Note: This is the sixth in what is hoped will be a series of columns about the experiences of those in the academic law librarianship profession—ed.
Another AALL Annual Meeting is around the corner. And it seems like just yesterday I was walking through Pike’s Market enjoying the beautiful Seattle weather (are you sure it rains there?). So, as I acknowledged the passage of time and began to prepare for the Mecca of law librarianship, I realized that I’ve finally got this conference thing down. When I attended my first conference in 2001, I tried to play it cool and act like I knew what I was doing. James Lipton would be proud because I’m sure I fooled you all. But, in reality, I didn’t have a clue. Who were all these people? What was this strange language they spoke? Now, with a few annual meetings under my belt, I finally see rhyme and reason to attending the conference. Here are some of my observations.
Travel: Learning how to fill out those travel authorization forms is an art. It’s a wonder any of us ever make it to the conference.
Hotels: There are two schools of thought here. The first is to book your hotel room early. The second is to book your hotel room late on Priceline and you’ll get a great deal. I fall into the former category. My self-diagnosed OCD won’t allow me to wait until the last minute on anything. But, regardless of which school of thought you follow, one thing is sure. The conference hotel will always sell out of the conference rate rooms.
Roommates: To room or not to room that is the question. And I’ve noticed three different answers. Some people have to room with someone for financial reasons. Others room with friends in the profession that they only get to see at the conference. The third and final option is to not have a roommate. While I could say more about roommates here, I would have to change names to protect the innocent. So it’s best left as is.
Programs: I cannot attend every program all of the time, and that’s all right. There are a variety of reasons to skip out on a program session. First and foremost, there is value to networking. I have missed some programs because I have been engaged in a work-related conversation with someone outside of my library. Also, you can only have your game face on for just so long. After awhile, I get grouchy and irritable. I find the benefit of attending a program at such a time is far outweighed by the risk that I might offend someone.
Meetings: There are some meetings you have to register to attend, such as the Middle Managers Breakfast. And, not only do you need to register, you need to register as soon as humanly possible. Otherwise, you will find yourself lobbying for a ticket to the meeting (see below).
Tickets: If an event requires tickets, there will be numerous exchanges on the lawlib listserv with people negotiating for those tickets. I have accepted this fact. But others haven’t. So every year, there’s an instance of e-mail rage where someone attacks the ticket hunters for their ceaseless posting of queries for tickets to whatever the event may be. Then all the ticket hunters attack that person. It never fails to amuse me. So thanks to everyone who participates in this ritual.
Food: Yes. It is possible to get through the entire conference on free food. But I’ve decided it’s really not worth it.
Volunteerism: I volunteered to assist with registration at my second AALL meeting. I will now do it every year I attend AALL. It is always a blast and goes by quickly. I meet someone new every year and am able to put names with faces. It’s always good to know who the important people are or, in the alternative, learn whom you might want to avoid.
Exhibit Halls: Last year I finally had time to devote to the exhibit hall on Wednesday morning. Why didn’t anyone tell me the exhibit hall is closed on Wednesdays? Doesn’t anyone have my back? Needless to say, I’ll allot some exhibit hall time earlier on in the conference this time around.
The Message Board: The message board is still alive and well. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a quiet and unassuming board always placed outside the exhibit hall. I’m always amazed that, in the age of electronics, an idea as simple as the message board works. But it does. And, last year, I was thrilled to have my very own message left for me. It felt like I had finally been initiated into some secret club that no one will ever admit exists.
And, these are just my observations after three years. I can only imagine the vast amount of AALL Annual Meeting information contained in our collective minds. If only we could harness the information for good.