The American Library Association Annual Conference, held in New Orleans June 25-30, opened under a shadow. Just two days before, the Senate Commerce Committee had approved the Children's Online Protection Act, requiring libraries to prove that they have installed filtering devices on Internet access computer terminals, to qualify for e-rate discounts.

The official stance of the ALA is that this "writes into federal law a single and highly flawed technological approach to protecting children online, forcing libraries to broadly employ that technology in a manner that threatens the rights of all library users to access constitutionally protected material." Appropriately, the theme of the New Orleans conference was "Celebrating the Freedom to Read! Learn! Connect!"

Keynote speaker Colin Powell addressed the question of filtering, noting that high-profile talk radio host and author Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a proponent of filtering, had exhorted her listeners to write to Powell, asking him to turn down his invitation to speak at the show in protest of the ALA's stand on filtering. Powell said that he had studied the issue carefully and had concluded that parents should be the "primary line of defense" and that freedom of speech must be vigorously protected, which brought cheers from the audience. However, Powell then waffled somewhat, saying that filtering decisions should be made on the local level, thus opening the door to filtering in some areas. He also noted that if the law were passed, he was sure that librarians would work with it so that children's First Amendment rights would not be destroyed.

Powell dedicated nearly a third of his speech to defending his appropriateness as keynoter. A portion of the ALA membership had been against Powell's appearance and many of them mounted a protest outside the auditorium. They were protesting his $70,000 speaker's fee ($20,000 of which came from ALA; the rest from the Library Corp., which sells automation systems to libraries) and his focus on volunteerism (librarians have fought hard for professional recognition and fear that their communities might think their libraries could be run by volunteers), as well as his background as a militarist. Powell addressed the latter, saying that, as a soldier, he had fought for the First Amendment. He did not address the other objections.

Adult Authors Make Show
Among the hundreds of children's authors on hand for autographing and speaking sessions and to meet a major portion of their market (and, perhaps, rub elbows with a potential Newbery or Caldecott committee member) were Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (for both Random House and S&S), Lois Lowry, Lois Duncan (Random House), James Howe (S&S), John Updike (there with Trina Schart Hyman for A Child's Calendar, Holiday House), Louis Sacher (FSG and Random House), Rosemary Wells (for Candlewick, S&S and Penguin Putnam), Richard Peck, Eric Carle (Penguin Putnam) and Kevin Henkes (Morrow).

Although significantly fewer in number, adult authors are a growing presence at the show. Francine Fialkoff, editor of Library Journal, addressing a day-long program on the library market, pointed out that libraries are attractive venues for author appearances, bringing in large audiences and selling many copies of the author's books.

Adult authors Richard Ford, Anne Roiphe, Thomas Cahill and Douglas Brinkley were featured at a luncheon cosponsored by the Friends of Libraries USA (FOLUSA) and Baker & Taylor. FOLUSA and Library Journal partnered for "The Book Trip," a session on how a book takes shape, from writing through editing, design, marketing, publicity and, finally, onto library shelves. The book selected for this annual event was Robert Slater's Jack Welch and the GE Way (McGraw-Hill). Sessions on New Novelists, Genre Practitioners and a Southern Writers Festival all introduced librarians to authors in those particular areas.

Library Market Studied
A study sponsored by a joint committee of the AAP and the ALA's Association for Library Collections and Technical Services was discussed in a day-long program. This is the third such study, which has been conducted at 12-year intervals. While commentators felt that changes from study to study have been relatively few, they did note that the growth of electronic ordering, consortia buying among academic libraries, more centralized selection among public libraries and greater pressure to devote more money to electronic sources are evident. Also, the 1998 study shows the online bookseller listed for the first time, both as a source for book information and for acquiring hard-to-find titles (some libraries now use corporate credit cards to get around the problem of generating purchase orders). Panelists noted that libraries are "on the cusp" of major changes to be wrought by access to electronic information, not only from e-journals, but also from e-books.

AAP president Pat Schr der summed up the program by emphasizing how important it is for librarians and publishers to create more opportunities to talk to each other, promising that if librarians come to BEA, the AAP will make sure there are forums to exchange ideas. This was a note she also sounded during a program on copyright, saying that she would like to see librarians, publishers, authors and agents get together so they can understand each other's views on the issues.

E-books on Virtual Shelves
The show floor, as has become typical of ALA, was dominated by computer circulation, cataloguing and acquisitions systems, and information technology. The talk of the floor was Net Library, a system that allows libraries to purchase a copy of an e-book in Net Library's inventory and place it in the library's collection. It is set up to allow one library user to borrow a specific copy for a specified period of time. If the library wants to provide simultaneous access by multiple users to a title, the library must buy additional copies. Publishers are signing on readily with Net Library, many of them right at the show, attracted by the system's ability to protect copyright and the easy analogy to the sales of hard-copy books for calculating royalties. Libraries find it a good system for distance-learning programs, reserve room reading copies and for integrating e-books into their existing collections. However, some librarians, accustomed to licensing electronic information and making it available to multiple users, felt the system unnecessarily incorporates the disadvantages of hard-copy collections.

The Internet was ever-present on the show floor, with the majority of database vendors now selling products on the Web. BroDart, the library wholesaler, introduced a new system for organizing library orders, called It allows a library to create order lists, complete with copies of reviews and book jackets, on an intranet so that branch libraries can easily place orders. By making replacement ordering much less cumbersome, such a system could expand the amount of backlist ordering by libraries.

The next ALA meeting will be the MidWinter, scheduled for January 14-19, 2000, in San Antonio, Tex. The next Annual Conference will be July 6-13, in Chicago.