nation, including in schools and libraries. And last month, the president of the United States held an event in a public library to talk about e-books—specifically, to announce a plan to provide low-income children access to them. Meanwhile thornier proposals, including a bill that would remove the copyright office from the Library of Congress, loom.

For more on the critical policy issues facing libraries, don’t miss the ALA Washington Office Update on Saturday (8:30–10 a.m., MC 2001W), which will feature Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and ALA Office of Government Relations managing director Adam Eisgrau, who will provide updates on federal privacy legislation, including section 215 of the Patriot Act, the Freedom of Information Act, copyright reform, Net neutrality, and federal library funding.

Meanwhile, on the e-book front, the news has been good of late: all the major publishers are now working with libraries to lend e-books. But perhaps the most exciting development is a growing movement among libraries and upstart service providers to encourage new models for digital reading—models that are based on how the Internet actually works today (think Amazon and Netflix) rather than foisting old-world analog models onto readers.

“I think in the past all of us have a history of applying print solutions to digital problems,” observes Veronda Pitchford, membership director for the Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) at last month’s BookExpo America. “And it is time to just deconstruct the model and look at how we can create new models to deliver content to communities.” That observation was strongly echoed by another panelist, BiblioBoard cofounder Andrew Roskill. “It seems like after four or five years... we are still talking about [e-books] as if it is a big beta project,” he says. “And the rest of the world has moved ahead. Frankly, it is time for us to try something different.”

For more on digital reading issues, don’t miss the ALA Office of Information Technology Policy Update on Sunday (10:30–11:30 a.m. MC 2018W). The session will feature talks from the co-chairs of the ALA Digital Content Working Group (DCWG): Carolyn Anthony, director, Skokie (Ill.) Public Library, and Erika Linke, associate dean of at Carnegie Mellon University Libraries.

It is still early in the e-book game, but having now achieved basic access to e-books, it is clear that librarians are not sitting back, and some forward-thinking businesses are continuing to push for better options for readers. And what better place to advance that conversation than in the shadow of Silicon Valley, where the only good model is a model that is constantly being blown apart?


Of course, the highlight of any ALA conference is its authors and speakers—and this year’s show is no exception, with an outstanding program on tap. It begins with the Opening General Session on Friday (4–5:15 p.m., in the auditorium), which features a keynote from attorney Roberta Kaplan, who, in her forthcoming book, Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA (Norton), shares the story of a key gay-rights victory before the U.S. Supreme Court—a timely topic indeed.

Author, activist, and feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem kicks off the Auditorium Speaker series on Saturday (8:30–9:30 a.m.); Steinem will talk about her incredible career and her forthcoming book Diary of a Nomad: My Life on the Road (Random House), her first book in 20 years that features all new material.

Award-winning Saudi Arabian film director and writer Haifaa al-Mansour will also take the stage on Saturday (10:30–11:30 a.m.). Her next film, A Storm in the Stars, set for a 2016 release, is about Frankenstein author Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. She’ll be followed by bestselling journalist, essayist, and social commentator Sarah Vowell, who will talk about (among other things) her new book, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (Riverhead), a humorous and perceptive account of Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette.

And closing out Saturday, actor, author, and humorist Nick Offerman—you may know him as Ron Swanson on NBC’s Parks and Recreation—promises attendees laughs and a look at his new book, Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers (Dutton).

On Sunday (3:30–4:30 p.m), join ALA president Courtney L. Young for the ALA Awards, followed by featured speaker Sarah Lewis. Lewis has served on President Obama’s Arts Policy Committee, was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s Power List, and is a Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University.

The Auditorium Speaker series picks up again on Monday (8:30–9:30 a.m.) with Joshua Davis, author of Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream (FSG), who will be joined by producer Rick Jacobs and film critic David Thomson to discuss the forthcoming film version. Davis and his crew will be followed by author Edwidge Danticat (10:30–11:30 a.m.). Danticat’s most recent novel, Claire of the Sea Light (Knopf), was shortlisted for ALA’s Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in 2014, and her forthcoming picture book Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation (Dial) is set for fall.

Emmy-winning actor Sonia Manzano, who plays Maria on Sesame Street, will close out the Auditorium Speaker series on Monday (12–1 p.m.). Manzano is the author of The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (Scholastic), a Pura Belpré Honor Book, and her latest book, Becoming Maria (Scholastic), is a coming-of-age memoir.

If you’re still in town, don’t miss the Closing General Session and Inaugural Brunch Event on Tuesday (9:30–11 a.m.), at which 2015–2016 ALA president Sari Feldman, executive director of the Cuyahoga (Ohio) County Public Library System, will be inaugurated, and speakers will include Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Robbie Robertson, the influential songwriter and guitarist for the Band, and coauthor Caldecott Honor winner David Shannon, who will talk about their new book, Hiawatha and the Peacemaker (Abrams).

Awards and More

Check the ALA program booth for signings; events at the Pop Top Stage events; GraphiCon, billed as ALA’s mini-Comic-Con; talks at the Book Buzz Theater, where your favorite publishers describe their newest titles; and, of course, the opening reception in the exhibit hall on Friday, immediately following the opening general session.

And celebrate great books with the ALA’s award programs, including the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction (Saturday, 8–10 p.m., at the Hotel Nikko ballroom), which will feature keynote speaker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, New York Times bestselling author, and a longtime champion of libraries. Having written 10 books, Abdul-Jabbar's first novel, Mycroft Holmes is coming out in September from Titan Books. Abdul-Jabbar says his fascination with Sherlock Holmes’s “older, smarter brother” led him to write the novel. "In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about Sherlock Holmes, one character really stood out to me: his brother, Mycroft Holmes," Abdul-Jabbar says. "Always portrayed as sedentary and reclusive—though we’re never told why —I wanted to investigate what made Mycroft the way we see him in later published accounts."

Winners of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, given to the year’s best African-American authors and illustrators of children’s and YA books, will be feted at the annual Sunday breakfast (7 a.m. at the Marriott Marquis San Francisco, Golden Gate Ballroom). And the Stonewall Book Awards, the nation’s oldest awards honoring the best in gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender writing, will be presented on Monday (10 a.m., MC 3005W). Check the ALA annual program for more.

More on ALA 2015

Check out our entire ALA 2015 Spotlight, a comprehensive feature package looking at a range of hot topics and trends across the library spectrum that will be discussed from the podiums as well as in the hallways at the upcoming American Library Association Annual Conference:

ALA 2015: All in the Family

PW contributor Shannon Maughan looks at the the rise of Family Place libraries, a national program that promotes the idea of the library as a community hub for early childhood and family development.

ALA 2015: The Battle to Save the New York Public Library

PW talks with Scott Sherman, author of Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library, a riveting, deeply reported account of the New York Public Library's controversial, ill-fated plan to drastically remake the iconic 42nd St. Library in Manhattan.

ALA 2015: Comics: Not Just for Kids

At libraries across the U.S., comics and graphic novel collections have shown strong, well-documented growth among children and teens. But adult comics collections have lagged, even as the genre has surged in popularity, and gained critical acclaim. PW's Heidi MacDonald looks at why that could soon change.

ALA 2015: Fun with Metadata

PW columnist Peter Brantley looks offers a look at how RDF and new metadata standards can vastly improve book discovery.

ALA 2015: Hacking Libraries

An abridged excerpt from John Palfrey’s acclaimed new book Bibliotech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. Palfrey is head of school at Phillips Andover Academy, and the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library of America.

ALA 2015: What’s Next for Scholarly Publishing?

PW Talks to John J. Regazzi, The former CEO of Elsevier and the author of the new book: Scholarly Communications: A History from Content as King to Content as Kingmaker

ALA 2015: Pride and Programming

PW columnist Brian Kenney, a former editorial director of Library Journal and the current director of the White Plains (N.Y.) Public Library offers his annual "highly subjective" picks from the ALA 2015 Professional Program.