ALA Midwinter: It's a meeting, not a conference

Just a reminder for those who're about to head off to Boston (or who already have), and particularly for those new to the field and hoping for "more information on the programs at ALA."

With one exception--the ALA President's Program--there are no formal programs as part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Note that final word: By ALA policy, Midwinter is a business meeting, not a conference.

Sure, there are loads of educational opportunities, in addition to exhibits and a couple of thousand committee meetings: Dozens (hundreds?) of discussion groups (or, within LITA, interest groups); various sessions held by affiliated and unaffiliated organizations (e.g., NISO's standards briefings, OCLC's lunch, RLG's various information sessions...); various other presentations arranged by ALA offices; etc., etc..

But formal programs with set speakers and full descriptions in the official program? Not allowed--again, except for the ALA President.

I would note that, IIRC, one candidate is pushing to make Midwinter even more of a "pure business" meeting, pledging to not hold a President's Program at Midwinter and to try to forbid interest groups and discussion groups from holding themed discussions. If I do recall correctly, it's fair to say that this candidate won't be getting my vote. I think that goes way too far. (I may have misunderstood some stuff that was going on, and this may have nothing to do with any ALA candidate, so I'm not naming names.)

For some of us, Midwinter is a more valuable meeting than Annual, but it's valuable for different reasons. Trying to shut it down or make it nothing but a bunch of commitee meetings would be a really bad idea, IMNSHO, as well as being a significant financial hit for the organization.

Nonetheless, if your primary interest is formal, organized programs where you know the speakers and topics in advance, then--other than the extra-cost preconferences and workshops--Midwinter isn't the place to be.


The only time I've been to the midwinter meeting before (several years ago) I was more involved in ALA and had actual business there that I needed to do. I'd forgotten a little bit about the structure of Midwinter.

There is also the Arthur Curley Lecture, which I've enjoyed immensely the past few years.

The Arthur Curley Memorial Lecture series is delivered each year at the ALA Midwinter Meeting and honors ALA past president Arthur Curley. Curley served as president of ALA in 1994 – 1995 and was director of the Boston Public Library. He was a champion of the arts and of the library’s role in providing for them.

This year, instead of a lecture, there will be music by The Mendelssohn String Quartet. It'll be Saturday afternoon--a really nice break from meetings, if you've got time.

You're right, of course: ALA itself gets to hold program-like events. It's just the committees, divisions, IGs, roundtables, etc. that don't.