The Beat

ALA 2018: Librarians Celebrate Graphic Novels!


Once again, librarians of all sorts are converging on New Orleans, for the 2018 edition of the ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition!

ALA was one of the first organizations to book a convention in a city recovering from Katrina in 2005, for an annual conference in 2006. They returned in 2011 to a city still rebuilding. It was this conference that tested the concept of an Artist Alley, where comics artists could exhibit and sell merchandise directly to librarians! (You can read my post from 2011 here.) The next year, in Anaheim, the program was expanded and made permanent, so that every year since, there has been a GraphiCon at the annual conference, with a dedicated program stage, an Artist Alley, and a nearby pavilion featuring lots of graphic novel publishers (as well gaming companies)!

Librarians have long known that comics are a gateway drug to literacy. On June 14, 2002, a day-long pre-conference, “Get Graphic at Your Library”, was held, featuring talks by Neil Gaiman, Colleen Doran, and Jeff Smith, as well as presentations by many comics publishers. That tradition continues this year, with Penguin Random House once again hosting “Library Con” and ALA will sponsor “Graphic Novel Friday Forum: Not Just Sex and Violence – Adult Graphic Novel Collections”, both on Friday.

Friday night is the opening reception for the show floor, running from 5:30 to 7:oo PM. There are numerous booth signings scheduled, but the main draw is the food and drink offered!

Immediately after, most of the cool kids head over to ALA Play, which is sort of a mini science fiction convention. The Games and Gaming Round Table sponsors this event, which runs from 7:30 to 10:00 PM, as well as the Gaming Lounge on the show floor. ALA Play features a variety of games, plus other cool stuff like Maker and STEAM demonstrations, and maybe even an escape room!

Saturday and Sunday, the exhibits floor has normal hours from 9-5, then closes early on Monday, at 2 PM. During that time, the Graphic Novel & Gaming Stage hosts speakers around the clock. At the rear of the exhibits hall is Artist Alley, showcasing many great comics creators! Plus lots of other stages and pavilions catering to various interests!

Saturday night is the ALA Will Eisner Graphic Novel Grants for Libraries Reception. Each year, the Will Eisner Foundation selects two library recipients, awarding grants for Growth, and Innovation. The reception is a great way for all the cool kids to meet and chat.

Monday morning is the Graphic Novels & Comics MIG Business Meeting, where everyone is welcome. This member interest group got started at the 2011 conference in New Orleans, and there might be some exciting news to report by the end of the conference!

After the exhibits floor closes at Two on Monday, things wind down, although the conference continues through Tuesday. Six days of meetings, panels, networking, signings, receptions, and more!


I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!