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When the 2010 annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA) was assigned to Washington, DC, no one could have predicted that libraries (and the country) would be facing a collective budget crisis. So the Washington Convention Center turned out to be an opportune oasis for librarians to gather and recharge away from the heat, climatological and metaphorical.
Though library travel budgets have taken a direct hit, the attendance was a creditable 26,201, with 19,513 attendees and 6,688 exhibitors. The comparable 2009 numbers in Chicago were 22,762 and 6,179, totalling 28,941.
The meeting also served as a national launching pad. On June 29, conference activities concluded early so some 2000 red-T-shirted library advocates could gather on Capitol Hill for the first-ever national Library Advocacy Day. The bipartisan speakers included LJ 2002 Politician of the Year Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI).
When visiting legislators, librarians lobbied for, among other things, $300 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), up from $225 million, and net neutrality, so that access--including to educational programming--is not regulated based on the nature or source of that content or service.
Consonant with findings unveiled at the conference that the most important role for library computers is supporting job seekers, followed by access to online government information, Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA's Washington Office, noted that states use LSTA monies to pay for databases used by job seekers.
It'll be a tough job to get any new money out of Congress, attendees learned, but ALA leaders have been pushing advocacy to the forefront. Outgoing ALA president Camila Alire stressed frontline advocacy, which led to an online tool kit. She passed the baton to Roberta …