After years of discussion and planning, the American Library Association is finally ready to unveil its new event. LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience is set to run January 21–24, 2022. The show takes the place of the ALA’s long-running Midwinter Meeting (retired after 107 shows dating back to 1908), which took its final bow with the 2021 virtual event.

Designed by ALA membership, LibLearnX will carry forward a number of popular features from ALA Midwinter, including an exhibits hall, awards ceremonies, and big-name speakers. But the show’s primary focus is a strong and interactive slate of programming—an “active learning experience” featuring an array of sessions ranging from hands-on, in-depth workshops to shorter, more informal offerings. The inaugural program will have more than 120 education sessions on issues vital to the profession, including diversity, equity, and inclusion; career development and leadership; community outreach and partnerships; digital equity; mental health; technology; innovation; and, of course, books and authors. The LLX Marketplace, meanwhile, will host exhibitors offering the newest titles, technologies, and services.

LibLearnX was designed as an in-person event with a strong virtual component. But in a sign of the times, the in-person event will have to wait. This year’s live event was originally set to take place in San Antonio, Texas, but in September, amid a spike in Covid-19 cases and a troubling public health approach in the state of Texas, ALA made the call to shift to a virtual-only show for this year—a decision that looks prescient given concerns around the emergent omicron variant.

The good news: ALA has amassed some great experience with online events having now pulled off three excellent virtual shows since the onset of the pandemic. And while many librarians no doubt remain eager to see their colleagues face-to-face again, the quality and accessibility of ALA’s online events has been a welcome development.

With any luck—and a lot more vaccinations—librarians will gather in person in 2022, perhaps at ALA Annual, set for June 23–28, 2022, in Washington D.C. And librarians can look forward to gathering in person for the second LibLearnX, currently set to take place Feb. 7–10, 2023, in New Orleans.

You can register for this year’s LibLearnX here. And to keep up with the event, follow #LibLearnX on ALA’s social media accounts.

Featured speakers

A number of main stage speakers have been announced, with more expected to be unveiled in the coming days, though exact times are not yet available in many cases. Visit the LibLearnX website for last-minute additions or changes. Among the speakers announced so far, comedian and author Molly Shannon, who spent six seasons as a Saturday Night Live cast member, will discuss her forthcoming book, Hello, Molly! A Memoir (Ecco), which is set for publication in April 2022. The book details Shannon’s early years, her rise to fame, and behind-the-scenes stories from her time at SNL.

Kelly Yang, the bestselling author of the middle grade series starter Front Desk, which received the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature, will discuss her latest middle grade novel, New from Here (Simon & Schuster), which follows an Asian American boy as he fights to keep his family together and stands up to racism.

Jacqueline Woodson, author of more than 30 books for young adults, middle graders, and adults, will discuss two of her forthcoming children’s books from Penguin Young Readers imprint Nancy Paulsen Books: The Year We Learned to Fly (Jan. 2022), the highly anticipated companion to The Day You Begin, illustrated by Rafael López; and The World Belonged to Us (May 2022), illustrated by Leo Espinosa, an homage to her own childhood and a celebration of the joy and freedom of summer in the city. Woodson is a four-time Newbery Honor author and a three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner.

Angeline Boulley, who writes about her Ojibwe community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, will discuss her debut novel, the bestselling YA thriller Firekeeper’s Daughter (Holt), about a Native teen who must root out corruption in her community. The book is currently being adapted as a Netflix series by Higher Ground Productions, the production company founded by Barack and Michelle Obama.

Cicely Lewis will discuss her August release Mass Incarceration, Black Men, and the Fight for Justice (Lerner), which deals with the history and causes of mass incarceration and how activists are reforming and rethinking the justice system, as well as her forthcoming book, Resistance to Slavery: From Escape to Everyday Rebellion (Lerner, Jan. 2022). In addition to being an author, Lewis is a school librarian and the founder of Read Woke Books, in partnership with Lerner Publishing.

Mariko Tamaki will discuss her forthcoming book for young adults, Cold: A Novel (Roaring Brook), which is set to release in February 2022. Tamaki is the cocreator, with illustrator Jillian Tamaki, of the Caldecott Honor-winning This One Summer, and she received an Eisner Award, a Governor General Literary Award, and a Michael L. Printz Honor. Tamaki also writes comic books for Boom! Studios, Marvel, and DC Comics.

Awards and more

The ALA President’s Evening of Recognition Celebration is set for Friday, January 21. Check the LibLearnX website for the time, which has not yet been announced.

The popular I Love My Librarian Awards, the annual contest that allows library users to recognize the accomplishments of exceptional public, school, college, community college, or university librarians, will take place on Saturday, January 22 (3:30–5 p.m. CT).

The Books & Media Awards, celebrating the year’s best in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, audiobook narration, and reference materials—including the announcement of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, which recognize the best books in those categories for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year—is set for Sunday, June 23 (5–7 p.m. CT).

And perhaps the most anticipated awards of all, the ALA Youth Media Awards, which includes the prestigious Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and Coretta Scott King awards, are set for Monday, January 24 at 8 a.m. CT. A live video stream will be available to the public here.

A version of this article appeared in the 12/13/2021 issue of Publishers Weekly under the headline: A New Beginning

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