ALA Conference and Awards

Last semester it was basketball season, and the National Book Award (NBA) lineups hit the news. This month it is time for the release of more book awards. On January 23, three days after Trump's inauguration, the American Library Association (ALA) announced their awards.

Unlike the NBA which are selected by one group, the awards at the ALA Conference are chosen by different committees. Each award or honor is annually or biannually announced at the ALA annual press conference which is always held in January.

This year, the awards were livestreamed on ALA’s website and their  Facebook page. Viewers were encouraged to watch in the comfort of their pajamas. Photographs hashtagged #ymapjparty qualified these viewers to win books for their classroom, a $50 gift card, or bragging rights. This photograph challenge was an outgrowth of the mission of the ALA which centers around service to regular citizens.

Even though the ALA awarded its viewers, the winning authors and artists received even better awards. The Coretta Scott King Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Randolph Caldecott Award, the John Newbery Medal, and the Pura Belpré Awards, and fourteen more awards and honors were bestowed at the ALA conference. These awards are named in honor of authors, illustrators, librarians, and books.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall was awarded the Randolph Caldecott Medal as the most distinguished children’s picture book. In this book, the author, Lindsay Mattick explains to her son Cole how her great-grandfather Captain Harry Colebourn acquired a bear named Winnie which inspired A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Since its establishment in 1938, the Caldecott Medal has been awarded to a number of famously illustrated books including, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Where the Wild Things Are, Madeline's Rescue, and Many Moons.

The top ten adult books enjoyed by teenagers were announced at the ALA conference and awarded the Alex Awards. Humans of New York: Stories and Ta-Nehisi Coates with his Between the World and Me each swooped in to receive an Alex Award. In 1998, the Alex Awards were formed. Since then, the esteemed Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, Nathaniel Philbrick’s The Heart of the Sea, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis have all received Alex Awards.

Also at the ALA conference, Jacqueline Woodson, NBA winner for her memoir “Brown Girl Dreaming,” past Coretta Scott King Award winner, and Young People’s Poet Laureate was awarded the honor of delivering the 2017 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. This event will take place in April. Past lecturers include Brian Selznick, Lois Lowry, Ursula Le Guin, Philip Pullman, and Katherine Paterson. These lectures are delivered about children’s literature and are a great honor.

The ALA formed in 1876, and today this organization exists to unite libraries with improved information services and enable regular citizens to the gateways of knowledge. Through the ALA conference which took place on January 23, regular citizens now have access to media which has been awarded cultural significance. This means we citizens have a long list of books to read.