As the Emirate of Sharjah celebrates being the UNESCO World Book Capital, the 6th annual Sharjah International Library Conference, November 5–7, will gather together librarians from around the region and the world to discuss new trends and new services to serve their communities and societies. This year’s conference will focus on the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality in libraries and other innovations.

Held in conjunction with the 38th Sharjah International Book Fair, this collaboration between the SIBF and the American Library Association—which develops the program—continues to attract hundreds of librarians to gather and learn from international and regional experts. Presenters come from 15 countries, ranging from the U.S. to Tunisia to Malaysia. The conference provides simultaneous translation services for attendees in Arabic and English.

In addition to the education and networking opportunities available at the conference, librarians can take advantage of attending the book fair, with its 1,500 publishing houses, representing more than 60 countries, and purchase materials for their collections—which the book fair itself supports by offering lodging and travel reimbursement for librarians who purchase books beyond certain monetary thresholds.

This year’s conference is expanding to three full-day workshops on November 6. “Planning, Assessing, and Community Impact” will train deans, directors, and other managers to use the Association of College and Research Libraries Standards for Libraries in Higher Education to demonstrate the value of their library. “New Concepts and Applications for Cataloging” will delve into the redesigned RDA Toolkit and International Federation of Library Association and Institution’s Library Reference Model. School librarians will be interested in attending “Building Empathy, Understanding, and Tolerance through Collections, Curriculum, and Virtual Reality.”

ALA president Wanda Brown will give the keynote address opening the conference on November 6, for which she’ll speak on the theme of “Taking the Lead: Indispensable Librarians.” Concurrent sessions throughout the conference also offer an opportunity to gain knowledge on a wide variety of topics, including using artificial intelligence and augmented reality in the library environment, the value of measuring outcomes, innovative and engaging literacy instruction, curriculum development, consumer research, and developing new services.

Jason Griffey, affiliate at the MetaLab at Harvard University, is the plenary speaker on November 7, with a presentation titled, “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Libraries.”

That day’s sessions will continue with programs on blockchain and libraries, digital preservation, guided inquiry, and oral history, among others. This year’s conference will also feature the presentation of 20 case studies covering best practices from across the library landscape.

Attendees will also have access to the Librarians’ Lounge and Exhibit, where they can interact with sponsors and vendors to learn about new products and updates. This year’s Gold sponsors for the Lounge and Exhibit include OverDrive and EBSCO.

The conference collaborates every year with the Emirates Literature Foundation to bring the winners of the foundation’s School Librarian of the Year award to the event. The awards are presented by the Emirates Literature Foundation, in association with the Executive Council of Dubai, to recognize those librarians who have demonstrated outstanding commitment in sharing their love of literature and promoting reading for pleasure among the student community, while also raising academic and literacy standards in the school.

SIBF representatives, including Sharjah Book Authority chairman Ahmed Al Ameri, also attend and participate in the ALA conferences, and are keen to work with U.S. libraries that showcase U.A.E. culture and are interested in building related collections of materials.

The ALA has been engaged internationally for over 140 years, and currently has 1,800 members and spans 95 countries, in addition to the U.S. For additional information, please contact the ALA International Relations Office at

Michael Dowling is the director of the International Relations Office and Chapter Relations Office of the American Library Association.