Fall 2002, Vol. 33 No. 1 & 2
SWALL 2002: Fiery Fun in Fort Worth!
Reference Librarian/Media Coordinator
San Diego County Public Law Library
The plane landed. I stepped out onto the jet way and my hair instantly went flat. Ah- the humidity of Fort Worth!! I had missed all my SWALL friends, though, which was one reason why I decided to attend the 44th Annual SWALL Meeting. The other reasons included barbeque, Shiner Bock beer, fried okra, and pecan pralines (not necessarily in that order).
While waiting for the shuttle at the airport, I began seeing familiar sights from my childhood: skinny farm boys with belt buckles the size of dinner plates proudly proclaiming their rodeo accomplishments.-- "Most Likely to Get Gored By a Bull 1999," "Most Broken Bones in 8 Eight Seconds;" big-haired women whose locks defied the humidity with a combination of shellac and large amounts of backcombing; and people whose accents were twangy enough to make tuning forks resonate. In a short, I was home!!
Dining in Ft. Worth: Fiery Fun
After settling in at the hotel, I ventured forth with some old friends from law school to sample the Texas delicacies I had been craving. When the stuffed jalapenos came to the table, my friend took a bite and then sucked in air and said, "Itís hot!" I thought she was referring to the piping hot filling, but no. As I learned when I bit into that plump bit of green fire, she was referring to the pepper itself. It seems this particular batch of peppers was grown in Hell and then shipped to the restaurant to be served to unwitting customers. Granted, I have not been an angel in my life, but I am pretty sure that those peppers violated the Eighth Amendment as they were both cruelly tempting and unusually punishing for my poor taste buds.
In order to tame the fire raging in my mouth a bit, I started swigging large amounts of Shiner Bock beer. And as the alcohol hit my brain, I decided that no stinkiní vegetable was going to get the best of me! No sir! I was born and raised in Texas and so surely I had enough fire in my blood that I could handle this!! So I ate another one of those green devils. And then had to drink more beer to put out the fire and hopefully reduce the number of blisters on my tongue. So then Iíd get brave again. . . .Do you see a pattern here?
After a few hours of this, I sloshed my way back to the hotel room where my roommate took one look at my blistered, puffy lips and bleary eyes and said, "Them peppers gotcha huh?" I nodded mutely, hoping my lips would not resemble Mick Jaggerís puffed protuberances in the morning.
I called my husband to tell him I had landed safely and was going to bed, but between my puffed lips and the drawl I tend to revert into while on my native soil, he probably didnít understand much.
I tried to explain about the peppers and the beer and wondered aloud how I could ever be content to live in the land of tofu and sprouts. He did what any smart husband is supposed to do when faced with a conversation with his wife who has lapsed into her native dialect and has had slightly too much to drink. He listened and made conversational sounds like, "Uh huh. Really? Thatís great Hon." while I told him that I had third degree burns on my tongue and that Shiner Bock beer is the nectar of the gods. He finished with "I love you. Glad you got there safe! Good night." He was able to hang up with the satisfaction that only a married man can know: he had carried on a conversation with his wife, who was talking but he couldnít understand her, and she didnít have a crying fit or accuse him of not listening. He celebrated by ordering a pizza.
The Pre-Conference Program
The next day I had to get up early to give a presentation to a group of public librarians on how to do legal research on the ĎNet and I was living to regret my run in with those jalapenos. Luckily, the librarians I was addressing didnít know me from Adam so they didnít comment on the mildly bloodshot eyes and puffy lips. If they had asked about the lips, I was prepared to tell them that they were the result of mandatory collagen injections that are a requirement when one moves to California. As for the eyes, I thought I would tell them that I had worn my contacts and had a run in with a Texas wind, but no one seemed inclined to question me. The blisters on my tongue made me have a wee bit of an accent, but next to the thick accents of some of the participants, I sounded like a New York cabbie.
It was great fun to teach the Ft Worth public librarians the basics of legal research. Every year the Legal Information Services to the Public (LISP) Special Interest Section of AALL gives a pre-conference program to the local non-legal librarians of the city which hosts the SWALL Meeting. We teach them the basics of legal research in both book and Internet formats, and it is always fun! Elizabeth Schneider, my mentor, originally drafted me into helping with this annual event, but I have volunteer to do the program for three years in a row simply because I have so much fun!
My co-presenters Sharon Wayland, Peggy Martindale, Sharon Blackburn and Jill Henderson were also wonderful and we had a great time. The librarians asked lots of interesting questions, and I reflected on how nice it was to teach people really interested in learning versus some of the members of the public who attend my legal research class and who would lose a battle of wits with cheese.
The SWALL Meeting
After that program was over, I headed to the SWALL meeting itself. One thing I love about SWALL meetings is that everyone is so friendly. That may be due to the fact that SWALL, like other AALL chapters, is somewhat incestuous, as we have all worked for and with each other and each otherís bosses. It is like going to a family reunion. . . .in Arkansas. But thatís OK- it makes for a friendly and relaxed time, with the added bonus that you donít have any cousins trying to kiss you.
The SWALL speakers were great and so were the programs (OK- I admit I am a bit biased because I gave one of the programs, -- but they really were great!). One I really enjoyed was "Managing Up" by Lorea Belle of the SMUís Human Resources Department. This program discussed ways for employees to make managers more effective through good communication practices. Since my current practice of peering through the stacks of work and glowering malevolently at my manager and saying, "Youíve got to be kidding" has stopped working, this seminar was really helpful.
My favorite seminar was called "The Solo Librarianís Guide to Marketing on a Shoestring" by Beth Dempsey, Manager of Corporate Communications for the Gale Group. She listed many valuable ideas about how to market with no money, which is of interest to those of us in the county law library realm. She explained that she is part of an in-house ad agency for the Gale Group and that they lend out their services to libraries. She pointed us to a free Web site where law libraries can print out free law-related bookmarks and flyers and even add customized text to the flyers! The Web site is: http://www.gale.com/freestuff/ and the free stuff is in both Spanish and English! I have my notes and the bibliography from the seminar if anyone is interested -- just e-mail me and let me know.
After Hours Fun in Ft. Worth
After attending these excellent seminars, I wandered outside to the Fort Worth Arts Festival. There, I was able to kick back and listen to zydeco music and the blues while munching on kettle corn and drinking a margarita. My grandparents, who were in town to visit a cousin, came over one evening and we walked up and down the Arts Festival exhibits. At one point, my devoutly religious grandmother cautioned me to avoid a certain booth. She drawled in a hushed whisper "Donít look ovuh there-- thereís a picture of a nekkid lady!" I whispered back "Donít worry, Iíve seen them before." She was shocked, but not as shocked as she would be if she knew that public libraries have many kinds of art exhibits, including one in Boulder, CO that featured ceramic penises. See that story at http://www.boulderweekly.com/archive/111501/newsspin.html.
So, in all, it was a wonderful time. The fact that I learned so much AND got to eat my favorite foods AND got to see my friends and some family made this, like my other SWALL conferences, a wonderful experience despite the jalaepeno-inflicted blisters in my mouth. I am hoping I will be healed in time for next yearís meeting, because it will be time to chow down on Kansas strip steaks!