Our ALA Midwinter 2021

The Horn Book staff reflects on the American Library Association's Virtual Midwinter 2021. For much more coverage of ALAMW21 — including reviews of the ALA Youth Media Award winners and Calling Caldecott's reaction to "Momentous history made!" — click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2021.


Shoshana Flax

Well, attending ALA remotely meant missing out on some good dinners and on roomfuls of cheering librarians. But it also meant bringing a lot of excellence into my living room. I got to wear comfortable sweatpants (don’t tell anyone) while watching Ruby Bridges in conversation with Dr. Carla Hayden about her vivid memories of integrating a school all by herself — not that long ago — at age six. And while I scribbled down titles and authors during preview events from several publishers, and attended the Holiday House reviewers’ breakfast, still a highlight even without the literal breakfast part. During the Youth Media Awards, furious texting with colleagues and friends replaced the cheering, and created a sense that I was still part of a community reacting together as many favorite books were honored and history was made. I was also able to enhance my traditional Newberys and blueberries with blueberry-cranberry muffins, as the contents of my kitchen were steps away from the event. And then, from my own living room, I got to hear from current poetry icon and probably future president Amanda Gorman, and current First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

Not the same. But…not bad.


Cynthia Ritter

The opportunity to attend a few publisher after-hours events, the ALA Youth Media Awards, and the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance and Sunrise Celebration are bright spots at this conference for me that I'm glad I was still able to view virtually. However, this year I do feel like the YMAs went by in a flurry — I really missed the breaks between announcements that the in-person clapping provided for letting the information sink in!

But I think my favorite part about ALA Midwinter being virtual this year was the flexibility of it. In most cases, if I couldn't make an event when it was happening or it overlapped with something else I wanted to see, there was no racing across a convention center to get there in time — I could watch the programming on-demand later when it suited my schedule. It allowed me to listen to LeUyen Pham talk about her new pandemic picture book Outside, Inside as I did some work; I got to eat lunch with Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Julie Tanous as they prepared a recipe from their new cookbook Food Between Friends; the morning after the sessions aired, I listened to Tony Award winner Ali Stroker and author Stacy Davidowitz talk about their new theater-focused middle-grade novel The Chance to Fly AND author Matt de la Peña and illustator Christian Robinson discussing their (now three) picture book collaborations; and I took a "Yoga at Your Desk" class, which taught me a bunch of good exercises to try during the work day when I'm stressed or tired.

Plus some of the programming and exhibitor booth content, such as an episode of Travis Jonker's YARN Podcast with guest Jon Klassen and "A Seat at the Table: The Power of BIPOC Women Illustrators" (in hindsight, it was particularly interesting to have watched this prior to Monday's historic Caldecott announcement) were on-demand to begin with, which turned out to be handy for filling in gaps in the conference schedule.

And of course there were speaker highlights I just couldn't miss watching in real-time: civil rights activist Ruby Bridges in conversation with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden; Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain discussing Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019; Ethan Hawke being Ethan Hawke; Cicely Tyson talking about her life in film; inaugural poet Amanda Gorman reading from her forthcoming picture book Change Sings; and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden closing out the conference.

There was definitely other content I wish I had had time to watch, so I checked this morning and all the live stream and on-demand videos are still available through the conference site/app (though I'm not sure how long that will last), which means the best part is we can keep learning even after the conference has ended — thanks, ALA!


Martha Parravano

For me the most heartening thing about virtual Midwinter was just how much everyone wanted to be together — to talk about books and art, to greet old friends, to meet new people... just to interact. At every event, webinar, presentation I attended, the chat on the side was so full of people's voices that I could sometimes barely keep up as they scrolled by. So even though I was alone in my comfy clothes while attending this virtual ALA, I still felt the hustle and bustle, the joy in being together, the sense of community, and the sense of purpose I always do.

I am grateful to ALA for putting on this virtual Midwinter. And now that we know Annual will also be virtual, I will look forward to attending that as well (and will hopefully have better adjusted to translating all meetings etc from Central into Eastern time!). 


Elissa Gershowitz

"It doesn't feel very...Midwinter-y," a librarian friend observed, leading me back to revisit the Horn Book's 2020 Midwinter slideshow (see how un-masked we all were?). Knowing now that was the last Midwinter in that form leads to even more nostalgia -- but as an attendee at one of this year's virtual meetings said: "I can't afford to go in person, so virtual has been great!" (Breaking news: ALA Annual 2021 will also be virtual.) 

Virtual Midwinter was the soundtrack to my weekend, with events streaming throughout the day (minus the usual "get the kids outside!" hours). Some of the sessions were "destination events" — Ibram X. Kendi with Keisha N. Blain on Saturday; Joy Harjo and the late Cicely Tyson on Sunday; Dr. Jill Biden and Amanda Gorman on Monday, the MLK Sunrise Celebration, and of course the YMAs! Some were publisher presentations (Kekla and Meg!) and catch-up sessions (Holiday House Breakfast!). Still others were serendipitous drop-ins. And with the thrill and the blur and the efficiency of the YMA announcements, it's all still sinking in — but don't worry, there'll be lots more in our annual July/August Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.  

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2021.

Horn Book
Horn Book
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Martha Parravano

Posted : Feb 01, 2021 03:21


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