Even if you usually find the professional programs at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference more “meh” than marvelous, so what? This year you’ll be in San Francisco! Only a true curmudgeon would not be able to enjoy a few days in one of the most beautiful cities in the country, in June (average high temperature: 69 °F) with some of the very best food in the world. Besides, the programs are only a part of the conference experience, which is really about connecting directly with your fellow librarians, publishers, vendors, and, of course, authors. From the auditorium speakers, to signings at publisher booths and talks at the Pop Top Stage on the exhibit floor, you could attend only author events at ALA, and still come away with a deeply rewarding experience.

What follows is a highly subjective list of programs (excluding the auditorium speakers and ticketed events that require an additional fee) that I’ll be looking forward to, and in some cases deciding between. As always, check your official program for any late changes. And a final word of advice: be creative with your ALA experience—look beyond the panels and try the 45-minute Conversation Starters, the 30-minute Ignite Sessions, the Annual Unconference (Friday, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.), and the Annual Library Camp (Monday, 3–4 p.m.). For a great overview of events serving a range of multicultural groups at ALA, check out Loida Garcia-Febo’s list on her blog. And don’t forget the parties—but I don’t need to tell you about those, do I?

Saturday, June 27

Community Engagement: A Case Study in Starting the Conversation

(8:30–10 a.m., MC 2005W)

For libraries, community engagement is turning out to be the buzz phrase of the decade. This all–Seattle Public Library event will explain how community engagement is at the forefront of SPL’s new priorities.

Conversation Starter: The Library-Museum Connection

(9:15–10 a.m., MC 130N)

Libraries and museums look at each other like two seventh graders at their first dance, with a mixture of suspicion and curiosity. Here’s how to turn your library into an incubator for the arts.

A Tale of Two Cities: NYPL and CPL Wi-Fi Lending Projects

(10:30–11:30 a.m., MC 2008W)

This past year, both the New York and Chicago public libraries started circulating Wi-Fi hotspots, an interesting way to combat the digital divide. How are the programs going, and could this work in your community?

E-books Made Easy with Library Simplified

(10:30–11:30 a.m., MC 2004W)

Library Simplified is the hotly anticpated IMLS-supported initiative being developed by the New York Public

Library that will allow users to borrow e-books across multiple platforms and vendors in three clicks or less. Nirvana, right? Check in here to see how things are coming along.

If We Make It, Will They Come?

(1–2:30 p.m., MC 2011W)

Makerspaces have been a major development in public libraries, and these panelists promise to stand back and ask the tough questions, including how to fund them, how sustainable they are, and what value they provide the community.

Librarians of Color: The Challenges of “Movin’ On Up,” Part II

(1–2:30 p.m., MC 2007W)

Continuing the discussion from ALA 2014, this panel will explore the strategies of career advancement as a librarian of color, and dealing with microaggressions in the workplace.

The Raising of America: How Libraries Can Make a Difference for Our Babies and Young Children

(1–2:30 p.m., MC 3007W)

Come watch the new PBS documentary The Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of Our Nation, followed by a discussion on how libraries can help all kids get a strong start in life.

Crowdfunding for Libraries: How to Use Kickstarter to Build Your Community

(3–4 p.m., MC 2009W)

Representatives from Kickstarter and the Knight Foundation will discuss how crowdfunding can help libraries increase civic engagement and inform their communities.

Libraries and Book Collections as Essential Cultural Institutions: A Historical and Forward-Looking Perspective

(3–4 p.m., MC 121N)

Authors Matthew Battles, Sasha Abramsky, and Scott Sherman ask the big questions: what is the best way to preserve and cultivate important cultural institutions for decades to come? How does digital collection development complement or supersede physical books in public and private collections?

Rip Us Off: Six Marketing Ideas You Can Steal and Use at Your Library

(3–4 p.m., MC 2002W)

Experts from the Multnomah County Library and the Edmonton Public Library will present six award-winning marketing campaigns all libraries can adapt and use.

Sunday, June 28

Literary Tastes

(8–10 a.m., MC West Exhibit Hall, 1st flr.)

Books for breakfast! Come listen to some of this year’s breakout authors discuss their work and the craft of writing, while enjoying the company of other book lovers. Light refreshments will be served. And it’s free!

From MLS/MLIS Graduate Student to Leadership Position: How to Become the Next Leader in Your Library

(10:30–11:30 a.m., MC 133N)

If there is one thing libraries need (besides better funding), it’s new, young leadership. This discussion group should help you to find ways to catapult yourself into a leadership role.

Westport Library’s Robotics: How Robotics Interact with People

(11 a.m.–12 p.m., Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage)

The Westport (Conn.) Library has developed programming for two Alderbaran NAO robots. Learn how they’re programmed and what they’re up to.

Hacking the Culture of Learning in the Library

(1–2 p.m., MC 2018W)

Sponsored by the ALA’s Office of Information and Technology Policy, this panel will explore how libraries are creating incubation spaces to hack education and create new paradigms.

Resource Discovery in the Age of Wikipedia

(1–2 p.m., MC 2010W)

Jake Orlowitz, head of the Wikipedia Library, will discuss Wikipedia’s goal to make library collections more visible online and drive traffic from Wikipedia back to full texts and reference experts (hint: that’s us).

Monday, June 29

Digital Archiving for Humans

(10:30–11:30 a.m., MC 120N)

Explore the overlaps and differences between traditional archives and digital startups, as both attempt to make material more interoperable, searchable, and usable. Speakers include representatives from Internet Archive, Pop Up Archive, Digital Public Library of America, and the University of Georgia.

Principles & Politics: Intellectual Privacy and Surveillance in the Digital Age

(10:30–11:30 a.m., MC 236–238S)

A law professor and Electronic Frontier Foundation staffer will explain the importance of intellectual privacy, and how pervasive online tracking and data collection has made privacy imperative.

Library of the Future: Learning with Google’s Daniel Russell

(1–2:30 p.m., MC 2009W)

It’s San Francisco, how can you not hear from someone from Google?

Daniel Russell, Google’s senior research scientist for search quality and user happiness, will share his thoughts on the future of libraries and searching for and retrieving information.

Get Your Queer On

What’s the one experience that everyone attending the ALA Annual Conference will share? The annual San Francisco’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride parade! One of the biggest LGBTQ parades in the world, this one is likely to be even more festive than ever, fueled by the passage of Ireland’s referendum permitting same-sex marriage and, perhaps, by a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage from the U.S. Supreme Court. The parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday at the intersection of Market Street and Beale Street and proceeds down Market Street to 8th Street, in downtown San Francisco, neatly bisecting the ALA Annual Conference, with the Moscone Center on one side of Market Street and most of the conference hotels on the other.

This is isn’t the first time ALA and Gay Pride have overlapped. Back in 1992, ALA also landed in San Francisco during Pride Week, and members of what was then ALA’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Task Force marched in the parade and ended up on the cover of the July/August issue of American Libraries, which elicited heated responses—both positive and negative—that ran in the magazine for months. “After receiving your July/August issue, I was shocked to see you glorifying and linking the homosexual movement to the American Library Association,” one ALA member wrote.

Once again, members of ALA’s GLBT Round Table will be marching, but also this year’s conference is chock full of queer programming. Start with the preconference Rolling Out the Rainbow Carpet: Serving LGBTQ Communities (Friday, 8:30 a.m.–12 p.m., MC 132N), at which an all-star cast will discuss programming, collection development, and outreach to gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer/questioning individuals.

Later that day, at the Opening General Session (4–5:15 p.m., MC auditorium), Roberta Kaplan, Edie Windsor’s lawyer, will discuss her role in defeating the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) before the Supreme Court, the subject of her forthcoming book.

And here’s a real sign of progress: we’re finally getting queer romances that don’t end in tragedy, and you can hear all about them at a Saturday Ignite Session: Not Another Sad Gay Love Story: LGBTQ+ Romances for Your Library (Saturday, 11:30 a.m.–12 p.m., MC 130N).

Also on Saturday are sessions on the importance of collecting, preserving, and making available materials documenting the history of LGBTQ activism, such as Curating Activism in LGBT History (1–2:30 p.m., MC 3005W) and The History and Evolving Acceptance of Collecting LGBT Materials in Libraries, a conversation among academic, public, and school librarians about the past and present state of LGBTQ materials collection in libraries (also 1–2:30 p.m., at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square).

Transgender People at the Library: Moving from “Them” to “Us” (Saturday, 3:30–5 p.m., MC 2004W) is designed to shift attendees’ understanding of transgender people from a label to a more personal identity, enabling library workers to better serve their patrons and their fellow coworkers.

All conferenced out? Then head over later on Saturday to the GLBTRT Social (6:30–8:30 p.m., Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 1 Jose Sarria Court).

Finally, don’t forget the Stonewall Book Awards Program (Monday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., MC 3005W), celebrating the very best in LGBTQ literature. The Stonewall Book Awards are the first and longest enduring book award series for LGBTQ writing.

And finally, for a great overview of events serving multicultural groups at ALA, check out Loida Garcia-Febo’s list on her blog.

PW columnist Brian Kenney is the director of the White Plains (N.Y.) Public Library, and former editorial director of both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Click here to return to the ALA 2015 Spotlight.