Conference Catch-up: ALA Midwinter

Didn’t get a chance to see what the ALA Midwinter Conference had to offer in Boston last month? No worries.  CHILIS members Nicole, Amber, and Liz took notes to share with those who were #ALAleftbehind (as non-attendees tweeted over the weekend).


Nicole and Liz in the ALA Lounge with a view of the expansive exhibitors hall.

ALA Midwinter is a great conference for swag, and this one was no different.  The biggest publishers were there with piles of upcoming books to give away.  Tween and teen literature were particularly laden with freebies, but preview copies of picture books could be found here and there.  Author signings popped up too.  The line for Mac Barnett and  Jory John (of The Terrible Two fame) was particularly long and winding! The Book Buzz Theatre and the Pop-Top Stage had author and publisher panels running most of the time the exhibit hall was open, so you could drop in to hear about the next great thing in books.


Check out this book haul – picked up in just the first hour!

Great youth services panels included:

  • Creating Out-of-This-World Children’s Science Programming with Free NASA Resources:  This was one of the conferences “Deep-Dive Sessions,” i.e. extended intimate workshops that were being piloted for the first time at ALA Midwinter. At the workshop, about 25 children’s librarians were led through hands-on demos of three programs to try with children using NASA’s online resource in an effort to ease into STEM programming. The activities included creating a scale model of the solar system to literally “Jump to Jupiter,” testing different materials to keep an astronaut save from UV radiation using UV reactive beads, and discovering how space exploration has changed from Galileo’s time to now.
  • We Need Diverse Book panel: This is a hot topic, and rightfully so.  The ALA Midwinter session was standing-room only, and we heard from a panel of teen authors on how they have included diversity in their own books and why it’s so important diverse books get into the hands of students. Those who attended the NELA session will remember that the official site of the We Need Diverse Books movement has resources on how to pepper more diverse titles into your own readers advisory (and those that attend the upcoming NERTCL conference will get more info on that topic too).
  •  Curiosity Creates: Research and Best Practices in Creativity Programming for Children: This session was led by Erica Fortescue from the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in San Francisco. She shared interesting research findings on fostering creativity in children, tips for implementing those findings in your programming, and information about the Curiosity Creates grant that supports creative children’s programming. Check out their website for more information on their grants and resources.
  • And of course, the Youth Media Awards!  Getting to see this highly anticipated award ceremony in person was a treat, especially hearing all the gasps when a picture book (Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena) won the Newbery for the first time in years.

Liz and Nicole at the Youth Media Awards

If you are hoping to get to a more local conference to learn and network, have no fear.  Registration is open for both NERCTL’s One-Day Spring Conference on Friday, March 11th in Haverhill, MA (focusing on expanding your readers advisory skills) as well as our own CHILIS Spring Conference on Thursday, March 17th at its usual locale SNHU.  You can find out more info about each conference by clicking the links.

Did you attend ALA Midwinter or another recent conference or training event you found helpful? Please share in the comments!

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