ALA Cancels 2020 Annual Conference

For the first time in 75 years, ALA cancels annual gathering

March 24, 2020

The American Library Association’s Executive Board announced March 24 that the 2020 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition scheduled for June 25–30 in Chicago has been canceled:

“ALA’s priority is the health and safety of the library community, including our members, staff, supporters, vendors, and volunteers,” said Wanda Kay Brown, ALA president. “As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, it’s become clear that in the face of an unprecedented situation, we need to make tough choices.”

This year will mark the first time in 75 years that ALA has not held an Annual Conference. The last cancellation took place in 1945 as World War II neared its end.

“We recognize the magnitude of this decision for the Association and our membership,” said Tracie D. Hall, ALA executive director. “The Annual Conference brings together tens of thousands of passionate professionals and hundreds of authors and exhibitors every year to celebrate the transformative work of libraries across the country and around the world. Our coming together not only galvanizes the library and information profession and its stakeholders but also provides opportunities for attendees to explore and connect with our host cities. This year, we were especially looking forward to the conference taking place in ALA’s hometown of Chicago; however, the well-being of our library community, staff, and fellow Chicago residents has to be the number-one concern, and that drove our decision making.”

Julius C. Jefferson Jr., ALA president-elect, agreed: “At this unprecedented and historic time, the health and safety of our members and their families are our primary concern. I want us all to focus on our collective health so we may live to advocate for libraries and library workers another day.”

Brown continued, “I am so sorry that this difficult decision had to be made, but I am certain that it is the right one. One of our greatest strengths is our ability to adapt and reinvent ourselves when needed the most. May these challenging and uncertain times find us working even closer together so that our libraries, our communities, our association, and our families will all thrive.”

ALA supporters EBSCO Information Services; Follett | Baker & Taylor; Gale, a Cengage Company; HarperCollins; OverDrive; Penguin Random House; ProQuest; and Simon & Schuster also offered words of support.

The Association will be working with conference registrants directly over the coming weeks. ALA staff, in partnership with ALA member leaders, are developing plans to carry out the important business of the Association, such as Council and board meetings.

“Although this is a great disappointment, ALA is far from the only organization taking a hard look at its events,” said Hall. “We are using this to fuel our planning for the Midwinter Meeting in Indianapolis in January 2021 and look forward to Annual Conference 2021, scheduled to be held in Chicago. We want to make both of those meetings incredible experiences. We want them to serve as opportunities for the profession to regroup and recharge.”