Authors Fuel Our Passion at 2019 ALA Annual Conference

By Lisa Periale Martin

If you’re working in the library field and you’ve never attended the American Library Association’s annual conference, I highly recommend it. I attend every two or three years for the professional shot in the arm it provides. Knowing it was in Washington, DC this year made it even more attractive for a few reasons.

Although I grew up in the northeast and had been to DC a few times, there are several new museums to visit, as well as never having been to The Library of Congress (LOC). The conference and city did not disappoint. Highlights included my tour of the Jefferson Building of the LOC, and the special program I attended at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Not surprisingly, many of the most powerful moments and experiences revolved around authors and illustrators.

Laurie Halse Anderson speaking at the Freedom To Read Foundation's 50th Anniversary Celebration
Laurie Halse Anderson speaking at the Freedom To Read Foundation’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

From the soul-stirring opening session with Jason Reynolds to Laurie Halse Anderson’s passionate speech at The Freedom to Read Foundation’s event, authors and illustrators were inspiring conference goers at presentations, on panels, and hundreds of book signings everywhere you turned. 

Photo of 4 persons
Left to right, Matthew Winner, Kate DiCamillo, Cece Bell, Shannon Hale

As an elementary school librarian, I especially appreciated the panel discussion with Cece Bell (El Deafo), Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie, Tale of Despereaux), and Shannon Hale (Princess Black, Real Friends) at ALA’s PopTop Stage. This lively discussion was moderated by Matthew Winner, Baltimore area school librarian and co-founder of The Children’s Book Podcast. You can find the recording of their June23rd podcast (#518) at to hear about their latest titles and experiences as authors. Ok, go ahead and listen to that. I’ll wait. (50 minutes later)

Ashley Bryan seated and Jason Reynolds behind him
Ashley Bryan seated and Jason Reynolds behind him

The next thing you should do is watch the opening session with Jason Reynolds.  You can find it on YouTube titled “Jason Reynolds’ keynote at ALA 2019.”  Believe me, this speech will fuel you for this year ahead in your library and beyond. 

The day after this speech, understandably, a huge line formed of people waiting to get a book signed by Jason. I had met him, by chance, in a coffee shop the day before so I skipped the line and went to meet veteran author illustrator, Ashley Bryan, who is now in his 90s, and has a new illustrated collection of Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) poems, titled Blooming Beneath the Sun. It features his lovely cut paper collage art. My brother knows him and told me that he rarely leaves his home on a little island off the coast of Maine these days, so I considered this a rare opportunity to meet this beloved writer and artist.

As my turn came, there was a pause as Jason Reynolds came up to greet this legend of children’s lit. Naturally I got a few great shots of them together. Poet, Nikki Giovanni, arrived just then also, to pay homage. Needless to say, I didn’t mind waiting. When it was my turn, we had a quick visit, he gave me his greetings for my brother, and I left with more of that ALA conference magic added to the glow that is coming back to my libraries with me.

By Lisa Periale Martin

Coyote Trail and Rattlesnake Ridge Libraries, Marana Unified School District

[email protected] 


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