Reflections on the American Library Association Conference in Chicago

I recently had the opportunity to attend the American Library Association (ALA) Conference held in Chicago. This was my first time attending ALA in person and I was in awe of the platform that the conference provides for librarians, educators, authors, and information professionals to come together and engage in enriching discussions, share insights, and explore innovative ideas in the world of literature and information science. Among the myriad of sessions I attended, two particularly noteworthy sessions stood out, showcasing both the chilling world of horror literature and the importance of combating misinformation.

One of the most captivating sessions I attended at the ALA Conference was a panel discussion featuring renowned horror graphic novel authors. Mark Bouchard, author of “It Took Luke,” Tate Brombal, known for his spine-chilling works like “Behold Behemoth” and “House of Slaughter,” Kyle Starks, the mastermind behind “I Hate this Place,” and W. Maxwell Prince, the imaginative creator of “Ice Cream Man,” gathered to delve into the depths of horror storytelling. Each author shared their unique insights, inspirations, and challenges encountered while crafting their haunting graphic novels. The panel’s conversation was nothing short of fascinating, providing a captivating glimpse into the creative minds behind these captivating works.

From exploring the primal fears that fuel their narratives to the intricate artistry that breathes life into their characters, the authors painted a vivid picture of the horror genre’s allure. The session left me with a newfound appreciation for the power of graphic novels to convey emotions and themes that captivate readers, igniting their imaginations and pushing the boundaries of storytelling.

The ALA Conference also shed light on the pressing issue of misinformation and the role libraries and educators play in promoting information literacy. One session that left a lasting impact was titled “Birds Aren’t Real”: How Students Can Work Against Misinformation and Advocate, presented by Robbie Barber, a Teacher-Librarian at Tucker High School in Tucker, Georgia.

For those that may not be aware, the “Birds Aren’t Real” campaign is a satirical and fictional movement that humorously suggests that all birds in the world have been replaced by surveillance drones. It originated as an internet meme and has gained popularity on social media platforms. Supporters of the campaign use absurd arguments and conspiracy theories to mock real conspiracy theories and promote critical thinking about misinformation and the power of belief.

Barber’s engaging presentation used the “Birds Aren’t Real” movement and its origin story in order to explore the challenges posed by the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation in the digital age. Drawing upon her experience as an educator, she provided practical strategies and tools to equip students with critical thinking skills and empower them to navigate the information landscape effectively. From fact-checking techniques to fostering healthy skepticism, Barber used the origin story of the “Birds Aren’t Real” moment to emphasize the importance of instilling media literacy skills in young learners, enabling them to discern truth from falsehood and become responsible digital citizens.

The session highlighted the vital role libraries and educational institutions play in combating misinformation and promoting accurate information dissemination. It underscored the significance of equipping students with the necessary tools to navigate the complexities of the information age, ultimately contributing to a more informed society.

The opportunity to attend the American Library Association Conference in Chicago was an enriching experience, offering a diverse range of sessions and discussions that celebrated the power of literature and information. Every session I attended left a profound impact on my professional journey.