ATG Caught My Eye: Accounts from ALA Midwinter, Seattle, Jan. 25-29, 2019

by | Feb 23, 2019 | 0 comments


Attendees at this year’s Midwinter Conference got lucky, and perhaps, so did ALA. Not only was the weather in the Emerald City surprisingly cooperative featuring mild temperatures and clear skies, overall conference attendance was up substantially. ALA reported a nearly 15% increase from the disappointing numbers at last year’s Midwinter in Denver; up from 8,036 to 9,211 total attendees. One suspects that ALA officials breathed a sigh of relief in hopes that this portends a reversal in the recent trend toward shrinking attendance numbers.

Social responsibility is always a focus of ALA meetings and Seattle Midwinter was no exception. There were a number of “sessions focused on the empowerment of women and underrepresented communities and the importance of advocacy and social justice.” But of course, there were also plenty of sessions that discussed new technologies, resources, and services, not to mention an exhibit hall full of booths where attendees could explore and examine new offerings and updates.

Admittedly, no single report can do justice to all of the programs, meetings, and events at a gathering as large and complex as an ALA Conference. However, as is our habit, we want to convey a sense of this year’s ALA Midwinter by collecting a list of posts from a variety of sources that “caught our eye” and then let you form an impression for yourselves.


  •  #alamw19 conveniently collects American Libraries’ extensive blog coverage of ALA’s Midwinter in Seattle. However, in order to get the full scope of the coverage you’ll need to be prepared for a little scrolling and page navigation. Reports include those on multiple celebrity keynotes, sessions ranging from those on professional etiquette to career development and from racial equality to library advocacy. And of course, there were numerous award presentations not to mention, the daily “Top Ten Tweets” and ALA’s three Council meetings.


ALA Rebounds in Seattle reflects what may be a consensus opinion. Publishers Weekly’s Andrew Albanese thinks that ALA Seattle Midwinter was somewhat of a comeback conference for ALA. He reports a “welcome rebound” with a significant increase in attendance of more than 1100 over the 2018 Denver Midwinter. Of course, he also discusses what he feels were the highlights of the Midwinter meeting running from an inspiring opening keynote by Melinda Gates to a rally at Seattle’s famous main library, hosted by ALA president Loida Garcia-Febo to the closing keynote by former CNN anchor Isha Sesay. In addition, Mr. Albanese mentions the numerous sessions and meetings dealing with the delivery of digital content as well as the announcement of the various youth and adult media award winners.


  • A 2019 Midwinter Wrap-Up from American Libraries reports that Seattle Midwinter drew “more than 9,200 attendees (as compared with 8,036 in 2018 and 8,995 in 2017), who came to soak up the words of big-name speakers, learn from the practices of their peers, and network around subjects practical and theoretical.” The article also notes a number of programs focused on social concerns related to libraries like equity, inclusivity, and eradicating bias. In addition, innovative programming, library advocacy, youth media awards and ALA Council policy matters are discussed.


  • A Human-Centered Conference | ALA Midwinter 2019 is a report of the Midwinter Conference by the staff of LJ that echoes other similar overviews. It points to a “host of well-attended offerings that addressed civic and social innovation, human-centered design, and support for future leadership.” It also highlights the opening session by keynoter Melinda Gates as well as discussing a number of the featured Auditorium speakers. In addition, this LJ report covers programs dealing with topics like library innovation, intellectual freedom, and the need to better prepare MLIS students, as well as news from ALA’s Washington Office and publisher reactions from the exhibit floor.


  • The Moment of Lift: Melinda Gates opens Midwinter with stories of empowerment is American Libraries’ report of Melinda Gates’ opening talk at the Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. It starts with a discussion of Mrs. Gates’ role “at the forefront of philanthropic funding for libraries” but quickly pivots to Mrs. Gates being joined by librarian and author Nancy Pearl to discuss Mrs. Gates’s new book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. Guided by Ms. Pearl, the discussion    focuses on anecdotes and stories gathered by Mrs. Gates on travels throughout the world while working with the Gates Foundation. These stories reinforce the book’s claim “that women’s prosperity and health are intrinsically linked to the health and prosperity of the world at large” and that “as women are “lifted up,” the world follows.” The post also provides a number of video clips of the discussion.


  • ALA Launches Advocacy Resources reports that at this year’s Midwinter gathering “the American Library Association (ALA) rolled out a new and growing collection of advocacy tools on the freshly redesigned website This new advocacy web page offers practical advice and is “organized around developing and cultivating library advocates; providing step-by-step suggestions for anyone who wants to become more active in strengthening ALA’s voice; and advancing the national, state, and local conversations about library and information policy…”


  • Open Agenda, Privacy, and Digital Identity Lead Top Tech Trends | ALA Midwinter 2019 is a post by LJ’s Matt Enis that reports on LITA’s Top Tech Trends (TTT) panel. This year’s discussion ranged from virtual reality to OER and from artificial intelligence to new data privacy regulations. The panel included Joyce Valenza, assistant professor, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information; Cynthia Dudenhoffer, director of information resources and assessment, Central Methodist University, MO; James Neal, senior program officer, Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS); Suzanne Wulf, head of digital services, Niles-Maine District Library, IL; and Becky Yoose, recently library applications and systems manager, Seattle Public Library and current library data privacy consultant at LDH Consulting Services. The panel was moderated by Kate Tkacik, director of network engagement for the Foundation Center.


  • News from the Show Floor | ALA Midwinter 2019 is another post by LJ’s Matt Enis that outlines a few of the vendor announcements he learned about while mixing and mingling on the exhibit floor. New product offerings from heavyweights like Amazon Publishing, EBSCO, Gale, and ProQuest are discussed as are those from smaller firms like Overdrive, D-Tech, Index Data, MIT Press and Silverchair.



  • 2019 ALA Midwinter Conference Recap and Advice for Future Conference-goers is a blog post by Sabrina Unrein, a first-year graduate student of the Master’s of Library and Information Science Program at the  Syracuse University iSchool, In it Ms. Unrein offers an impressive list of key takeaways from her first library conference. She draws “not only from the program itself, but also about the experience of the conference at large, and how to navigate it.”



  • 2019 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries Award Winners Announced is ACRL Insider’s report announcing “the recipients of the 2019 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award – Swarthmore College Libraries, Swarthmore, Pa.; The College of Western Idaho Library, Nampa, Idaho; and Case Western Reserve University Kelvin Smith Library, Cleveland, Ohio. Sponsored by ACRL and GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO, the award recognizes the staff of a college, community college, and university library for programs that deliver exemplary services and resources to further the educational mission of the institution…”




  • Dr. Pauletta B. Bracy 2019 recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement notes that “Dr. Pauletta Brown Bracy is the recipient of the 2019 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement… Dr. Pauletta Bracy, is Professor of Library Science and Director of the Office of University Accreditation at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). She has successfully merged scholarship and service with publications such as “Libraries, Literacy and African American Youth” (co-edited with Sandra Hughes Hassell and Casey H. Rawson) as well as her work with the Coretta Scott King Book Awards and with workshops and conferences dedicated to promoting African American books for children and teens. She recently served as co-organizer for Celebrating Our Voices: Black Children’s Literature Symposium and Book Festival held at NCCU…”


More Awards News from ALA Midwinter:


And for those who are fascinated by ALA governance here are links to the ALA Council reports published by American Libraries




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