Midwinter Meeting Looks to Its Evolution: Youth Media Awards, Actor Ted Danson, and Dozens of Guest Speakers Share the Spotlight in San Diego, While Governance Plans the Meeting's Future Role

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Over the past decade, the combination of technological change and economic stress has caused many members to question the way in which ALA groups accomplish work," states A White Paper on the. ALA Midwinter Meeting, prepared by Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels and Senior Associate Executive Director Mary Ghikas and published just before the 2011 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting, January 7-11, in San Diego. The white paper formed the framework used by the Executive Board for discussing the meeting's future (Executive Board Document #12.17).

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The paper concludes that "the ALA Midwinter Meeting is, above all, about conversations and networking," and "the reality is that members are quietly creating a Midwinter that works for them." It adds, "Sheer growth is not necessarily always desirable, and Midwinter would lose many of the advantages cited [in the white paper] if it were to grow into another conference with 25,000 attendees," like the Annual Conference.

Even as the nature of future Midwinter conversations and networking was being examined, this year's meeting drew a strong showing: 7,549 attendees and 2,561 exhibitors participated, down slightly from the 8,526 and 2,569, respectively, for the 2010 Midwinter Meeting in Boston and the 7,905 attendees and 2,315 exhibitors for the 2009 event in Denver.

The ALA Washington Office Update opened with a discussion of the effect of e-books on libraries. In "Turning the Page on E-Books," panelists Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, Sue Polanka, head of reference and instruction at Wright State University, and Tom Peters, GEO of TAP Information Services, spoke about and responded to audience questions on a wide range of related topics, including the near future of the format, accessibility, legal issues, and the differences between licensing and purchasing.

Polanka declared, "The market is going very fast, and it's leaving us behind ." She went on to emphasize that all is not lost, however, since libraries have a history of providing new services for patrons to experiment with, such as internet access in the early 1990s. Polanka recommended that libraries increase dialog with vendors, discussing how libraries can better lend e-books ethically.

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"Libraries have traditionally done well under Republicans," according to "Washington Office Director Emily Sheketoff, who told those attending the Washington Office Update Break-Out Session, "New Congress, New Challenges," that "all is not bleak, but all is not well either."

Casey Dominguez, assistant professor of political science at the University of San Diego, provided an overview of the November 2010 election, observing that he found it "interesting and puzzling" from a political science perspective that Tea Party candidates did just as well as non--Tea Party candidates.

Stevens hosts Danson

"Don't focus on the negative and scary," actor Ted Danson advised at Roberta Stevens's President's Program. In conversation with Stevens, the Emmy Award--winning television and movie star and oceanic environmental activist warned of the perils of over-fishing, saying "the clock is ticking," but "the problems are fixable."

He admitted that the toughest part of advocating and testifying in opposition to offshore drilling was countering those who argue that it's a question of the environment versus the economy. It's a false dichotomy, he said. More jobs are created from clean energy than from oil and coal. Danson said he is focusing on changing policy, and to that end he added that we must arm ourselves with information and educate ourselves--and help library users do likewise.

Oceana, the organization Danson represents and helped found, has become the largest activist group in the world focused solely on ocean conservation. His new book, also titled Oceana and published by Rodale, details his journey from joining a modest local protest in the mid-1980s to opposing offshore oil drilling near his Southern California neighborhood to his current status as one of the world's most influential oceanic environmental activists. …