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Updating the ALA Annual Conference

by on November 3, 2016

There comes a time in almost every organization or program when the question must be asked, “How can we make this better?” In the case of the ALA Annual Conference that time is now.  The ALA Conference Committee is currently working to update and recalibrate the annual event. Some of the factors they will examine are the experience as a whole, ability for collaboration and networking, and the learning and educational element.

Per committee chair Clara Bohrer, some of the benefits the ALA Annual Conference currently offers include:

  • Brings together librarians and library staff (across types of libraries and specializations), authors, editors, library trustees and friends, and library suppliers to share their best thinking, explore common issues from their distinctive perspectives, discuss emerging trends, and challenge assumptions that might otherwise stifle innovation.
  • Provides an opportunity to showcase for new audiences the best work of ALA’s divisions, round tables, committees and partners: the latest research, the results of outstanding projects, successful models, and innovative practices.
  •  The event is a powerful platform to speak to the communities that our libraries serve, through conference-based advocacy work.
  • Offers face-to-face engagement that is often essential to addressing critical issues or resolving problems.
  • Is an opportunity to develop and nourish each member’s unique national network regardless of the type of library or specialization.[1]

Last year’s conference offered approximately 2,500 programs, meetings, and events in as many as 370 meeting spaces. These figures are the positive and negative of the current model according to the committee. While it is great that the conference has so much to offer–because there is so much happening, it is impossible for attendees to participate in most events. For example, imagine trying to decide between seeing Margaret Atwood or John Hart speak because they were scheduled at the same time in 2016. One of the ideas the committee has been working on, therefore, is reducing the number of meeting rooms from 370 to 200.

“The ALA Conference Committee has a representative composition, bringing together various stakeholders – from the broad ALA membership, from ALA Council and Executive Board, from Divisions, from Round Tables. The annually-appointed Conference Program Coordinating Team (CPCT), a subcommittee, is also represented, including someone from every division, as well as the Round Tables Coordinating Assembly. The CPCT will participate in rethinking the Annual Conference with the ALA Conference Committee and assist in obtaining feedback across the Association.”[2]

The Conference Committee will seek feedback on proposed models in the near future.



  1. Free, David. “ALA Rethinking Annual Conference.” ACRL insider, 2016.
  2. Free, David. “ALA Rethinking Annual Conference.” ACRL insider, 2016.