Representing Singapore at the ALA Annual Conference

It’s usually a nerve-wracking experience to put up a presentation of any sort about your work, let along share it on an international stage. However, that’s exactly what our team of librarians from NUS Libraries faced as first-time presenters and attendees at the 2023 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference!

Blown Away by the “Windy City”
From left to right: Magdeline, Siu Chen, Samantha, Suei Nee and Amanda

Flying half-way around the world to the “Windy City” of Chicago, we were swept off our feet by the warmth, hospitality and sense of camaraderie at this global conference, with presenters hailing from places like Australia, Canada and the Philippines.

As first timers, we were assigned a local buddy to connect with at the conference and orientate us. We were paired up with a library school professor, Amanda, and Masters’ student, Samantha, with whom we had a good conversation over lunch. It was lovely meeting like-minded librarians who shared our enthusiasm for the profession!

Sharing with a Global Community of Librarians

We had an opportunity to share on the topic of “Practices to Implement and Champion a Blended Learning Approach to Information Literacy at an Academic Library”, in response to the advance call for proposals at ALA Annual 2023 posted on the LAS website.

Magdeline and Siu Chen speaking at the International Relations Roundtable Session

We also had the opportunity to share about our “Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for Student Success in Blended Learning: A Sustainable Approach” at the educators’ poster session. The ALA conference team kindly helped us print and transport our 2-meter long poster to the conference venue. Imagine trying to bring that with us as carry-on!

Suei Nee (left) and Magdeline (right) preparing for the poster session
Magdeline (right) and Suei Nee (left) speaking to attendees at the poster session

Through this enriching experience, we learnt that being a presenter is just as much about forging connections and absorbing information as it was about sharing knowledge. Through the sharing of work experiences with the audience and co-presenters, we discovered commonalities and potential new applications for our work.

ALA – Four Floors of Library Learning

The ALA conference was truly an overwhelming experience, with activities spread across four floors of a massive conference centre. Topics were diverse and aimed at the full spectrum of library sectors, including public libraries, academic libraries, school libraries and government libraries.

Signboards helped conference participants navigate the four floors of the conference venue

Rooms were jam-packed full of attendees – some were even over capacity. It was evident from the crowd that the library community was not only alive and well, but that many library practitioners were keen and enthusiastic to engage with the speakers and topics.

Some sessions were so crowded that attendees had to sit in the aisles on the floor!

Attending such a large conference allowed us to gain access to the full spectrum of topics available in the library universe, from building and facilities management, to systematic reviews, copyright, metadata and issues surrounding recruitment and retention of librarians. Many of the sessions featured a panel discussion and Q&A, giving the audience an opportunity to engage with the speakers and dive deep into the topics discussed.

Interior of the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago

Besides talking shop at the conference sessions, we had the opportunity to join a tour organised by ALA to the Kaplan Institute at the Illinois Institute of Technology, an award-winning building reputed for its design and architecture. We also visited a cutting-edge University of Chicago library which uses robots to manage its collections.


Presenting at the ALA conference was not just about creating a one-way flow of ideas, but also an opportunity to participate in the global conversation library community, contributing to the ongoing conversation about librarianship, play a part in advancing the profession, and representing Singapore’s contributions to the space. This conference is definitely a must-attend for any library practitioner!

Contributed by:

Magdeline NG Tao Tao, Cluster Head (Strategy Planning Unit – Digital Strategy & Innovation), Associate University Librarian, NUS Libraries
Suei Nee WONG, Senior Librarian (Research Librarian – STEM), NUS Libraries
Siu Chen LIM, Librarian (Research Librarian – HASS), NUS Libraries

Magdeline, Siu Chen and Suei Nee would like to thank NUS Libraries for their generosity and commitment to staff development in providing them the opportunity to attend ALA Annual 2023.

They would also like to thank Marcus Wong, Natalie Pang and Sukanya Naidu for looking through drafts of this article.