The promise of the American Library Association annual conference is the opportunity to learn from many different colleagues, especially about issues that span public, academic, and research libraries. This year’s conference, held June 22-27 in Chicago, continued this cross-collaboration on a number of important topics.

Discussions around intellectual freedom were front and center at this year’s conference. While ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom documented a record 1,269 demands to censor books or other materials within 2022, data gathered by the OIF indicate that this likely represents only 20-30 percent of challenges that occur nationwide. ALA breaks down their data for the past year but doesn’t capture, of course, the number of students who have been denied the right to read contested titles. And while ALA’s data currently records that only 1 percent of these challenges are currently received within college libraries, staff at all institutions are asked to report censorship to better document circumstances in which access to materials or other academic freedoms are currently being curtailed. ALA has also announced it will broadly increase its efforts to expand intellectual freedom initiatives thanks to funding received from Solidarity Giving.

Despite these challenges, the high number of sessions related to diversifying collections demonstrates the profession’s commitment to this initiative across public and academic libraries. A number of these sessions echoed findings of Ithaka S+R’s Leading by Diversifying Collections guide, including the importance of establishing what diversity means within the local context and embedding specific language into collection development policies. Even for institutions with well-defined policies and objectives, however, DEIA collection analysis continues to be a complex and time consuming task for libraries. Gap analysis of collections on DEIA-related topics is clearly an expanding service area offered by many vendors, but it was also fantastic to see projects like the new collection analysis tool made freely available by Diverse BookFinder.

Within infrastructure development, it is gratifying to see the possibilities of linked data coming to fruition within library service platforms. Yale University’s LUX has received enormous attention since its recent launch, and for good reason. A project like Parsifal, which provides a shared discovery interface across 17 Roman pontifical libraries, also deserves consideration. Because Italian libraries historically did little copy cataloging, the implementation of BIBFRAME within this project is a major advancement in reconciliation of metadata and increased visibility of the libraries’ combined special collections. Most importantly, these projects demonstrate the potential for students to truly explore and discover resources with our systems through the synthesis and integration of multiple data sources.

All of these discussions reiterate the fundamental purposes and drivers of the work that we do. Dr. Carla Hayden’s visible presence at the conference also underscored the Library of Congress’s current multi-faceted efforts to make their collections more accessible. Poet Amanda Gorman, whose book The Hill We Climb has recently been restricted from readership in a Florida elementary school, was an inspiring speaker as well. The closing keynote, featuring Gorman and illustrator Christian Robinson, stressed the importance of community action and of maintaining hope in the face of adversity.

As always, it was great to catch up with old friends and meet new ones while waiting in the endless Starbucks line. As we think about how Ithaka S+R’s work may expand in regard to contemporary challenges relating to library collections and infrastructure, there are tremendous opportunities in collaborative projects in the areas mentioned above including in collections management, discovery and access, preservation, and needed policies. And while it was a positive step to see a few conference sessions around the impacts of climate change and artificial intelligence within libraries—both areas in which Ithaka S+R is pursuing new research—I presume we’ll see even more sessions on these topics next year. I’ll look forward to ALA in San Diego in 2024.