Our Picks for ALA 2019

It’s that time of the year… the ALA Annual Conference is right around the corner! The Walter E. Washington Convention Center will host headliners such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Jason Reynolds and Nnedi Okorafor, and there are great programming workshops, sessions and networking opportunities. 

Below are some of our top picks. What’s on your conference schedule? Share your suggestions in the comments.


Friday, June 21

Media Literacy at Your Library Training
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Location: Marriott Marquis, Marquis Salon 10

Can your patrons spot fake news? Can you? Learn how your library can play a vital role helping adults in your community become eagle-eyed news consumers.

In this intensive one-day preconference, you will:

  • Be trained in the media literacy curriculum developed by Stony Brook University’s Center for News Literacy
  • Learn how you can empower patrons to recognize fake news
  • Work with other libraries to brainstorm and develop program ideas
  • Develop a media literacy program plan for your library using Human-Centered Design methods
  • Receive a certificate of completion

This preconference is suited for any library employee who with adult patrons.

Saturday, June 22

Strengthening Libraries as Entrepreneurial Hubs
10:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 152A

This session will highlight lessons that have emerged from the Urban Libraries Council’s work in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation on strategies for strengthening libraries as entrepreneurial hubs. It will draw on the work of 12 library systems that are participating in a learning cohort focusing on the unique role of libraries in reaching and engaging populations most in need of guidance and support including immigrants, people of color, justice-involved individuals, women and veterans. The session will also provide an early introduction on research to create benchmarks to support all libraries in assessing their work as entrepreneurial hubs.

Now Showing: American Creed
1 - 2:15 p.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 209A-B

What does it mean to be American? What holds us together in turbulent times?

In the PBS documentary American Creed former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Kennedy come together from different points of view to explore the idea of a unifying American creed. Their spirited inquiry frames the stories of citizen-activists striving to realize their own visions of America’s promise across deep divides. 

Leave this event with everything you need to bring American Creed – and its diverse perspectives on America’s ideals and identity – to your community. Attendees of this Now Showing session will view powerful community stories from the film and hear from filmmaker Sam Ball as well as librarians who have hosted screenings, community conversations and other related activities at their libraries.

All attendees will receive a free DVD of American Creed for their circulating collections. Public performance rights will also be granted to ALA members who attend this special screening event.

Public performance rights will also be granted to ALA members who attend this special screening event or the following consultation session offering guidance and material support for hosting American Creed followed by a scholar-facilitated conversation: Saturday, June 22 from 4 - 5 p.m., Networking Uncommons, WCC-L Street Bridge

News You Can Use: Immigrants, Refugees and Displaced Persons in Public Libraries: What We’ve Learned, Where We’re Heading
1 - 2 p.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 151A

ALA's Public Programs Office recently completed a year-long exploration of public library programs and services that support immigrant, refugee and displaced persons populations. This initiative, originally titled the “New Americans Library Project,” included a landscape review, library site visits and consultation with a panel of public library and community-based organization staff. This session will review project findings such as opportunities and challenges in programming, existing resources and initiatives to help facilitate strong library public programming, gaps in service that could be addressed through training or other resources, and opportunities and challenges involved in library partnerships with community organizations.

Sunday, June 23

NASA@ My Library: STEM Programming and Strategic Planning
9 - 10 a.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 152A

Solano County Library was one of 75 libraries across the United States selected for the NASA@ My Library program, which supports STEM education and programs for rural and economically challenged communities. Learn how Solano County Library enabled its staff to utilize NASA resources to engage and foster relationships within those communities. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with hands-on STEM materials provided through the NASA@ My Library Project and will be provided information on how to access regional partners, local astronomers, and NASA subject matter experts.

Ensuring Everyone Counts (and is Counted) in the 2020 Census
9 - 10 a.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 145B

In 2020, the Census will be conducted primarily online for the first time. Like past e-government efforts, this will likely impact libraries and libraries' technology resources as staff work to assist people in participating in the Census. The 2020 Census also presents an opportunity to increase public awareness and use of Census data.

The decennial census determines federal representation, billions of dollars of federal funding to states and localities (including grants to state libraries), and essential demographic data that can be used to target services. A panel of national experts will discuss the implications of the 2020 Census and how libraries can help ensure a complete and inclusive count. Attendees will gain practical strategies for engaging diverse residents and community partners in the 2020 Census, as well as resources for advocating with government decisionmakers about the vital roles of libraries in this essential civic effort.

Program Speed Dating with the Programming Librarian Interest Group
1 - 2 p.m.
Location: Marriott Marquis, Capitol

You’ve tried speed dating. But have you tried speed dating for program ideas? Join ALA’s Programming Librarian Interest Group for this fun, fast-paced session and learn about a variety of diverse programs you can re-create at your library. You’ll get five minutes to learn all you can about a program and decide whether or not it would work for your community. You’ll leave inspired with several ready-to-implement ideas from your peers.

Book Club Reboot: 71 Creative Twists
3 - 4 p.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, ALA Store

Is your book club feeling stale or uninspired? Has attendance dropped, or are you struggling to keep your patrons engaged? What you need is a reboot. This resource published in cooperation with ALA’s Public Programs Office profiles dozens of successful book clubs across the country. Its diverse cross-section of ideas will inspire you to rethink your reading groups and try out new ways to better meet your library’s and community’s needs.

Everyone Has a Story: How to Listen Deeply and Tell Stories in Your Community
4 - 5 p.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 143C

Imagine this: a Vietnam veteran, a Cuban refugee, a college student with Juvenile Parkinson’s disease, an Exalted Ruler of the Elks Lodge, a former music critic for a fanzine, and a grandmother who has lived in the same town her whole life, spend two days together in a workshop designed to help them tell one story from their lives that they will then turn into a digital story (with a voiceover, photographs and effects) to be screened before a live audience. A recipe for disaster? Or the very civic discourse that libraries are meant to encourage?

Learn how a public and an academic library collaborated to bring digital storytelling to their city. Using a model created by StoryCenter and partnering with their School District, their Local History Museum, Literacy Council, Boys & Girls Club, YMCA and more they hosted workshops where people could record a 2-4 minute personal anecdote and learn how to add photographs and effects. These stories were then screened before live audiences and fostered meaningful conversations between pockets of the community that do not usually interact.

Participants will receive access to tools and handbooks created by StoryCenter and by Sonia Chaidez which will help them start digital storytelling programs in their institutions.

LGBTQ+ Creators and Characters in Kids, Tween, and Teen Comics
4 - 5 p.m.
Location: Marriott Marquis, Monument

LGBTQIA+ creators and characters are increasingly visible in comics for young readers, from kids through to teens. This panel brings together queer creators and allies to discuss the importance of centering queer stories, working to break stereotypes and the importance of giving all young readers the chance to meet queer characters in comics pages. Creators will talk about their inspirations, new and upcoming works, and how kids comics can create space for even more narratives.

Monday, June 24

Controversial Speaker Planned for Your Library Event? Things to Consider
9 - 10 a.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 140B

Have a program planned or a speaker coming to your library that you feel might end up being a bit more contentious than you originally thought? Expecting your program to be controversial for some of the members of your community? Controversial speakers and programs can be a challenging part of library life. Hear from disinvited speakers, public relations experts, librarians who have faced this before, and IFC’s “Responding to and Preparing for Controversial Programs and Speakers Q&A” authors about questions and aspects you may want to consider before holding such an event. Participants will receive a handout with questions to consider when developing program policies, as well as a crisis communications template.

News You Can Use: You Learned to Plan Programs Where?! Findings from NILPPA, ALA's National Study of Library Public Programs
10:30 - 11:30 a.m.
Location: Washington Convention Center, 151B

As a library worker, you see the impacts of library programs every day -- from young people developing skills through summer reading, to older adults finding solace through homebound outreach programs. But while the library world knows anecdotally how important programs are, the field lacks sufficient data on whether, and how, these efforts are working. For the past two years, the ALA Public Programs Office and a team of researchers have surveyed thousands of library professionals about their work. In the process, we have unearthed some fascinating findings about public programs and the skill set of the library staffers who run them. Join leaders of the IMLS-funded National Impact of Library Public Programs Assessment (NILPPA) for highlights from our white paper and next steps.