With more librarians than ever in attendance at BEA, publishers headed to Washington, DC, this past weekend for ALA to continue solidifying their bridge to the library community. Official numbers aren’t available yet, but on Friday, as the American Library Association Annual Conference got underway, ALA executive director Keith Michael Fiels told Library Journal that attendance may have set a new record, with 25,186 people registered.

More than 1,600 exhibitors set up booths on the floor of the Washington Convention Center, many having shipped their materials directly from the Javits Center in New York (where Book Expo took place the first weekend in June). While publishers made a strong showing--in addition to most of the big New York houses, a number of the university presses and small presses that attended BEA were present--publishers of reference materials also made a strong showing, alongside technology companies and the ubiquitous Google.

Librarians stood in long lines to meet Ken Burns (pictured), whose book The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945, a companion to the PBS series airing this fall, comes out from Knopf on Sept. 11. Former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley, author of this spring’s The New American Story (Random), delivered a keynote speech, as did Robert F. Kennedy and Garrison Keillor. Khaled Hosseini was on hand promoting A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Scholastic touted author Markus Zusak (Getting the Girl, PUSH) and, of course, the forthcoming seventh Harry Potter book. Attendees crowded into the graphic novel pavilion, scooping up Superman and Flash Gordon buttons from DC Comics, as well as titles from a host of other publishers.

Fully aware of librarians’ enthusiasm for picking up freebies (not to mention their keen information-finding abilities), the folks at Google organized a scavenger hunt. Using computers at the Google booth, librarians took up the challenge and used Google’s search tools—including Google News Alert, News Archive Search, Google Scholar, Google Customer Search Engine and Google Book Search—to pose as undercover government agents and piece together a puzzle. Their reward? Google pencils, pins and fortune cookies. "Librarians are definitely into the schwag," as Google PR representative Jennifer Parson rightly put it.