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ALA Midwinter Conference: A Recap

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The American Library Association’s Midwinter Conference in Denver, Colorado is a show that our entire sales and marketing staff look forward to every year. This year, our Library & Education Sales Manager Cynthia Murphy joined IPG Marketing’s Jeff Palicki and Lauren Klouda for a long weekend in Denver, Colorado.

Here, Cynthia discusses the benefits of building personal relationships in the library community, the quality of our contacts made at the conference, and the excitement of witnessing the announcement of the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

What was your primary objective for attending ALA Midwinter, and what were you most excited for?

Cynthia Murphy, Library & Education Sales Manager: Librarians throng to the exhibit hall in a quest to discover books for their constituencies as well as publishers outside of the “Big 5” (Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster). It’s our mission to be the familiar face who brings well-rounded alternatives for their collections and to showcase recent and forthcoming releases. I always look forward to the wonderful interaction with librarians as well as fellow exhibitor publishers and key accounts. This personal engagement is rewarding on multiple levels and always yields nuggets of insight into what’s going on in their worlds. And then there’s the build-up to the announcement of the prestigious John Newbery and Randolph Caldecott Medals, among other children’s book awards, and the widespread exuberance when the big reveals occur.

How was this year’s show different from others you’ve been to in the past?

Cynthia: Library conferences are by and large rather formulaic, featuring a combination of noted authors and speakers, programming geared to specific disciplines and association subsets (think public and school librarians, YALSA for Young Adult Services, the Black Caucus, etc.), and of course the exhibit hall. Although they’re attended by librarians, directors, and trustees from all corners of the country and beyond, systems from within the local region are the most well represented. Since the Newbery and Caldecott awards are the primary focus at Midwinter, this conference skews heavily towards children’s publishing. Due to a confluence of massive flight cancellations in the Midwest, last November’s every-other-year school library conference (AASL), and the much anticipated every-other-year public library conference (PLA) this March, attendance was down nearly 15%. The energy level remained just as high as ever, and the quality of our contacts outstanding.

What was the show’s biggest success, in your opinion?

Cynthia:  It’s always fun to connect authors with readers at our in-booth signings, and we had three great sessions in Denver spanning from a graphic novel celebrating African American history to a psychological thriller, and a western perspective on the growth of America. Thanks to IPG’s enhanced ALA membership status we had an especially great location in the action alley among publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin, Workman, Sterling, Harper Collins, Scholastic, Little Brown, and Albert Whitman. We continued to receive kudos for our IPG logo and the white catalog covers with the quirky image. The ALA also adopted a new mobile app, My Book Tote, which provided attendees an easy way to keep track of and save titles of interest while perusing the exhibits at the ALA Midwinter. Among its features was a built-in auto scanner to create book lists (children’s picture books, middle grade readers, fiction, non-fiction, graphic novel, YA, etc.) and share their choices with colleagues, friends, book clubs, or on Twitter and Facebook. Librarians I talked with were thrilled with its capabilities.

What would you like to see differently next year, either on the part of ALA or of IPG?

Cynthia: Key note speakers and educational sessions consistently draw attendees from the show floor. While we understand their value and that the sessions in particular often justify a librarian’s participation, they often result in lengthy lulls in exhibit hall traffic. Although the association is sensitive to our concerns, there hasn’t been as much headway as we’d like in scheduling more conflict free exhibit hall time.

What was your main takeaway?

Cynthia: Librarians look forward to seeing us at these conferences and really appreciate the diversity of voices and the quality of the content we bring. And they do have money to spend, whether from their local tax base, grants, foundations, or their own pockets! They’re usually relieved to learn they can acquire our books through their favorite wholesaler . . . . often Baker & Taylor, Ingram, and Follett . . . as these wholesalers are often their designated purchasing channel. Not surprisingly those seeking super quick delivery or buying with personal funds favor

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