Lockdowns and social distancing practices have affected public libraries and librarians dramatically over the last two years. Last week, at the first post-pandemic gathering of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, the impact of COVID-19 remained evident.
“For a lot of people attending PLA 2022, it was pretty emotional to be in Portland,” reports Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer.
“Even though the mask mandate was lifted in Oregon, masks were required for the conference, and for the library community that was not a problem,” says Albanese. “If any group is sensitive to personal safety and compliance with safety issues, it is the library community, which deals with these issues every day.”
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According to Albanese, PLA and ALA officials had hoped for 4,000 librarians to make it to Oregon, which would be about half a normal PLA conference total. “Over 5000 attended in person – 4000 attendees and 1000 more vendors. And there were another 1000 in virtual conference attendees,” he tells me..
“In the exhibit hall, the major publishers were noticeably missing or scaled back. But again, we are still coming out of pandemic protocols, so it was not unexpected.”