Home 9 Blog Posts 9 ALA LibLearnX 2023: Day One

ALA LibLearnX 2023: Day One

by | Jan 29, 2023 | 1 comment

by Leah Hinds, Executive Director, Charleston Hub

Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

Day One: Saturday, January 27, 2023

ATG is coming to you live from New Orleans, attending ALA’s re-formatted, re-imagined midwinter meeting. From their Press Kit, “The Library Learning Experience (LibLearnX) is the American Library Association’s newest conference offering, designed to motivate, inspire, and engage attendees in discussions that will shape the future of libraries.” The inaugural meeting was held virtually last year, and was held in-person for the first time this year at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Attendance is down significantly from the pre-pandemic days of ALA Midwinter Meetings, around 2,600 was announced in the opening ceremony, but due to the room setups and floorplan layouts in the event space it didn’t feel sparse.

The Opening Main Stage session on Saturday morning featured authors Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone discussing their book “How to be a (Young) Antiracist,” and the discussion was moderated by Nichelle M. Hayes (President, BCALA). Nichelle said in her introductory remarks, “Antiracism is more than just a book reading, more than a hashtag. It is action from all of us.”

Opening session welcome from Tracie D. Hall, ALA Executive Director
Nichelle Hayes, Nic Stone, and Ibram X. Kendi (L to R)

The conversation opened with a story from Nic Stone about how she engineered a meeting with Ibram X. Kendi at an event where they both had book signings. She knew she wanted to collaborate on a book together right away. “Young people have a zeal and a focus and time on their hands…” that they can apply to antiracism without being encumbered by “adulting” and having their attention pulled away by other priorities.

The authors organized the book around 4 C’s: cogency, compassion, creativity, and collaboration. On the last “C,” Nic stated, “We need each other, y’all! No one person has ever moved a mountain alone.”

“This is the book I needed when I was 15 or 16 years old, when I was experiencing racism in New York City. I’m so excited for a 12 year old, 13 year old to pick up this book and really see themselves,” said Ibram X. Kendi.

Closing out the session, Nic Stone said, “This book gives us a chance to re-humanize ourselves.”

Attendees waiting for the Exhibitor Marketplace to open.

The LLX Marketplace opened at 10 am, after the opening session. The exhibit hall was much smaller than in years past, but energy was high and traffic seemed steady. I spoke to several vendors and they were excited to be there. There were several presentation areas within the Marketplace – three “Shoptalk” areas, and two “Ideas Xchange” areas. There was also the larger “LLX Studio” for author talks. The Shoptalks are 20 minute learning sessions, designed to help you pick up practical knowledge and tips, and learn about hot topics and trends at presentations that focus on a specific idea, project, or workflow. At the Ideas Xchange, creative projects were shared in peer-to-peer conversations through photo images, videos, or engaging conversations. 

“Growing in the Profession: Career Support for Library Employees” was a Shoptalk from Kelsey Brown (UConn Library), and Virginia Wakim (SUNY Brockport) on the University of California Irvine’s Library Career Interest Group (LCIG) and how it evolved into a group beyond its original focus on library school to include a general exploration of the library profession as well as career advancement. The group provides “Pathways to Librarianship” workshops, informal group gatherings such as lunch and learns, open houses, and celebrations for graduations and new jobs.

Another Shoptalk session was “Fire, Floods, and COVID: Libraries at Work.” This standing room only session highlighted an IMLS-funded research project by Sharon Strover (UT Austin) and Richelle Crotty (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, formerly at UT Austin when the research was completed). They studied the role of libraries in distasters includeing hurricanes, COVID-19, chemical plant explosions, and beyond. The original focus of the research was small and rural libraries during a hurricane disaster, but it expanded beyond that when the pandemic hit.

Strover and Crotty organized the presentation into three topics: preparation, coping, and response. For preparation, they urged building relationships with local non-profits, food banks, etc. and gathering contact information to build networks ahead of time, before a disaster strikes. It was mentioned several times that they didn’t want to urge already overworked librarians to add “one more thing” to their to-do lists, but in many cases these are things that are already being done and can help when an emergency strikes. For “Coping,” they discussed the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Harvey and Michael on the panhandle of Texas – overlapping, simultaneous disasters. They conducted a social media analysis of small and rural libraries’ postings during this time and found they didn’t have much of a social media presence due to staff shortages, but this could be an important way to disseminate information to the community. Under “Response,” they discussed how some libraries are set up as volunteer coordination sites, or locations where the community can come to fill out forms for assistance, using the computers and internet connectivity. There is often an added burden on the library when volunteers show up, with good intentions to be put to work, but without a clear plan in place for how to utilize them it can fall on the librarians to triage.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the afternoon New Orleans Public Library Tour since the RSVP list was full. I joined the waitlist but to no avail!

After some meetings in the exhibit hall, I attended a Learning Lab session titled “No More Neutral: Use Marketing to Position your Library in Challenging Times. Learning Labs are session formats designed to delve into current issues and topics of interest with action-based instruction and collaborative learning, with the goal of providing actionable insights to take back to your library. This presentation was led by Angela Hursh, Library Marketing Expert from NoveList and SuperLibraryMarketing.com. Angela provided marketing tactics aimed at clarifying your library’s policies ahead of controversies such as book challenges and more. Tips were given on how to clearly communicate the libraries goals, missions, and values and ways to rally community and stakeholder support.

The closing session of the day was a panel called “Book Bans, Libraries, and the Law: Standing Up to Library Censorship in Louisiana and Beyond.” Chaired and moderated by Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and Executive Director of the Freedom to Read Foundation. The session was co-sponsored by Unite Against Book Bans, the Tulane Law First Amendment Clinic, and the Freedom to Read Foundation and included speakers from each organization. During the intro, Deborah issued a safety advisory for her presenters and requested that photos and videos not be taken due to the sensitive nature of the topics being discussed. The panelists each provided legal and practical strategies for fighting library censorship. A handout was provided with resources for support, and a list of things you can do to help fight censorship.

There was a Mardi Gras parade Saturday night: the Krewe of Chewbacchus put on a show with over 100 floats. From the parade description: “The parade consists of roughly 100 contraptions which are either pushed, pedaled, or pulled and are built onto bicycles, homemade trailers, and shopping carts. Chewbacchus believes that green parades are the ‘Future of Revelry’ and does not use internal combustion engines to power floats.”

The food here in New Orleans has been amazing, and almost rivals Charleston. I can recommend both of the restaurants I’ve eaten at so far! Dinner at Coterie NOLA on Friday night after my arrival: tried my first Sazerac (official cocktail of New Orleans) and charbroiled oysters. And dinner at Palace Cafe on Saturday night, enjoying a Pontchartrain specialty cocktail along with a Salad Lyonnaise with crispy duck. Both were a very short walk from my hotel on Canal Street.

Sazeracs at Coterie
Chargrilled Oysters
View from the second floor of the restaurant.
Pontchartrain at Palace Café: Henry Ramos gin, elderflower, lavender cucumber bitters
Salade Lyonnaise: arugula, frisée, caramelized onion, crispy duck leg, warm bacon vinaigrette, poached egg.

More tomorrow for Day 2!

1 Comment

  1. Anthony Watkinson

    Excellent report but content not up to Charleston standard. Food looks even better


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