Less than a month in, 2019 is already setting up to be an eventful year for the library community—and accordingly a host of important issues are on the schedule for the 2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting, which kicks off today in Seattle. And before the doors even open, a little good news for ALA: after two years of low attendance, pre-conference registration numbers for this year’s midwinter meeting are up significantly over the previous two years.

As usual, the Midwinter Meeting features a great slate of authors and speakers, kicking off with philanthropist Melinda Gates, who will deliver the conference’s opening keynote, in conversation with Seattle’s own Nancy Pearl, immediately followed by a reception in the exhibit floor. (Check out the ALA Midwinter website for more details and a complete program listing.)

But librarians will also get down to business, with the ALA in the midst of an organizational transformation. In addition to proceeding with its plans to find a new executive director, the organization will also hold a series of discussions regarding the sale of its Chicago headquarters, as well as the future direction of the ALA’s mission.

ALA officials stress the changes are about re-tooling the organization for the future. In a January 2 report in American Libraries, ALA treasurer Susan Hildreth said the association was on back solid ground after two previous years of “challenging fiscal results” for the ALA. Hildreth said the last fiscal year was a “a year of progress,” with ALA membership growing by almost 3%, and with the ALA’s Endowment Fund growing by a healthy 9%. But with changing demographics, services, technology, and advocacy needs, ALA officials say now is the time to face the future head on.

Advocacy will be a prominent theme at this year’s annual conference, with a public rally planned for Saturday, January 26, at the Seattle Public Library. The rally will feature America Library Association (ALA) president Loida Garcia-Febo, Chief Librarian for The Seattle Public Library Marcellus Turner, Seattle City Councilmember Deborah Juarez and Washington Library Association president Rhonda Gould.

“Libraries provide more than just books. They support community engagement and the delivery of new services that connect closely with patrons’ needs.,” said Garcia-Febo in a statement. “As libraries transform, we should seize every opportunity to showcase their magnificent work.”

Indeed, as 2019 unfolds, the library community is facing its usual array of challenges, including expectations that the Trump administration, as it has for the last two years, will again seek to eliminate all federal library funding. E-books and digital content are also expected to be a hot topic, with the major publishers appearing to consider new restrictions on e-lending after years of relative calm in the sector.

And of course, the highlight of ALA Midwinter is the announcement of the Youth Media Award winners, and the winners of the Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

Check out the PW website for all our coverage of the 2019 ALA Midwinter Meeting.