ALA Annual Conference to remain in Toronto|
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(Chicago) After lengthy discussions and consultation with international and
national health officials about the occurrence of severe acute respiratory
syndrome (SARS), the American Library Association (ALA) Executive Board voted
unanimously to keep the 2003 Annual Conference in Toronto, June 19-25.
"This decision has been reached following the assurance of leading health
officials who inform us that it is safe for our members, exhibitors and guests
to visit Toronto," said ALA President Maurice J. (Mitch) Freedman. "We take
the occurrence of SARS in Toronto very seriously and have carefully considered
all options and opinions before choosing to stay."
The Executive Board decision followed an announcement from the World Health
Organization (WHO) that it was lifting the travel advisory for Toronto. WHO
Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland cited three changes in Toronto over
the last week: the magnitude of probable SARS cases has decreased; 20 days have
passed since the last case of community transmission occurred; and no new cases
in other parts of the world have been linked to Toronto. The full advisory can
be found at http://www.who.int/csr/sarsarchive/2003_04_29/en/
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not advised
against travel to Toronto. Its April 22 interim travel alert encouraged
travelers to observe precautions like frequent hand-washing and avoiding health
care settings (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/other/sars_can.htm). The CDC reports
that all cases in Toronto have been linked to an original index case, and
spread has been through close person-to-person contact. SARS transmission in
Toronto has been limited to a small number of hospitals, households, and
specific community settings, according to the CDC.
"We are urging all travelers to use common sense measures to protect themselves
from any infectious disease, and first among those measures is, of course, hand
hygiene or careful washing of soap and water," said CDC Director Dr. Julie
Gerberding at a news conference last week. Gerberding has urged continued
vigilance in the United States, where there have been 220 suspected cases of
SARS, and in Canada.
The ALA Annual Conference is the world's largest and most comprehensive library
conference and exhibition. Drawing more than 25,000 librarians, educators,
writers, publishers and special guests, the conference includes more than 2,000
meetings, discussion groups and programs on topics affecting libraries. This
year marks the first joint conference with the Canadian Library Association
(CLA) in more than 30 years.
"This is a decision based on information - authoritative medical opinion - and
rationality - two of the values of the library profession," said CLA President
Wendy Newman. "This is a proud moment for the North American library community."
Registration for the 2003 Annual Conference is up substantially compared to
last year. As of April 30, registrations stands at 9,287, compared to 6,783
last year. Registrations continued to come in while the earlier WHO travel
advisory was in effect.
"I would like to reassure you that the risk of SARS in the general population
is extremely low, and extensive control measures are in place to prevent any
further spread of the illness," said Dr. Sheela V. Basrur, Toronto Medical
Officer of Health.
"We appreciate the fact that Toronto representatives shared our primary focus
on the health and safety of visitors to Toronto and that they answered our
questions and addressed our concerns openly and frankly," said ALA Executive
Director Keith Michael Fiels. "This has been a difficult set of circumstances
for everyone, and we are grateful for the patience and support of our members,
exhibitors and the Canadian Library Association."
"The Executive Board has strived for the most comprehensive discussion, and
we're pleased with the process," Freedman said. "There continues to be a lot
of enthusiasm for this joint conference, and I am looking forward to meeting
with our Canadian colleagues in Toronto."
The ALA also has extended its advance registration and cancellation deadlines.
ALA members and guests can register at the early-bird rate through June 13, and
cancellations will be accepted without penalty until May 16. For more
information, please visit the "Events and Conferences" section of the ALA Web
site, then click 2003 Annual Conference and "registration."
Please visit the ALA Web page for frequent updates on 2003 Annual Conference
programming and special events, or call the ALA Conference information line at
1-800-545-2433; then press 4 at the prompt. A list of frequently asked
questions also is available online.
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