Magazine article Information Today

ALA Conference Attendance Down; Martinez Resigns, Than Re-Ups at the End of the Annual Conference, Many Jobs Change Hands

Magazine article Information Today

ALA Conference Attendance Down; Martinez Resigns, Than Re-Ups at the End of the Annual Conference, Many Jobs Change Hands

Article excerpt

At the end of the annual conference, many jobs change hands

New York City ended up hosting the 115th Annual Conference of the American Library Association, to the chagrin of many members (it was moved from its originally planned site in Orlando). Attendance was down (only 27,344 attendees compared to last year's 32,087 in Chicago); the buzz was that the lower numbers were due partially to the change of venue and partially to the elates--July 4-10--which may have conflicted with many vacation plans. Still, for those who attended, there was a wealth of information and activity available.

Highlights of the Megaconference

Many meetings and events took place even before the opening general session, which wasn't held until Saturday night, July 6. The enormous room was smartly set up with two huge movie screens that ran live video of speakers and even teletype of what was being said. ALA President Betty J. Turock led the program, which revolved around her year-long theme of "Equity on the Information Superhighway." After Turock's opening remarks, she introduced the president of the New York Public Library, who welcomed the convention to his city, and commented that New York is "a city of libraries," explaining how its three public library systems fit together. Many award presentations followed.

At last, the featured speaker was introduced. Charles Ogletree, Harvard law professor and legal theorist specializing in Constitutional rights, spoke knowledgeably on "With Liberty and Justice for All: Striving to Achieve Equity on the Information Superhighway." He reminisced about growing up without much money and about the world that libraries opened up for him. He is greatly concerned about the problem of "haves and have nots," since he was a "have not" himself. He urged listeners to consider how to support the technological revolution and still reach underserved populations.

Afterward there was a gala all-conference party at the New York Public Library, celebrating NYPL's centennial.

After the Openers

One of the interesting sessions that I attended Sunday was called "Libraries Make Great PR Partners--Creating Win-Win Promotions." It featured executives from three large corporations--The Disney Channel, Microsoft Corp., and Random House. Each detailed how his or her company had joined with libraries to promote programs that benefitted both. (Disney ran a bus that stopped at libraries in 14 major cities, putting on shows with Disney characters to promote literacy. Microsoft undertook a philanthropic initiative called "Libraries Online" through which it bought computers for needy libraries. Random House sets up author appearances with libraries and also gives away books to them.)

The speakers urged listeners to seek corporate partnerships--to gain more respect in their communities, to get publicity, to win funding, or to draw in business. They offered many partnering tips as well.

The President's Program

Sunday afternoon's President's Program reprised February's national summit "A Nation Connected: Defining the Public Interest in the Information Superhighway." Presenters, including Librarian of Congress James Billington, talked about libraries' role of championing the public's interest in the Internet. Attendance of this program was rather sparse.

One victory that was mentioned many times throughout the conference was ALA's winning of the first round of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) suit. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom played a key role in managing the suit, which challenges the CDA on the grounds that it is overly broad and violates freedom of speech on the Internet. …

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