Caught My Eye: Accounts from ALA Midwinter, Atlanta, Jan. 20-24, 2017

Despite milder than usual temperatures for an ALA Midwinter host city, this year’s conference had one of the smallest turnouts in years. The 2017 Atlanta version of ALA Midwinter saw attendance drop nearly 30% from last year’s turnout in Boston. Only 8,326 librarians, vendors, and library supporters made the trek to Atlanta for the usual business meetings, panel discussions, exhibits, award presentations, and keynote speakers.

Admittedly, attendees from the local area, who often account for numerous one-day registrations, may have had second thoughts about braving the congestion and traffic causing some of the drop off. Downtown Atlanta was jam packed on Saturday with the “March for Social Justice and Women” that drew some 60,000 protesters, while on Sunday, thousands more poured in to see the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers battle it out for the NFC Conference championship.

Nonetheless, both locals and out-of-towners who dared to make the trip were rewarded by a lineup of 1,120 meetings and events, as well as the opportunity to view the more than 450 book and technology related exhibits arrayed on the floor of the Georgia World Congress Center. So given all the action, we thought that we  would once again offer a small sense of what went on by sharing with you a few of the conference related posts and articles, that have “caught our eye.”


  • #alamw17 conveniently collects American Libraries’ varied blog coverage of ALA Midwinter 2017. However, to get the full scope of the coverage a little scrolling may be in order. Reports include those on ALA’s Town Hall, multiple celebrity keynotes, and various award presentations as well as those on programs discussing issues like advocacy, cybersecurity and privacy, not to mention, the daily “Top Ten Tweets” and ALA’s three Council meetings.

  • For Librarians, 2017 Is Off to a Rough Start is Publisher Weekly first take on Midwinter with reporter Andrew Albanese noting  “the lowest attendance of any Midwinter Meeting in 25 years. ALA officials reported that total attendance (including exhibitors, excluding comps) was 8,326—down substantially from the 11,716 who came to the 2016 event in Boston.”  The article goes on to discuss attendees concerns over the incoming Trump administration’s threat to eliminate funding for the the National Endowments for the Humanitiesas well as other worries about the current political climate. The article also highlights the show’s opening keynote speech by W. Kamau Bell, the popular podcaster and CNN host. It then mentions a number of book awards presented at the Midwinter along with their winning authors.


  • Not Business as Usual | ALA Midwinter 2017 is LJ’s overview post that starts by noting involvement of librarians in the “Women’s March” and then moves on to  the “ALA Town Hall: Library Advocacy and Core Values in Uncertain Times” along with ALA’s post-election advocacy messaging.  The article also notes that ALA Council has unanimously adopted Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as a fourth strategic direction for the organization and that ALA will have to find a new Executive Director as Keith Michael Fiels has announced his intended resignation. The report continues with an account of the “Symposium on the Future of Libraries” that offered nearly 40 sessions devoted to the subject.  In addition, article coverage included programs about the equalizing impact of technology; Google’s CS First program; ALA’s presidential candidates; and various library and publishing award winners.


  • LITA’s Top Tech Trends is American Libraries’ report on a panel discussion that included Blake Carver, LYRASIS; Lauren Comito, Queens (N.Y.) Library; Laura Costello, Stony Brook (N.Y.) University; Carolyn Coulter, PrairieCat Library Consortium; and Nick Grove, Meridian (Idaho) Library District. Each was called on to answer the following series of questions:
  1. What is the next top tech trend?
  2. What is on the horizon in IT privacy and security?
  3. Should libraries develop their own tools to meet their specific needs?
  4. What are some creative ways that leadership can integrate tech for library outreach?
  5. What technologies should libraries be using to improve tech literacy?
  6. What are the most useless trends?
  7. What technologies are you sick of hearing about?


  • AR, VR Lead Top Tech Trends Discussion | ALA Midwinter 2017 offers LJ’s take on another LITA Top Tech Trends panel that discussed augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), trends in teaching and technology, gamification, community driven technology innovation, and more.” The panel featured librarians from different backgrounds including “Cynthia Hart, emerging technologies librarian, Virginia Beach Public Library; Bill Jones, Information Delivery Services (IDS) Project creative technologist, State University of New York (SUNY) Geneseo, Milne Library; Gena Marker, teacher-librarian, Centennial High School, West Ada School District, Boise, ID; Meredith Powers, young adult librarian, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL); and moderator Ken Varnum, senior program manager, University of Michigan Library.”

  • Research Libraries Transform: Master class dives into Georgia Tech’s new approach to Service is an American Libraries blog post that covers a program focused on Georgia Tech’s attempt at “Reimagining the Research Library for the 21st Century.” According to dean of libraries, Catherine Murray Rust, “it was an extensive project, with some elements still ongoing, but it boiled down to three basic elements: renewing the library’s buildings, forging a collaboration with Emory University, and implementing organizational effectiveness…”

  • LJ Reviewer Makes His ALA Debut | ALA Midwinter 2017 recounts the impressions of Douglas Rednour, collection support specialist at Georgia State University in Atlanta (and Library Journal’s 2016 Video Reviewer of the Year) as he experiences his first ALA Midwinter.

  • Lauren at ALA Midwinter 2017 in Atlanta is a personal report by Lauren Corbett, Director of Resource Services, Wake Forest University that notes “between numerous required committee meetings on metadata and advocacy, she learned about Summon & Primo integration and discussed ebook record problems in several venues (exhibits, a session, a dinner, and a committee meeting.” Naturally Lauren elaborates on all of this.

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