American Libraries Association Annual Conference: Chicago June 2017

ALA Annual Conference & Exhibition, Chicago, June 22-27, 2017. Transforming our libraries, ourselves.

At CMLE we always encourage people to attend conferences. It’s a great way to keep up on interesting developments in the profession, to find people who do what you do professionally, and to enjoy yourself with a bunch of other library people! You can learn things, meet people, and make all kinds of connections in a way that takes longer and is harder to do online.

Note: The Minnesota Library Association Annual Conference, and the ITEM Annual Conference are both coming up in October!! We have scholarship money for you, to help defray the cost! These are just great opportunities for you, no matter what you do in a library; so consider attending! You can always contact us here at CMLE to ask questions about conferences, to talk about ideas you have, or just to get tips on attending.

Below is a quick recap of my trip to the ALA Annual Conference. This is such a huge conference that any individual look at it is just overwhelming with the amount of possible things to do, people to meet, and information to absorb! Browse around the website for yourself, to find all kinds of info; and check on social media to follow the #ALALeftBehind hashtag. If you are in a library or archive or museum or history center, or even if you just like books – this is YOUR conference!!

It is held this week  every year – please check it out for yourself in future years! There is also a Midwinter conference every year in late January, where the focus is on vendor exhibits and meetings with committees. Check out the meeting locations for the next ten years, so you can start making plans to attend now! (There are several coming up in Chicago over the next few years; this is ALA’s home, and being so close to us is a real bonus!)

There were more than 700 vendors at this conference, and you can see them all here. Hundreds of authors were there; you can see them all here. Over 2,000 sessions were held, on every topic you can imagine (and some that will boggle your mind!); you can browse all of them here. Whether or not you were able to attend a session, if something seems really important to you, or valuable to your work, or you just get excited about the topic, you can contact the presenter directly (do some Googling!)  and ask for information or slides or any handouts. Most presenters are happy to share their information – that is why they are at the conference. And as a frequent conference presenter myself, I can say that it feels great when people are interested in your work!

We will have all kinds of material available here at CMLE HQ; so feel free to come look through it all! Yes, I also picked up a lot of giveaways for you guys! We will be distributing out Advance Reader Copies (ACRs) of books not yet published, all kinds of pins to show library pride, posters, and other assorted items! (I have a plastic sandwich holder for some lucky person!) We will get some of this up on our website, so you know what we have available; but don’t hesitate to stop by and just browse! We have two large flat-rate post office boxes full of stuff, plus my backpack jammed full of things, plus a Trader Joe’s canvas bag stuffed with material we want to share with you. Make our distribution work easier by coming over to browse for yourself!


After a great suggestion from Violet Fox, a CMLE member from St. Ben’s/St. John’s, I decided to take Amtrak over to Chicago. This was an outstanding idea!! I’ve never done this, but I reserved a “roomlette” (pictured above) and it was so fun! There is so much to see between St. Cloud and Chicago, and I had a great view of it all.



Once I got to Chicago, it was clear the city was ready for the 25,000+ attendees who would be at this conference – and they were ready for us! I excitedly took this picture of a welcome banner that you could find around the streets – it was nice!




Gale research databases always sponsors buses at the ALA Conferences. You can see from this chart how complicated it is to house many thousands of attendees (plus families and guests), and to get them from hotels across the city to the convention center. Thanks, Gale!


Right away there were good information sources, ready to help us find things. ALA has these conferences down to a science, and no matter what city you are in they have tons of signs ready to help direct you to where you want to go.

And this is where I wanted to go: the exhibits! For this conference you can buy a whole package -allowing you to go to everything; or you can buy an Exhibits pass at a much reduced rate. I did that, as I primarily wanted to go see vendors and talk with people.  If this is your first time at a conference, you may enjoy the full package that allows you to go to programs anywhere they are offered.


This vendor was one of the first I saw and of course I was very excited! Harry Potter-oriented materials are always a big hit for library people; and I struggled to even get this close to the booth! There are so many neat things at this conference!!

I took these shots from the second floor, where a food court was stationed. You can get a feel for how busy it all was – but double that in reality! (Maybe quadruple it!) In the bottom photo you can just make out a cage; this is where people could practice flying a drone through hoops. There were all kinds of VR devices for people to try in the tables next to that – and everything was being used all the time by excited attendees! The Better World bus is nearly dwarfed by the crowds nearby! (I took these photos early on Sunday, when many attendees were either in committee meetings, enjoying brunch, or at Chicago’s enormous Pride parade. It was generally much more densely packed with happy library people!

There were several vendors selling book bikes. I registered to win them wherever that was possible; so if that happens we will have a great time across CMLE delivering all kinds of fun stuff!! (It’s pretty unlikely I’ll win – but if you want to buy one I have a lot of vendor info here!)

This was a fun vendor, not just for their cool StoryWalk products (which were indeed cool!), but check out this comfy display! I walked past this one several times, and sometimes the vendor was standing and chatting – but everyone seemed happy when I went by and they were all sitting in these comfy chairs and enjoying themselves!




This vendor was selling a very nice tool for moving materials around a library. You could use this to move materials from closed stacks, or fragile materials. Check out this fun video from the New York Public Library that will show you how it all works – and it’s just fun to watch!

As with any gathering of interesting people and stuff, Google showed up! They had a very nice area, good material for libraries, and cheery people to answer questions. I was bummed to have missed out on the snicker-doodle cookies they were baking on-site (I was chatting about coding training for libraries, darn it); but did have a few cups of icy lemon water. I was surprised to see the number of people who just popped in to grab one cup in each color as souvenirs! (I drank out of mine and tossed the cup – sorry to anyone who would have loved it. Enjoy this much nicer photo!)

Check out this adorable furniture! I sat on a toadstool, and chatted with the vendor who reclined against the pencil and eraser.  I have their material also, so if you want some very fun furniture, let me know!

This was another so-fun vendor!! I never even imagined furniture, and other decorations, with such artistic design – but it was very fun! (Yes, I have their brochure too; come browse through them all and you will find some treasures!)




it was my blood – no privacy violations here! 🙂

One of the things I most like about our profession is that we are nice. By this, I mean that people are friendly, they answer questions from strangers – even other library people, and they always step up to help when asked. ALA conferences often involve a social justice component. ALA was the first big conference in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina destroyed so much of the city and the tourism industry. When the so-very-wrongly named Patriot Act was passed, allowing patron records to be browsed and computers to be tapped (as well as things like your bank records riffled, and your medical records sifted) by just about anyone even vaguely “law enforcement” for  almost no reason – and it all had to be kept secret (Note: “secret” means “stuff we are ashamed to let people know”) – libraries protested. Not a little bit – a lot!  Last year, we met in Orlando the week after the Pulse nightclub massacre in that city – and the line to give blood was so long it had to be cut off because too many people wanted to donate.  So I happily joined in donating blood at this conference, and it was literally the least I could do to help. (Summer time is tough for people who need blood! Here is a link where you can schedule your own donation.) And they gave me a juice box and a packet of Oreos!

Little Free Libraries were quite popular – and you could help with some building if you wanted! Being a big fan of their, I picked up a few pins, if anyone wants one. I also entered the contest to win a little library, because I’ve always wanted one.



I won! They gave away five of the adorable libraries, and I was so excited!





It was a great conference! I didn’t get to talk about everything here, and I didn’t get to everything at the conference itself. But I hope it was enough that you see you could go, and that you will have a good time – as well as learning some great things and meeting some great people!

If you want to go to a future ALA conference, or MLA or ITEM in October, or any other conference – we are here to support you!