This weekend in Washington, DC, the American Library Association holds its first in-person annual conference since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.
The 2019 ALA conference, also in Washington, drew 21,000 attendees, according to Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer. How well the same show performs in 2022 will be an important metric for the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 57,000 members, he says.
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“There is no question that the pandemic took a toll on the library community and library workers,” Albanese notes. “At this point, the profession needs some time and space to heal and to consider the future of working conditions for librarians and library workers.”
In addition to attendance figures, Albanese will also have his eye on exhibitors, especially those representing leading publishing houses. Industry observers have recently speculated that ALA shows might compensate for the disappearance of BookExpo.
“I’ll be watching closely to see how the major publishers respond – if they are back, if they have their big booths, and how many author signings there are,” he tells me.