It’s Showtime: There’s A Lot in Store at ALA Annual

Librarians and authors highlight their most eagerly anticipated panels and programs at ALA Annual in San Diego.

The library and literary world will descend upon San Diego at the end of the month for ALA Annual. No matter the still unknown status of LibLearnX and the Youth Media Awards announcements, Annual remains the event where those honors are celebrated, issues and upcoming books are discussed, and ­librarians share ideas, interests, and sources of concern.

Kwame ­Alexander
Photo by Portia Wiggins Photography

SLJ asked attendees what they are looking forward to.

Amanda Chacon, 2024 School ­Librarian of the Year
What I am looking forward to the most at the 2024 ALA ­Annual Conference is ­connecting with like-minded librarians from across the country in an engaging, dynamic environment in a city I’ve always wanted to visit. Librarians, by necessity, are a close-knit, supportive group, and I welcome this opportunity to further solidify my associations, make new friends, and learn from the best nationwide. I am especially interested in sessions dealing with building and strengthening community partnerships; ­harnessing ­artificial intelligence as an i­nnovative tool in our toolbox; and, of course, seeing and hearing Kwame ­Alexander!

Carole Boston Weatherford, author
I can’t wait to experience the conference with my son and ­sometime ­collaborator, Jeffery Boston ­Weatherford. Together, we’ll be ­emceeing the Coretta Scott King Book Award ­Roundtable’s 55th ­Anniversary. And we will be up bright and early for the Coretta Scott King Awards breakfast, where I’ll accept one author honor for our verse novel/family history, Kin: Rooted in Hope, and another for How Do You Spell ­Unfair? MacNolia Cox and the National ­Spelling Bee, a picture book illustrated by Frank ­Morrison.

Christopher Paul Curtis
Photo by DSHPhotography

Betsy Bird, “A Fuse #8 Production” blogger, author, and Evanston (IL) Public Library’s collection development manager
There are just a slew of programs I’ve got my eye on this year, ranging from “Yalla, Habibi: Where Are the Arab American Voices in Children’s Literature?” to “Soft Censorship of ­LGBTQIA+ Content and Its Chilling Effect on the Children’s Book World” and “Welcome Asylum Seekers, We Speak Your Language! QPL’s Response to the Unprecedented Humanitarian Crisis.” These are the topics and issues that librarians are really looking for right now.

I am a collections librarian primarily, so I’m particularly keen to see “Beyond the Audit: Embracing the Freedom to Read through Curation and Promotion of Inclusive Collections,” especially since I see that Oak Park, Illinois’s Dontaná McPherson-Joseph is on the panel. And who could resist seeing Christopher Paul Curtis speak with the “Illuminating the Legacy of Illustrious African American Librarians” discussion? Not me. And none of that even takes into account the authors and illustrators signing! It’s gonna be a packed weekend.

Rachell Abalos, library media assistant, Bandini Elementary School, Commerce, CA
I’m most looking forward to the panel I’ll be participating in. Filipino representation in publishing right now is on the rise. I’ll be there representing Barefoot Books as well, and will be signing at their booth. I can’t wait to meet other authors and librarians. This is my first ALA Annual, and I am very excited to see the exhibit floor.

Ben Clanton

For me, as an elementary school librarian, I want to go to “Get on Board!,” a panel about board books to promote literacy. My library could definitely benefit from that discussion. I also want to go to the panel “Using ­Picture Book Biographies in Libraries to Develop ­Empathy and Promote Wellbeing.” That is an intriguing discussion.

[And] I want to meet Ben Clanton. His "Narwhal and Jelly" books are super popular in my library. If I get a hand on his latest book, my students are gonna love me!

Kathleen Breitenbach, teen librarian, Hamilton Township (NJ) Public Library, American Library Association Councilor-at-Large 2023–26
I’m looking forward to presenting (again) and sharing my insights on ­creating safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth, as well as making our spaces
and services inclusive and accessible for neuro-divergent patrons and staff. I’m also excited to see my library friends. ALA Annual is like librarian summer camp!

Travis Jonker, “100 Scope Notes” blogger, author, and elementary school librarian
I’m looking forward to seeing summer and fall books in person in the exhibit hall. You can look at a little cover image online, but it’s nothing like being able to hold the finished book in your hands. I’m also looking forward to the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet, which is always such a cool experience. Oh, and interviewing authors and illustrators for upcoming episodes of The Yarn podcast!

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is senior news editor at School Library Journal.

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