ALA Annual Convention 2006 in New Orleans
Review by Colleen Cahill
SFRevu Article ISBN/ITEM#: ALA2006
Date: August 2006 / Show Official Info /
A Librarian's Dream
Imagine a gathering of the guardians of books, one of more than 15,000 librarians: this is the American Library Association annual main convention. For five days in late June the custodians of books, films, maps, recordings, manuscripts and just about any form of information media join together to converse, decide issues, explore possibilities and even party a little. Why should you, a SFRevu reader, care? Because the convocation of librarianship also draws a large number of print and media producers and the exhibit area is the "oldest and largest exhibit dedicated to the library market." Not only will you see many newly released titles, you may also find a few publishers you have never heard of before.
The 2006 ALA was in New Orleans and had more than 1600 exhibitors. For a mere $25.00, anyone could purchase a 4-day pass to the exhibits, and you might need several days just to explore all the offerings. There is an interactive exhibit map available on line and doing a search for exhibitors who had the word "book" in their title turned up over 60 booths, including publishers such as Random House, but there are many others who don't use "book" in their names, such as Penguin Group, Wizards of the Coast and Tor. Many of the publishers display their newest works, ones that would be of interest to libraries and might also be of interest to you. Some booths will have copies of soon-to-be published works, free to anyone interested. Others give away posters, bookmarks and various freebies, many of which are snapped up for display in libraries, but might be just the thing to decorate your home. You will notice there are lots of children and young adult books as the Summer meeting of ALA is a prime time for school and public librarians (there is a mid-Winter ALA meeting, which is smaller and less focused on events). Children's literature publishers, like Chronicle Books, Horn Book and Bloomsbury (the company that publishes the Harry Potter books in Britain) all have booths well worth exploring for fantasy and science fiction titles for younger readers. While publishers that produce similar products are often near each other, in the case of graphic novels the exhibit hall has an area set aside just for this genre, including ADV films, TOKYOPOP and DC comics. It is great to be able to see all of this type of material in one place.
When in the exhibit area, you might run across an author signing their books: I stumbled into Neil Gaiman at the Harper Collins booth. Many of these are announced at the last minute and are publicized it the booth: watch for schedules. Not all the author appearances are in the exhibit area, as there are various groups in ALA that sponsor author panels. Be aware that an Exhibits badge will not get you into these events, you will need a full membership, which was $135.00 for one day at the door: you can get a better price if you register early, which is usually announced about 6 months before on the ALA webpage. Of most interest to science fiction buffs is the Library Information and Technology Association’s Science Fiction: The Literature of Ideas presentation, which is sponsored by TOR and has 3-4 science fiction authors speak, after which there is a book signing and TOR provides the books. In New Orleans, the panel was made up of Vernor Vinge, Jane Lindskold, and David Weber. A good place to see the kinds of special programming that goes on at an ALA is through the Cognotes, a daily newspaper of the convention which also includes any last minute changes or additions to the exhibits.
Looking over the ads in the Cognotes will also give you a feeling for the wide range of exhibitors that will be at an ALA. Media beyond books is represented, with distributors of movies, audio and other formats. You will also find a few vendors you did not at first think of with librarians, such as Google and Microsoft, both of which were in the ALA exhibit hall in New Orleans. If you are interested in technology, especially those things like digitization, moveable book shelves, or neat storage solutions for all your books, DVDs and magazines, this is a great place to check out lots of vendors. I was looking into buying a bar code reader to input ISBNs into my automated book catalog and talked to Julia DeVries at the Barcode Discount booth, asking about the best reader for home use: it was time well spent.
Like any large convention, the ALA exhibits attracts vendors who are less for the library than for people of any profession. There are clothing vendors, jewelry vendors and even a place that will sooth those aching exhibit-stressed muscles with a massage. Some of these are regulars to ALA, others only attend because the convention is close to their home base. I have yet to see a salad maker or other such vendor in the ALA exhibit area, but I would not be totally surprised if one showed up.
One more tip: the last day of the exhibits in either the Summer or Mid-Winter ALA is a great time to check out the various booths as many vendors are offering items for reduced prices. You can get a real bargain not only on science fiction and fantasy, but mysteries, military history, foreign language publications, and so much more. Next year the annual ALA is in Washington, D.C., so if you live nearby, consider dropping by for a day or so: there is lots of interesting things to see and do.