I felt very prepared for my first AALL conference. I had signed up for a mentor. I had read all the program options and carefully chosen which I wanted to attend. I had even read Stories of "My First Annual Meeting" in 88 LLJ 9-81. Then I noticed the cost. Gulp. Registration plus airfare plus hotel plus meals. Double gulp. Since I didn't have a job, I needed to cover these costs on my own.
Then I learned about available grants. I applied and received one from LexisNexis to cover registration costs (including tickets to the opening reception, association luncheon and closing banquet) and a grant from LLNE that covered my airfare and hotel. That left only a few meals, which according to everyone that I talked to, could be dealt with by careful attendance of receptions.
So what did I do in Orlando? I "created connections." Yes, I know that was the theme of the conference, but really I did. I spent a tremendous amount of time meeting great people.
First, I attended CONELL and met many interesting people, some of whom were like me and brand-new to the profession, while others were in their 2nd or 3rd year. I was amazed at the variety of librarians attending - from an academic law librarian with a J.D just starting her M.L.S. to the solo law librarian at the West Virginia Supreme Court. Everyone was friendly and fun to talk to. Just remember to ask for your CONELL ribbon when registering, so you don't have to go back and wait in line again. Wearing the ribbon is also an icebreaker throughout the conference because experienced librarians will stop you and ask "This is your first conference?" and then introduce themselves.
People had warned me, but I still was not really prepared for the magnitude of the Exhibit Hall experience. My roommate got me there early on the first day it opened, steering me through the rows of vendors. Our primary mission was to get the goodies that people had told us about, but we ended up taking a lot of time to talk to the vendors because the products and services were so interesting. Eventually, I met up with experienced conferencers and followed them around. Not only did they ask the vendors interesting and practical questions (that I learned a lot from), they introduced me to their friends.
At the invitation of my mentor, Mary Hood, I attended a reception of NOCALL and met some extremely nice Northern Californian catalogers and firm librarians. I also attended the IALL reception and made contacts with many of the foreign, international and comparative law librarians. Having met Dan Wade, a reference librarian at Yale, during the round-table discussion at CONELL made my entry into IALL easier, as he introduced me around. I also attended the annual meeting/luncheon of LLNE and met even more librarians, and reconnected with some I already knew from my law school days.
Included in the grant that I received from LexisNexis was an invitation to their annual dinner for grant recipients. The dinner was held at the American Rotunda at EPCOT. It was a wonderful, intimate setting. As my guest, I brought Penny Hazelton, the director of the University of Washington Law Library and the director of the law librarianship program from which I am graduating. Penny introduced me to even more people. For example, my dinner table included Victoria Trotta, the director of Arizona State University Law Library and the conference's program committee chair, Judy Meadows, the state law librarian of Montana and former AALL president, Frank Houdek, the director of Southern Illinois University Law Library and former AALL president and editor of Law Library Journal, his wife Susan and their daughter, and Marcia Koslov, the deputy director at the University of Texas and her husband. I heard some terrific stories about how they got started in the profession and how their first AALL meetings went. The evening provided a nice sense of the history of AALL and of the Lexis (formerly Matthew Bender) dinner. In fact, the earliest recipient present had received his Bender scholarship in 1956! As a grant recipient, I will be invited to attend the Lexis dinner at every subsequent AALL meeting and I'm already looking forward to Seattle.
Even though it was a whirlwind of meeting new people, I managed to attend a program every session and enjoyed each one. The first program that I attended was: "Performance Management: Making the Connection Between You and Your Staff." I have no staff to manage, but I walked out of the session wanting desperately to immediately apply some of the techniques that I'd learned. Two of my favorite sessions were "Reach Out and Train Someone: Training Public Interest Lawyers and Non-Law Librarians in the Use of Free Government Information" and "Creating Connections Without Future: Legal Info Services for Young Adults." Not only were these programs practical in scope, they inspired me. I became, and am still, very excited to get involved and create training opportunities for people who want or need to use the library. I was especially moved by the presentation by Anna Delgado, of Arter and Hadden, LLP. During the LA riots, she and some SCALL colleagues felt they needed to do something positive and started a program to get teenagers paid internships at law libraries or legal organizations - giving them the opportunity to have more than a Mcjob.
I am very interested in foreign, international and comparative law, so I also attended some fantastic programs relating to those subjects. First, I heard three speakers discuss the creation of the International Criminal Court and related issues. I also learned about the access policies and strategies of disclosure related to getting government documents from China, France and Mexico. Finally, I listened to three different perspectives on how to develop an international relations collection: a professor, a librarian and an administrator.
My first conference was a tremendous experience. Although brand new, I already feel very much a part of the organization.
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