The energy and excitement of ALA annual is always uplifting, always inspiring, but after two years of screens and separation this year was truly energizing. Being back in person with librarians from around the country was just the boost I needed to recharge and prepare for another academic year. Butler also had a graduate assistant, and first-time attendee, at ALAAC22. Together, we’ll share impressions and all of our favorite moments from the POV of a fresh and experienced attendee.
Jen: This year was an excellent opportunity to reconnect with the generous publishers that contribute to the BCLC review collection and thank them for their continued support. And, as always, a chance to get a sneak peek at what is coming up for the book world and our shelves. Keep an eye open for Maya’s Song by Butler Lecture alumni Renèe Watson and Bryan Collier. Perhaps my favorite part of this year’s hall was the bunny petting zone! For a donation to Peace Bunny Island (check out their site for info and their book), attendees could take their turn cuddling the comfort bunnies in training. This graduating class of bunnies was bound for kids in Uvalde, TX.
Dalia: As a current MLIS student attending my first ALA conference in Washington, D.C., it was quite overwhelming and exciting all at the same time. My desire to meet other library professionals, authors, and attend sessions overcame me as I walked into the conference hall, and I had absolutely no idea what to do first. I can see how pre-planning for something this giant sometimes goes out the window. Luckily, another attendee saw how overwhelmed I was and directed me to the Exhibit Hall, where multiple book signings, sessions and booths were happening. While walking through the hall, many people noticed that my badge had a student ribbon displayed and stopped me to discuss why I was there and where Dominican University was, which I was happy to do. Coming back after two long years didn’t seem to interfere with many people’s exuberance as they discussed previous ALA conferences they attended, innovative ideas, and current events they were excited to attend with people they knew and people they did not.
Jen: It’s always a treat to take a break with a room full of book lovers. Add in lunch and some of today’s most celebrated names in children’s books and you have the delight of the Scholastic Literary Luncheon. Gale Galligan, Lamar Giles, Natalie Lloyd, Amy Sarig King, and Christina Soontornvat shared the motivations, experiences, and terrifying stories (thanks, Lamar!) that inspired their books, then very patiently posed for pictures. And we each left with a sturdy tote bag full of ARCs and goodies.
Dalia: Besides author signings, the exhibit floor had innovative technology, university presses, education sessions, and so many more items that I couldn’t help but browse. Attending the session for upcoming books from Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Disney Publishing, HarperCollins Children’s Books, and Macmillan Children’s Books was a revelation about how fast, dedicated, and enthusiastic these publishing houses work in getting the marketing out there for their upcoming books.
Jen: I’m not capable of leaving an annual conference without many pounds (read: overweight suitcase!) of new books for the BCLC shelves and two years away from in-person conferencing didn’t change that. Stop by the Center this fall for a peek at all the signed books that came home with me and look out for them in the 2022 book sale this December. I’ll keep You Can’t Say That (Leonard Marcus) for addition to the permanent collection for the MAYL program. Also keep an eye open for new publishers on the shelves this fall, thanks to a group of exciting names added to our publishing partner group—Albert Whitman, Disney, and Page Street Kids among them.
Dalia: I was incredibly lucky to interact with many authors I knew and some I did not. Being able to listen to their stories and the motivation behind their life’s work was inspirational. Meeting Alyson Noël, an author I’ve been following since her first book, was unbelievable and I cannot wait to dive into her new book Stealing Infinity. Running over to meet Kami Garcia (Teen Titans: Raven #1) and Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #1) and adding their new books to my TBR pile would have to be another highlight of my trip.
Jen: I had my obligatory Jason Reynolds sighting (3 conferences in a row and I am NOT complaining about this) while walking into the convention center on Saturday. And, of course, he was as lovely and gracious as always while people stopped him to profess their love and appreciation of his work. I didn’t snap his pic, but got one of Rainbow Fish on his 30th anniversary.
Dalia: I was surprised and thrilled to find Tiffany Haddish as a speaker at this year’s ALA conference, and she absolutely rocked the stage. Discussing her new book, Layla, the Last Black Unicorn, Haddish explains her motivations behind the plot and illustrations and how they relate back to her growing up in the foster system. Her heartwarming story and comedic attitude while discussing her life and her book made for a standing ovation and a few tears in the audience.
Reuniting with librarians from around the country (at what a former classmate called “librarian summer camp”) was such a thrill. The excitement of the conference and enthusiasm for the work are always contagious. It was rewarding to see this amazing group of librarians embrace and encourage a first-timer and welcome her into the library community. We’re both excited to have ALA Annual here in Chicago in 2023 and hope you’ll join us there!