Peek Highlights from the 2023 ALA Conference: "Unite Against Book Bans", Celebrating PRH Pride, Author Chats, & Lots More!
Librarians showed up in full force at the recent ALA Annual 2023 Conference in Chicago, Illinois—brimming with enthusiasm, passion, and curiosity. Conference attendance reached almost 16,000, and we could feel the bustling energy everywhere. In addition to connecting with our librarian colleagues about important upcoming books and authors to watch, we had vital conversations about the recent upsurge in banned and challenged books that librarians across the country are fighting. Many librarians thanked Penguin Random House for our efforts and our support.
Penguin Random House was proud to partner with Unite Against Book Bans and ALA on their inspiring kickoff event—the Rally for the Right to Read: Uniting for Libraries & Intellectual Freedom. More than 700 dedicated librarians, ALA staff, and publishers attended to celebrate and recognize their colleagues working each day to protect the freedom to read. Author and activist Dr. Ibram X. Kendi headlined the event, delivering a galvanizing talk underscoring the importance of access to information and thanking librarians for their work as “freedom fighters.” The atmosphere was electric as everyone rose in a standing ovation for Dr. Kendi. And librarians, library workers, and publishers left renewed and rejuvenated in their mission.
Pulitzer Prize–winning author Matthew Desmond (POVERTY, BY AMERICA and EVICTED) opened the Saturday Main Stage session: “Going to the Root: Libraries, Adult Literacy, and the Interruption of Generational Poverty”. Speaking powerfully about his research into why poverty persists in the United States, Desmond challenged us to consider the actions we can each take in the fight to end this morally urgent problem. Following his presentation, Desmond joined a panel of thought leaders, including ALA’s Executive Director Tracie D. Hall, for an exploration of how libraries can respond to the intersections between low literacy in adults and structural issues including the poverty and housing insecurity. Following the session, Mr. Desmond signed copies of POVERTY, BY AMERICA for librarians, who shared stories of how his work has changed their curricula, their thinking, and their perspective.
The Penguin Random House Library team was thrilled to celebrate our winners of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Literature—this year Penguin Random House took home the top spots for both Fiction and Nonfiction. We were lucky to have both award-winning authors—Julie Otsuka (THE SWIMMERS) and Ed Yong (AN IMMENSE WORLD)—join us in Chicago to accept their medals in person. Both gave heartfelt acceptance speeches to a packed house of librarians at the American Writers Museum and signed books for attendees after the ceremony.
Within the exhibit hall, PRH divisions came together on messaging in the booth around book banning and Pride. Our Rally for the Right to Read signage called librarian attendees to name a banned book that had great lasting effect on them. PYR joined RHCB in launching their Banned Books campaign featuring a RALLY FOR THE RIGHT TO READ KIT that librarians and educators could order and have shipped direct for their school, library, and/or community. The kit centers around community action including customizable signage, postcards to write representatives, banned book resources, and more.
Our PRH Pride banner stated we are “Proud to Publish LGBTQIA+ Creators and Stories,” and pictured a selection of LGBTQIA+ titles across divisions. In this space, PYR highlighted our Read With Pride and Trans Kids Are Our Kids Booklists, DK highlighted THE DC BOOK OF PRIDE with a postcard pack giveaway, and the PRH Adult Library Marketing team offered Read Proud, Listen Proud Sunglasses and Out of Print Pride Bookmarks and Pins.
Random House Children’s Books sponsored 13 authors and illustrators for the ALA Annual conference and hosted 16 signings plus an additional 6 signings with wholesale partners including CPI and Baker & Taylor. Their booth space was dedicated to key frontlist, their award-winning titles, and other key titles and brands for the library market. Featured displays included a roundup of 2023 Starred Reviews, dedicated signage for Random House Graphic featuring a digital Library Book Club Guide, and signage highlighting available resources for RHCB Banned and Challenged books. In addition to the resources highlighted in these displays Random House Children’s Books also distributed physical ARCs and other promotional materials, including a Fall 2023 picture book giclée pack and digital ARC brochure, over the course of the conference.
While in Chicago the RHCB team celebrated the Randolph Caldecott Medal for HOT DOG by Doug Salati, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and John Newbery Honor for MAIZY CHEN’S LAST CHANCE by Lisa Yee, the John Newbery Honor for IVELIZ EXPLAINS IT ALL by Andrea Beatriz Arango, and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for STANDING IN THE NEED OF PRAYER by Frank Morrison, plus several other awards and honors.
Other Random House Children’s Books events included a Picture Book Breakfast highlighting recently published and upcoming picture book creators including Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade (REMEMBER) among others which featured an “Inside the Illustrator Studio” behind the scenes video component plus a Preview Lunch highlighting upcoming picture books, middle grade, and young adult titles featuring YA author Jumata Emill (WANDER IN THE DARK). Emill spoke not only about his upcoming novel but also the important role librarians play in ensuring young readers have access to books and stories that highlight a wide range of perspectives.
Penguin Young Readers sponsored 19 creators for the ALA Annual conference and had 30-feet of booth space dedicated to frontlist, their award winning titles, and brands key to the library market, all while distributing galleys and promotional materials into the passionate hands of librarians throughout the weekend.
Among their robust lineup, #1 bestselling author, poet, and advocate Amanda Gorman and award-winning artist Christian Robinson closed the ALA Conference as keynote speakers, discussing their upcoming picture book with SOMETHING, SOMEDAY. Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu (KAPAEMAHU) joined ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada for the President’s Program, discussing Native Hawaiian philosophy and traditions, and the contributions Wong-Kalu has made to the Native Hawaiian and LGBTQ communities.
The PYR team celebrated the Michael L. Printz Award for ALL MY RAGE by Sabaa Tahir, the William C. Morris YA Debut Award for THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF HOODIE ROSEN by Isaac Blum, the BCALA Literary Award for Nonfiction for STAR CHILD by IBI ZOBOI, among several other award winners and honorees. In addition, they hosted a Penguin Art Show, inviting 100 librarians for a cocktail party highlighting Black artists Nikkolas Smith (THE ARTIVIST), Jennifer Mack-Watkins (YOU GOTTA MEET MR. PIERCE!), Dare Coulter (ZORA, THE STORY KEEPER), and Kitt Thomas (PATCHWORK PRINCE).
DK sponsored two authors for the ALA Annual Conference, held one special event, and celebrated nearly 100 exciting frontlist and backlist favorites for people of all ages and reading stages. Hundreds of galleys, finished copies, posters, and other promotional items for top titles were distributed to eager librarians throughout the weekend.
B. Dylan Hollis, author of BAKING YESTERYEAR who was met with the cheers and applause of a roaring crowd at the What’s Cooking @ ALA stage on Sunday afternoon, spoke to and signed books and posters for nearly 200 librarians in anticipation of his PRH-record-breaking bake book coming later this month. Jadzia Axelrod, author of THE DC BOOK OF PRIDE, met her enthusiastic fans at a book signing at the PRH booth on Saturday afternoon to help celebrate Pride Month and the freedom to read.
DK celebrated 35 years of the landmark and beloved DK EYEWITNESS children’s series and the forthcoming EYEWITNESS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EVERYTHING with a special event on Saturday afternoon in which librarians participated in a “story walk” outlining the history of the series (soon to be adapted as a downloadable activity kit for libraries everywhere!), interacted with Eyewitness-themed topic stations, and received a coupon for a free copy of the Encyclopedia coming in September.