Every summer, law librarians from across the country get the opportunity to come together for a few days of collaboration, learning, and networking. The American Association of Law libraries (AALL) coordinates this through their annual meeting and conference. This year, the city of Boston had the pleasure of welcoming law librarians, distinguished speakers, and legal research vendors to it’s historic grounds. This year’s theme of the conference was titled, “Map Our Future,” with the hopes that the conference would “empower [law librarians] to explore new possibilities, evaluate services, and set a clear path toward achieving goals” (AALL President, Beth Adleman’s welcome message). What follows are my reflections from my first AALL conference as a law librarian.
After an all-day flight from California the day prior, I woke up early on a humid Saturday morning to attend my first AALL event, the Conference of Newer Law Librarians (CONELL). This special “pre-conference event” gathered those that are new to the law library profession to meet representatives from AALL committees and special interest sections, as well as meet and mingle with each other. CONELL began with an introduction from AALL President, Beth Adleman, as well as the CONELL Committee Chair, Patrick Parsons. Both speakers discussed the importance of professional development, as well as the intention of CONELL to serve as an introduction to both the AALL organization and the conference as a whole. Following opening remarks, we were treated to a leadership panel discussion with Beth Adleman and three law library directors, each one from a different law library organization (law school, law firm, and public law library). The leadership panel speakers expressed the importance of taking on leadership roles in our place of work and in professional development organizations such as AALL. However, they noted to “understand your limits” and “never be afraid to ask for help or take a step back from professional development leadership duties.”
Following the leadership panel, CONELL attendees participated in two sessions, “speed networking” and “group roundtables.” In speed networking, we sat in chairs directly across from one another and were given 5-8 minutes to chat about anything. Honestly, I don’t remember how many people I met through this, but I do remember leaving with a few business cards from new acquaintances. After speed networking, I went into another room to participate in group roundtables. For this, we were randomly placed in a seat at a table with about 7 other CONELL attendees. Led by a CONELL Committee moderator, we began talking about life at work, life at home, and everything else in between. I thoroughly enjoyed this much more than the speed networking as I didn’t feel the immense pressure to talk to someone sitting directly in front of me. The conversations during the group roundtables ranged from thoughts on going to law school, to upcoming summer vacation trips.
Lastly on the CONELL agenda, we ventured out into the city of Boston to take one of their famous “Duck Tours.” The tour took us through historical landmarks throughout the city including the Boston Public Library, Copley Square, the Boston Common, Beacon Hill, the Old State House, and other city landmarks. For me, the best part of the tour was when the vehicle transitioned into a boat, and we took the tour on water down the Charles River. If you ever find yourself in Boston, I highly recommend taking a duck tour.
Exhibit Hall, Art Gallery, and Educational Sessions
My remaining days at AALL were filled with visiting various vendors in the Exhibit Hall, browsing the posters and artwork in the Member Art Gallery, and attending several educational sessions. In the Exhibit Hall, vendors were giving out information, demonstrations, and most importantly, conference swag. The big, well-known vendors like Thomson Reuters, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law, all had massive booth areas where they held presentations and demonstrations of the newest advancements on their respected platforms. AI was the main focus for many vendor demonstrations. Other vendors such as Hein, Fastcase/vLex, and Trellis had smaller scale booths where they gave out information, swag, and demos as well. Hein had a wheel you can spin to win various prizes after watching one of their new product demos. I won a Starbucks gift card!
The AALL Member Art Gallery was a new addition to this year’s conference. AALL President, Beth Adelman described the Member Art Gallery as “a unique showcase of law library marketing materials and stunning artwork…giving [attendees] a chance to explore new ideas.” As I walked around the art gallery, I met a few new faces as they described the special services and programs that they host in their respected law libraries. I came back from Boston with a few ideas of my own.
I would say that the educational sessions are the “heart and soul” of the conference. It’s one of the main reasons we come together at all; to share new ideas and have open dialogues on important and relevant topics in law librarianship. I attended educational sessions on various topics including gender inclusivity, library rebranding, services to incarcerated patrons, and exhibitor showcases from Trellis and the Lexis Digital Library. Each session provided me with new tools I can use at my law library to create and market more inclusive spaces and services. By the end of the last educational session I attended, I felt like I could come back to California with a plethora of ideas.
During my time not at the conference, I left my air conditioned hotel room to explore the Boston sights. Luckily, the hotel where I was staying was very close to many sights including America’s oldest public park, Boston Common. I walked through the park during the last two days I was in Boston. I saw many historic buildings near the park including monuments, churches, and burial grounds. I even saw the actual Cheers bar! On my last full day, I ventured across the Charles River to explore Cambridge and the Harvard campus. I can say I went to Harvard Law (even if it was only for a day, lol). Leaving the city of Boston was bittersweet. I was happy to be leaving the humid East Coast air, but a little sad that I didn’t get to see more of such a historic city. I’m sure I’ll return one day (just not in summer).
Written by: Michael Van Aken, Electronic Services Librarian