It took more than 35 TLA members the better part of 18 months to put together, but the hard work certainly looks like it has paid off: the program for the 2016 Texas Library Association Annual Conference (April 19–22, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston) has it all—great authors and an extensive slate of seminars and panels on an array of subjects important to libraries of all kinds: diversity, advocacy, technology, the library as a place, preservation, and career and professional development, to name a few.

You can check out the full program on the TLA website (, but here are few highlights.


On Wednesday, April 20, the conference’s first general session features LeVar Burton, the actor, author, and host and executive producer of the PBS series Reading Rainbow. A committed reading and literacy enthusiast, Burton has earned accolades for his work to improve children’s education through innovative uses of storytelling. Burton’s first children’s book, The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, was published in 2014. Recently, Burton turned to Kickstarter to bring Reading Rainbow to children everywhere, blowing past the campaign’s initial 35-day goal of $1 million in fewer than 11 hours and raising $6.4 million, making it the most popular Kickstarter campaign ever.

On Thursday, April 21, meteorologist, author, and 10-time Emmy Award–winning Today show host Al Roker will keynote the second general session. Roker will talk about his life and work, and his most recent book, The Storm of The Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America’s Deadliest Natural Disaster; The Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900, which is an exploration of one of the most tragic events in American history. Luckily, TLA likely won’t need Roker’s services as a weatherman. “The weather in Houston is great this time of year,” says Houston Public Library’s Roosevelt Weeks. “Don’t let anybody every tell you different—it’s perfect.”

In the final general session, on Friday, April 22, Dav Pilkey, the ever-entertaining creator of Captain Underpants, will take the stage. Pilkey is a Caldecott Honor Award–winning author and illustrator of more than 50 books for children, known for his humor, inventiveness, and focus on kindness and friendship. And yet, according to the American Library Association, Captain Underpants frequently tops the list of banned books.

Among ticketed events, the Black Caucus Round Table Brunch & Author Session features Eric Dean Seton and Earl Sewell, and the opening Author Session & Luncheon features Rita Coolidge, Paulette Jiles, Laura Lippman, and Carolyn Haines. The “Evening with the Authors” dinner event (set for the historic Julia Ideson Building at the Houston Public Library) will feature Justin Cronin, Joe Hill, Steve Martini, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, and Houston’s first poet laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda.

On Friday, April 22, the Texas Association of School Librarians Author Session & Breakfast features Jeff Kinney. Gene Luen Yang will speak at the Closing Author Session & Luncheon. If you haven’t booked your spot for these events, visit the TLA website, as registration closes soon.

And of course, many more authors will be featured throughout the conference program. Among those appearing this year are Kwame Alexander, Tom Angleberger, Kathi Appelt, Mac Barnett, Chris Barton, Joan Bauer, Cece Bell, Nancy J. Cavanaugh, Ame Dyckman, Diane Gonzales, Jennifer Gray Olson, Andy Griffiths, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Kirby Larson, Meghan McCarthy, Allison McGhee, Linda Sue Park, Greg Pizzoli, Dan Santat, Stephen Swinburne, Don Tate, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, Matthew C. Winner, Ursula Vernon, and more.

Library Leaders

A strong lineup of local and national library leaders round out the conference’s professional program. For librarians interested in technology, on Tuesday, April 19, TLA’s TechCamp preconference is back for another year, featuring sessions on subjects such as makerspaces and 3-D printing, as well as coding, augmented reality, and more emerging tech trends. The daylong program features Drew Minock and Brad Waid, cofounders of the “Two Guys and Some iPads” blog, which is viewed in more than 120 countries.

On Thursday, April 21, the TLA Director’s Symposium will feature presentations from Valerie Gross (Howard County Library System, Md.), James Neal (Columbia University, N.Y.), and Suzanna Panter (Henrico County Public Schools, Va.). Also on Thursday, the winner of the Texas Bluebonnet Award (a nationally recognized children’s-choice prize) will be honored. During an awards luncheon, the winning author will accept the award from 10 student representatives. This year, 152,369 children voted, representing more than 1,536 schools.

Some programs may require tickets or registration, and all programs are subject to last-minute changes, so check the TLA conference program.

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