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You know a conference is a hit when the pastor of the oldest cathedral in town thanks the conventioneers for coming. It also doesn't hurt when the local newspaper runs a headline, "Hug a Librarian," applauding the profession.
For the more than 12,000 librarians attending the American Library Association's (ALA) conference in New Orleans in June, the gathering certainly was a huge success--and a welcome balm to a beleaguered city. Fears that New Orleans couldn't sustain a large gathering (ALA's was the first since Hurricane Katrina, 10 months earlier) were quickly laid to rest. Cabs were plentiful, hotels were accommodating, restaurants were more than ready for the onslaught, and Thomson Gale's buses shuttled attendees swiftly among venues. In addition to the many librarians, almost 5,000 vendors were on hand, and overall attendance was nearly 17,000, just 12 percent less than the turnout for ALA's 2004 Orlando conference, the organization's last major meeting in the South.
By any measure, this wasn't your typical ALA conference. Like …