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LibLearnX in New Orleans: Laissez les bons temps rouler!

LibLearnX 2023 in New Orleans promotional graphic

The library world is converging in New Orleans at the end of January for a new breed of library conference. And if you work in the library profession, you should be there.

Rising from the ashes of the American Library Association’s (ALA) now-defunct Midwinter gatherings, LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience (held January 27-30, at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans) has all of the amenities that people expect and love at ALA conferences—excellent speakers from the literary world and beyond; plentiful education sessions; an exhibit hall marketplace full of library tech vendors and book publishers; a top-notch host city for afterhours wining, dining, and sightseeing; and much more.

You may be asking yourself, “But I’m not a librarian. Can I go to LibLearnX?” The answer is a resounding, “YES.”

LibLearnX has a wealth of activities and amenities for everyone, and even offers a special registration rate for library professionals who aren’t ALA members. Here are 5 reasons why everyone should attend this year.

The speakers

ALA is known for the incredible speakers it attracts to its conferences—everyone from politicos like Michelle Obama, Cory Booker, and Hillary Rodham Clinton; actors and filmmakers such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Sally Field, and Ken Burns; authors like Margaret Atwood, Jason Reynolds, and R.L. Stine and more. LibLearnX is no exception.

Joining the 2023 festivities are author and professor Ibram X. Kendi and writer Nic Stone, who will discuss How to Be a (Young) Antiracist, a collaborative reimagining of Kendi’s international bestseller, How to Be an Antiracist; Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter, political activist, feminist icon, and bestselling author Ani Di Franco, who will talk about her debut children’s picture book, The Knowing; Brian Selznick, author and illustrator of Caldecott Medal-winning New York Times bestseller, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was adapted into Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning movie Hugo. Selznick will discuss his upcoming work, Big Tree; and Indigenous author Carole Lindstrom and Indigenous illustrator Steph Littlebird, who will share their children’s picture book, My Powerful Hair, an empowering story about family history, self-expression, and reclaiming your identity.

Also at LibLearnX this year: artist and author Willie Mae Brown, who will share her debut book, My Selma: True Stories of a Southern Childhood at the Height of the Civil Rights Movement; Clint Smith, author of the narrative nonfiction book, How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, who is bringing his upcoming poetry book, Above Ground, to discuss; and science fiction novelist, journalist, and technology activist Cory Doctorow, who will talk about his new book about cryptocurrency shenanigans, Red Team Blues.

And in the panel discussion, Inclusivity in Entertainment: Uplifting Black Voices, photographer and author Carell Augustus; author, director, educator, and popular culture historian Caseen Gaines; actor and author Eriq LaSalle; attorney and author Jorge Redmond; and filmmaker and author Ali Biko Sulaiman Kamanda will discuss the creation of Black-centered content, the increasing availability of diverse stories, and what representation of identities means across genres in book publishing.

The programs

LibLearnX offers a plethora of educational programs for library professionals. Here are a few of our favorites, as described by American Libraries in their always-thorough LibLearnX 2023 conference preview (see preview for dates and times of each session):

Sensory Spaces and Creative Programming to Reach Your Diverse Community

The goal of a sensory space is to provide an environment where children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, cerebral palsy, memory loss, dementia, and sensory processing disorders can feel safe and welcome. Panelists from Ocean County (N.J.) Library will share the story of their sensory space, which opened in 2021.

The Reading Culture Podcast Live with Ellen Oh

The Reading Culture podcast will record a live session with We Need Diverse Books cofounder Ellen Oh. Podcast host and Beanstack cofounder Jordan Lloyd Bookey will interview Oh about her revolutionary work and her journey as an author.

Engaging with Native and Indigenous Heritage: Guide to Indigenous Maryland

Learn how Maryland’s public libraries collaborated to develop an educational mobile app and website to engage the public with local Native and Indigenous heritage and culture.

Beyond the Book: Using Archives to Enhance School and Library Education

Learn how to discover resources available in historic and contemporary children’s archives and how to use online archival materials with students from the curators of historic children’s literature collections, including the renowned Kerlan Collection at University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, and the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Collection at University of Florida in Gainesville.

Embracing Teen Voices through Authentic Publication at the Library

New York Public Library’s (NYPL) young adult services department has leveraged print and digital media and the library’s own platform to show teens that their voices matter and their ideas deserve a broad audience. In this session, discover how NYPL has created innovative publication opportunities for teens and how attendees can do the same at their libraries.

Cooking by the Book: Tips for Using Video to Promote Food Literacy

Join the creators and hosts of the Cooking by the Book YouTube series, designed and recorded at Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library. Make the best use of your cookbook collection by creating short YouTube videos and adjacent programming to help patrons become more proficient in the kitchen.

Navigating Challenging Topics with Graphic Novels and Manga

Graphic novels and manga provide a nuanced visual narrative where readers can connect with characters and immerse themselves in their lives. Speakers will discuss some of their favorite graphic novels and manga and focus on the ways they help readers talk about important, and perhaps difficult, topics.

Beyond Fake News: Updated Strategies in Digital Literacy, Misinformation, and Bias Instruction

Attendees will hear a case study from University of Utah and Granite School District in South Salt Lake City, Utah, about their digital literacy collaboration, which has provided learning experiences for young people and adults to identify, find, evaluate, and apply information.

The awards

Books, literacy, and librarians will be celebrated in outstanding fashion at LibLearnX this year. Here are a few of the must-catch ceremonies that you can be a part of if you attend:

I Love My Librarian Awards, Friday, January 27

These awards recognize the impact and accomplishments of outstanding public, academic, and school librarians. Ten winners will share their inspiring stories, and the ceremony will be streamed on ALA’s YouTube channel. A celebration of the winners will follow.

Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance and Sunrise Celebration, Sunday, January 29

This conference tradition commemorates Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and recognizes the connection between his life’s work and the library world.

RUSA Book and Media Awards, Sunday, January 29

The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) annually recognizes the year’s best in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, audiobook narration, and reference materials. At this prerecorded event, RUSA, in coordination with cosponsor Booklist, will announce the winners of the 2023 Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

Youth Media Awards, Monday, January 30

More than 20 awards recognizing outstanding books, videos, and other materials for children and teens will be announced, including the Newbery and Caldecott medals, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and the Michael L. Printz, Pura Belpré, Stonewall, and Schneider Family awards. The ceremony will be livestreamed on ALA’s Facebook page and on Unikron.

The LibLearnX marketplace. ALA conferences are legendary for their exhibit halls—a sprawling assemblage of book publishers large and small, library tech vendors, comic book artists, and more who attend to promote and educate about their wares. Some book publishers give out free copies of upcoming titles (called advance reader copies or ARCS) and other book swag, which is a major draw for conference attendees.

New Orleans!

New Orleans is one of our favorite cities in the world. The music, the history, the revelry, the sightseeing, the FOOD!

Whether you love crawfish etouffee and oyster po’ boy sandwiches or fresh, sugary beignets, New Orleans is a culinary paradise. In its new issue, American Libraries has a dining guide detailing some of the city’s best—and most affordable—restaurants and food trucks, compiled specially for LibLearnX attendees by the author of the popular travel guide, Frommer’s EasyGuide to New Orleans. Just reading it will make your mouth water.

LibLearnX 2023 promises to be an extraordinary time in an extraordinary city. Visit the YouTube channel to learn more about everything the event has to offer—and don’t forget to take advantage of special non-ALA member registration rates! And if you can’t attend in person, more than 40 specially curated live and on-demand LibLearnX sessions will be available through the LLX Digital Experience. Registration includes access to this exciting content through February 28, 2023.

We can’t wait to see each and every one of you in New Orleans, January 27-30—or virtually at the LLX Digital Experience. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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