New Orleans, LA – The American Library Association’s (ALA) Annual Conference brought more than 20,000 library professionals and exhibitors down to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The show was abuzz when witnessing first-hand the Library of Congress Gateway to Knowledge Traveling Exhibition, presented in a 53’ double expandable semi-trailer.
The mission of the Library of Congress Gateway to Knowledge tour is to bring a sample of its wealth of resources to small towns in rural communities who might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The tour’s objective aligns with the main topic of conversation at this year’s ALA show – library advocacy. In his post entitled “Library Advocacy: One Message, One Voice,” former ALA president and recent American Libraries Magazine contributor, Richard Dougherty, wrote, “Our advocacy efforts must convince officials that libraries are essential and critical community services. Otherwise, like other services perceived as worthwhile, library budgets will suffer greater cuts than services seen as critical.”
The 1,000 square foot, self-contained, mobile exhibition opened its doors to the ALA conference on Friday evening. The Gateway to Knowledge exhibit was introduced to the ALA Conference with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by many notable figures. Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for library services at the Library of Congress; Molly Raphael, incoming president of ALA; Melvin Rodrique, president of the Ernest N. Morial New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority; William Jacobs, chief, interpretive program office at the Library of Congress; Katelyn Ramsey Castleberry, executive director, Friends of the New Orleans Public Library; Thomas Ainsworth Robichaux, New Orleans Board of Education representing District 7; Helen S. Kohlman, member of the Board of Directors for the New Orleans Public Library; Bob Johnson, general manager of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center; and Harry Kurtz, president of MRA experiential tours & equipment, were in attendance.
The exhibit’s 1,900 visitors were treated to high-quality facsimiles of historical documents such as the 1507 Waldseemüller Map, the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson’s hand with Benjamin Franklin’s edits, and the 1962 drawings for the comic book that introduced Spider-Man to the world. “It gives me chills to see history so alive and well,” one visitor commented. Another said, “Keep on leading while others follow. There is no limitation to knowledge, its storage, processing, arrangement, preservation, and consultation. This is fantastic.”