SLJ Staff Share Their ALA Annual Experience

Overall, “joy and celebration” prevailed at the event, the first in-person ALA conference since 2020.

SLJ’s reviews editor Shelley Diaz and associate editor Florence Simmons attended ALA Annual in Washington, DC, and we asked them to share their thoughts on the first in-person ALA conference since January 2020.

Diaz describes a general feeling of “joy and celebration” at the event, and Simmons noted that it brought a feeling of comfort like “putting on that old cozy sweater for the first time of the season,” along with excitement.

“The air around the entire convention was one of gratitude, enthusiasm, and passion,” says Simmons. “Everyone was just so happy to see one another face-to-face, a sentiment that was expressed over and over again.”

It was an emotional few days.

“There were lots of tears at all of the events—more than usual—especially at the Coretta Scott King breakfast, because of [illustrator] Floyd Cooper’s death,” says Diaz. “His wife and sons were there to accept his award.”

Both Simmons and Diaz noted that the 2022 winners spoke of the 2020 and 2021 medalists who could not be there to receive their awards.

“In one special moment that stands out in my memory, Jason Chin, in his Caldecott speech, had the audience give a round of applause for the past two years' winners Michaela Goade (We Are Water Protectors) and Kadir Nelson (The Undefeated) because, he said, they didn’t get their room full of applause so they should get it now," says Simmons. "All of the speeches, which touched on more sobering subjects like book banning, focused on gratitude for the work librarians have done and are doing, brought tears to my eyes.”

And the future looks bright for upcoming titles as well.

“There are some wonderful, diverse books coming out this fall and spring,” says Simmons. “I can’t wait to see them on library shelves.”

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