Overwhelming: The Exhibit Hall at Midwinter

January 11, 2016

Alison Griffin (middle), Vancouver, Canada, looks at books in the exhibit hall along with other attendees.
Alison Griffin (middle), Vancouver, Canada, looks at books in the exhibit hall along with other attendees.

Thousands of attendees pack the aisles, wandering from booth to booth often loaded down with bags of free books and swag. Vendors flash gimmicks to attract the most eyes and traffic. Food lines snake through passageways and logjam movement. Crowds stack deep to hear Pop Top Stage speakers and see chefs wow with culinary skills on the What’s Cooking @ ALA stage. Laughter, voices, music, and an overall joyful buzz floats above and through it all.

It’s easy to forget that, beyond the talking robots, vendors dressed as Star Wars characters, and the authors signing books, a range of innovative, useful, and original products and services are on display. The large number of 2016 Modern Library Awards (MLAs) on display by vendors throughout the hall is testament to the quality of products available.

It was hard to miss the 24-hour library system that earned EnvisionWare an MLA Platinum Award. The size of a small van, the large mobile unit allows libraries to reach patrons outside of its physical space: city parks, senior centers, bus and train stations, schools, and government facilities. Built for security with six installed cameras and a DVR recorder and weather-though, it allows patrons to browse collections, checkout, check-in, and reserve materials, pickup holds, and download ebooks via a touchscreen interface. It holds 340 items for checkout and has a 1,000 item return capacity. It can also serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, demonstrated new products that bring science alive in vibrant ways. Partnering with CyberScience 3D, Gale has created interactive programs that allow students to use 3D models to explore basic science topics and more advanced human anatomy and chemistry. For example, users can zoom in on and rotate models of the human body and manipulate them to reveal musculature and bone structure. The models are 3D printable and can be viewed on 3D monitors, if available. Applicable Gale content is presented via hyperlinks onscreen for further reference and research, creating a comprehensive learning experience.

ProQuest highlighted its acquisition of SIPX, a start-up developed at Stanford University that allows college and university instructors to easily get course materials to students and save money in the process. SIPX collects open access and open education resource materials, publisher content, and library holdings into an intuitive web interface where faculty and support staff can set up and share course readings with students. SIPX recognizes and applies library holdings and open content to selections, eliminating redundancies that could lead to increased expenditures. Instructors pay only for the readings that they want to assign, as opposed to having to purchase entire texts. SIPX integrates with all major teaching and course materials platforms, delivers to all mobile devices, and provides real time analytics, as well.

The Library of Congress (LC) took full advantage of the Midwinter host city to demonstrate its services. In the presentation, “Take a Tour of Boston with the Library of Congress,” LC provided a history of the city via the library’s holdings available for view on the LC website: geography, military, and national park maps; court proceedings connected to the Boston Massacre; archival prints of the Tea Party; newspaper clippings; photos; and baseball cards of players from the Boston Beaneaters, a now-defunct team from the late 1800s. The history lesson allowed both for a fuller appreciation of Boston and the depth of LC’s collections.