By GUY LAMOLINARA
More than 22,000 people descended the hilly streets of San Francisco to attend the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Convention, June 28-July 1, at the Moscone Convention Center. For those attendees from the Library of Congress, it was a chance not only to meet with their colleagues from across the country and around the world but also to see a former staffer honored by the world's largest library association.
Visitors to the Library's exhibition booth were able to get demonstrations of the latest American Memory collections, learn new ways of searching the Library's online catalogs, purchase products from the Sales Shop and win prizes from the Cataloging Distribution Service. Also on hand were representatives from the Copyright Office, the Center for the Book and (at another booth) the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
In what is perhaps a testament to the success of the Library's Internet initiatives (and the efforts to promote them), most of the visitors to the booth were quite familiar with LC's Web site. Rather than being interested in a general demonstration of the main home page, they most wanted to see (and hear) the new online collections, which had debuted that weekend. Californians were especially excited by the collections focusing on their home state: "California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties" and "California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900."
During the Opening General Session on Sunday, June 29, Henriette Avram (left), who retired from the Library in 1992 after 27 years of service, received Honorary Life Membership in ALA. The achievement for which she is best known, her leadership in the development of the MARC (machine-readable cataloging) standard, was cited by Mary Somerville, outgoing ALA president. Working with ALA and various national and international standards organizations, Mrs. Avram played a crucial role in the worldwide acceptance of MARC, which is still used today.
A leader from another world -- entertainment -- also received the same honor. Oprah Winfrey, whose eponymous television show has promoted the importance of reading through its "Book Club," was cited for "single-handedly expanding the size of the reading public," according to Ms. Somerville. Ms. Winfrey was unable to attend, as she was working on the film of Toni Morrison's Beloved.
Another person that many librarians were happy to honor was Bruce Ennis, a partner in the Washington law firm of Jenner & Block. Mr. Ennis received the Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor Award for his assistance in litigating the ALA vs. Reno and Reno vs. ACLU cases, which challenged the Communications Decency Act, which had just been struck down by a unanimous Supreme Court on June 26. The act was part of the Telecommunications Act, signed in the Main Reading Room on Feb. 8, 1996.
The session's keynote address was delivered by Parade magazine Editor Walter Anderson. "Kids can't wait," he said, "for library services," a theme Ms. Somerville had championed during her ALA presidency.
Elsewhere during the convention, LC staffers made presentations. For example, Winston Tabb, associate librarian for Library Services, and John Y. Cole, director of the Center for the Book, held a Saturday afternoon session on how libraries across the country could participate in LC's celebration of its bicentenary in 2000, while at the same time highlighting the importance of all libraries in the life of their local communities.
"Planning and partnerships with other libraries" will be vital to a successful bicentennial celebration," said Mr. Tabb to an audience in the San Francisco Marriott. "How can we use the Library of Congress's bicentennial to highlight not just LC but all our nation's libraries?" he asked. A panel of library folk responded.
For example, Laurie Stackpole, chief librarian of the Naval Research Laboratory in Maryland, suggested that LC's bicentennial highlight the nation's other federal libraries as well -- the 2,500 institutions that range from presidential libraries, to academic libraries, to the small military base libraries around the world. Many of these libraries have recently "been outsourced, downsized or even eliminated," she said. She suggested that the bicentennial effort focus on their often unique collections.
She also suggested that the LC Information Bulletin focus on "treasures" of other libraries, as LC is doing with its "American Treasures" exhibition.
Bridget Lamont, director of the Illinois State Library, would like to see LC highlight how its services affect users in state and local libraries. Another panelist, Jacqueline Mancall, a professor at Drexel University, who was representing the American Association of School Libraries, noted how the bicentenary "provides a unique opportunity for AASL to forge a partnership" with LC. "LC is already bringing libraries together with its digital library initiative," she said.
One way in which the Library is doing just that is with the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition, which in April made awards to 10 institutions nationwide (see LC Information Bulletin, June 9, 1997) to digitize their important American collections and make them part of LC's American Memory online collections.
The competition will run for two more years, and in an effort to encourage as wide participation as possible, Bonnie Magness-Gardiner of the Library offered two workshops in the Moscone Center as well as individualized assistance during the convention. Guidelines for the competition will be issued soon, with a deadline for applications of Nov. 3. Information about the competition is available at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award/.
And in a show of support, Peggy Barber, associate executive director of the American Library Association, made a final comment during the bicentennial session, saying, "Thank you for inviting us to your birthday party. I am here to RSVP. We will be there."