AALL Spectrum Blog

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The AALL Spectrum® blog is published by the American Association of Law Libraries. Submissions from AALL members and other members of the legal community are highly encouraged. Opinions and editorial views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of AALL. AALL does not assume any responsibility for statements advanced by contributors. Previously, the AALL Spectrum Blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.

The AALL Spectrum blog is no longer published. Previous posts are archived on this page.
6/12/2015 2:38:24 PM

The New(er) Librarian’s Guide to Conferencing Like a Pro

A huge conference center filled to the brim with law librarians who have literally thousands of years of experience between them and all of whom seem to know each other (and the Annual Meeting routine) can be pretty intimidating for a first time attendee. Heck, it would have been my 5th AALL Annual Meeting* and I still get intimidated. Everyone you ask has advice for the new and newer attendees on how to make the most of the precious educational, networking, and work time in those few jam packed days we have together. I asked the members of the Professional Engagement, Growth, and Advancement SIS (PEGA-SIS), many of whom are in their first few years in the profession, for the tips and tricks they use to make their conference going experience easier/better/more fun. Whether this will be your first conference or your 40th here’s hoping you find a suggestion to help make the best of Philadelphia 2015.

Pace Yourself & Prioritize:

  • No matter how much planning you do ahead of time, your schedule is going to change when you get there, and you just need to go with it because those changes can lead to some of the best learning and networking opportunities.
  • Take Breaks- even if you have to schedule them in.
  • Carve out some time every day if you can to do something non-conference-related, whether it’s some sightseeing, going to the gym, even just taking a nap.
  • Do your best to get enough sleep. You will be less tired and have more energy to explore the local area and get more out of the educational programming.
  • Don’t feel like you have to attend everything. You’ll just go home exhausted. If nothing in a time slot interests you, don’t go. Spend the time chatting with someone in the hall or grabbing a moment to yourself.
  • A one-page printout of YOUR conference schedule is extremely helpful, and can be more efficient than relying on apps or other online resources. Especially when the wifi isn’t working or your phone or tablet is dead.


  • Pay attention to the SIS, caucus, and other similar programming schedules. They tend to offer a lot of practical information, and you usually get a chance to actually talk to other librarians with similar interests, instead of just listening to a speaker.
  • Go to a program that isn’t in your area. Are you a tech services person, then check out a public services program and vice versa. In academia, go a state/court program, etc. It’s a great way to see what others in your type of library and in the profession are doing and facing. And it may be a way to find a partner for a writing project or grant project.
  • Don’t worry about hopping for program to program. It’s ok to leave in the middle (or shortly after it starts) and move on to another that interests you. It is common practice, just don’t be disruptive to the speaker, panel, or audience.
  • Attend a roundtable. They are a terrific way to hear about what your colleagues at other institutions are doing and hear different perspectives on how others handle issues you may have faced.
  • Attend poster sessions when the creators are there to tell you about their projects. Innovative things are happening everywhere and the posters are a quick and easy way to learn about new projects.
  • You’re not going to get in trouble if you skip a few sessions, and it’s perfectly ok to sleep in a little, enjoy the city, leave one session early to go check out another one, or crash a committee meeting at the last minute because you spoke with someone who made it sound interesting.
  • Plan ahead of time how you’ll be taking (and cleaning up) your notes. Old school paper and pencil is often easiest for taking notes in crowded halls but you can also use your phone or tablet and a note-taking product like OneNote, Google Keep, or Evernote for easy note taking and filing. Make sure to take a few minutes after each session/meeting to clean up your notes.

Get Involved:

  • Attending business meetings is a great way to get involved!  Your presence will be noted.
  • Volunteer to take notes at round tables and/or sit at tables in the exhibit hall for the SISs, Caucuses, and chapters you are involved with!  You can contact the organizers ahead of time to see if they need anyone.
  • Volunteer at the registration booth.  It’s a great way to meet people.
  • There is no shortage to professional development opportunities within AALL.  It doesn’t matter if this is your first job or your first year as a law librarian; if you’re enthusiastic and willing to approach people, you’ll soon have people seeking you out for publications and committee work. Even if things seem like a stretch for you, you CAN do it, so don’t be afraid to volunteer.

A (potentially) Social Network:

  • Feel like you’re all alone at an event? Look for someone else who looks the same, and say hello. They’re probably just as friendly and eager to meet new people and nervous about doing it as you are.
  • Never eat alone. Be ready to strike up a small-talk conversation when in line for food, offer some of your trail mix to whoever you're sitting next to, and invite people you've just met to lunch or dinner (or accept the invitation).
  • The nightly social events are also really important – not only do they give you a chance to wind down (and eat for free), but you meet amazing people and end up with some surprisingly close friends.
  • Don’t spend the entire meeting hanging around the folks you work with back home. You can visit with them any day of the week. Use the annual meeting to meet and network with others.
  • Don’t forget your business cards and take a moment after meeting someone to jot down how you met/what you talked about/a unique identifier about them on the back of their business card. It will help you remember all the contacts you made when you get back home.
  • You can eschew traditional business cards for social media like Facebook or LinkedIn. Apps like Evernote Hello create contact lists browsable by picture, meeting date/time, or context of encounter.

You Must Eat:

  • Eat a full breakfast, or you will not make it through the day (the hotel breakfast buffet is usually worth the insane price, but in a pinch, Denny’s will do).
  • Bring snacks. Based on your interests, and who you meet, and when events are happening, you might wind up with a break at 10:30 a.m. and then not again until 2:30. Just bring something to get you through until you can grab a real meal. (Bonus advice: don’t skip real meals.)
  • Definitely making note of when food is offered in the vendor hall during exhibit breaks and at traditional meal times.
  • The Bloomberg/BNA area has TONS of free food and coffee.  In addition to the usual unhealthy stuff you find everywhere, they also normally have bananas, apples, granola bars if you need a break from all of the conference sugar bombs.
  • Either pack a selection of treats to take along (great for saving money in airports and when you’re in a hotel room) or make sure to find the location of a local CVS/Walgreens/Aldi/etc. before you go.


  • Dress in layers. Start with a very cool layer for hot weather outside (plus sunscreen and maybe a hat), add a mid-weight layer for normal indoor temperatures, and have a warm layer ready to deploy in a frigid conference room.
  • Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to knit/crochet in sessions. We’re librarians, after all.
  • Saying “I’m sorry, I don’t make purchasing decisions in my library” will save you from a lot of long conversations in the exhibit hall.
  • Locate where the closest post office or USPS store. It’s generally cheaper to mail things home/to the office via a Flat Rate box from a real post office.
  • Bring a refillable water bottle. The conference center often has water coolers set up strategically around the venue and it is important to stay hydrated!
  • Make sure you have additional power cords/batteries or a portable charger for your electronic devices. Airports and convention centers are notorious for having limited outlets available.
  • Explore the city a little. Get out of the convention center. Go on a tour, go to a museum, try some new cuisine. It will give your mind time to process all you have learned and it will give you something to chat about when you’re in the Fastcase suite.
  • If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you can report them. We have a Code of Conduct for all AALL meetings and events: http://www.aallnet.org/code-of-conduct.

Here are some additional resources for successful conference going experiences:

  1. Bob Berring's Rules for Surviving an AALL Convention.
  2. How to Plan for Conferences (great suggestions for presenters as well as attendees).
  3. Jason Eiseman’s 10 tips for networking at CALI, AALL and beyond.
  4. Conference & Travel Packing & Survival Tips (full of great packing suggestions).

*I’m sad to miss everyone this year but I’ll see y’all next year in Chicago!
© Jordan A. Jefferson, 2015. Coordinating Librarian for Reference Services, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School, New Haven, CT.

Posted By Jordan Jefferson at 6/12/2015 2:38:24 PM  0 Comments
11/6/2014 4:49:14 PM

Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium Recap

In mid-October I attended the
Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium at the University of Toronto. Papers were selected from proposals submitted in May of 2014. The conference was subject-specific and had an information science focus. I found it to be an excellent opportunity to connect with librarians practicing in non-legal areas, yet sharing a common interest. It was a great way to learn about new things and get a feel for other areas of the profession.

Image of Four Panelists Speaking at the Information Studies Colloquium
"Queering Order" Panel. Left to Right: Melodie Fox, Cait McKinney, D. Grant Campbell, & Melissa Adler.

The conference included presentations on a number of different subjects: web-based communities, internet filtration, archives, name authority records, Library of Congress subject headings, pornography, academic libraries, collections development, and art exhibits. All the works addressed gender or sexuality in some way. Two presentations focused on legal information as a key component, though many others also raised interesting legal questions. Melodie Fox, a doctoral candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee iSchool provided and excellent analysis of legal classifications of sex and gender compared with gender classification in different editions of the Dewey Decimal System. My presentation focused on difficulties in researching asexuality in legal research databases and the resulting social justice implications.

In addition, inherent in several of the non-legal presentations were issues such as intellectual property protection for transient materials, harassment in digital creation spaces, and archiving hate crime material.

The conference was an excellent opportunity to learn about the roles that different individuals play in addressing contemporary library issues. “There were 100 attendees. [One attendee reporting on the conference estimated] that library and information studies professors and PhD students made up 50%, library school grad students made up 25%, and the other 25%. . .were practitioners, who work almost exclusively in academic settings.” Tara Robertson’s Blog. Attendance was higher than expected, but still small enough for presenters and attendees to meet and engage in discussion with individuals from institutions all over the continent.

A compilation of articles edited and compiled by the organizers of the conference, the Feminist and Queer Information Studies Reader, is available for those seeking more information on Gender and Sexuality in the library and information profession. In addition, many of the works presented at the conference will likely be published in the coming years.

© AJ Blechner, 2014. Reference/Outreach Librarian, University of Miami Law Library, Coral Gables, Florida. ablechner@law.miami.edu.

Posted By AJ Blechner at 11/6/2014 4:49:14 PM  0 Comments
12/19/2013 7:00:00 PM

A Law Librarian at the Internet Librarian Conference

I had the good fortune to attend the Internet Librarian Conference (Internet Librarian) this year. The conference began in 1997 and is currently held every year in Monterey, CA. And, it will be in Monterey next year, too (October 27-29, 2014). Internet Librarian is organized and produced by Information Today, Inc. It bills itself as the “internet conference and exhibition for librarians and information managers.” This well-attended conference had about 1000 attendees visiting from 45 states and 6 countries.

Theme and programming
This year’s theme was “Community Engagement:  Strategies, Services & Tools.” Internet Librarian has an interesting set up. There were 3 primary days of programming with a daily keynote address. Programs are divided into 5 daily tracks with each program from a track in the same conference room all day. For example, Day 1 had the following tracks:  1) Discovery, Navigation & Search, 2) Transforming Web Presence, 3) Engaging our Communities, 4) Library Issues & Challenges, and 5) Internet@Schools. And, each room has a host for the day. The host introduces the program and presenters and then facilitates questions at the end of the program. Attendees can attend all the sessions from a particular track or hop around from room to room.

Two keynote speakers addressed the state of libraries, but they seemed to contradict each other. The opening keynote speaker, Peter Morville, president of Semantic Studios, thinks libraries have a problem. He says the perception of the library as a knowledge gateway is declining. However, the perception of the library as a purchasing agent is increasing. He went on to say that the library is an idea at risk and that we need more than just information architects, we need “inspiration architects.”

On the other hand, Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center talked about how libraries are deeply important and that people love libraries and librarians. Pew research shows that even those who don’t use the library are fans. Rainie thinks we can leverage that to get involved in community issues and to become community leaders. He suggests that we should feel empowered to speak up because librarians’ voices are some of the most valued in our communities.

One of the more interesting programs was “The Next Big Thing.” As you can imagine, it involved a panel of librarians sharing what they thought was the next big thing in libraries. But, the more interesting aspect of the program was that the bulk of it was spent on audience members’ predictions. For instance, I learned that libraries are already using 3d printers to lure patrons into the library. Also, big data is big already, but one person said we’ll be using metrics even more than we are already to demonstrate how effective we are as librarians.

There were also a couple of evening programs for attendees. The Tuesday evening session was very interesting. Titled “Community Engagement Info Blitz,” 5 librarians shared innovate ways they engaged their communities. There, I learned about EveryLibrary, a political action committee dedicated to helping local library ballot measures pass. They’ve already earned local libraries millions.

Attending a non-law library conference
Often it can help to step out of the law librarianship world to see how other libraries are transforming services. Maybe a public library has created an innovative service that would be useful in a law firm. An undergraduate library could have developed a web page for video tutorials that a law school library could use to model its own web page. Also, some things are universal to libraries. For example, patrons use catalogs to locate resources in all types of libraries. A couple librarians at Creighton University shared their experiences setting up iPad kiosks stationed around the library for patron access to the catalog.

And, if you must have some law library programming, not all hope is lost. There was one law library related program. Amy Affelt at Compass Lexecon presented a program titled “Continuing the Engagement.” Her informative program discussed getting attorneys engaged through various activities such as unique book discussions where the librarian reads the book and tells others what it was about. She also maintains alert subscriber lists. She uses them to show new attorneys what their colleagues are using for current awareness to encourage them to sign up too.

While I think the overall conference is more useful for public and undergraduate academic libraries, I certainly picked up some things that I brought back to my own library. I found my Internet Librarian experience valuable and I think you will too. And, did I mention that the conference is in Monterey, CA?

Karen Skinner is a research services librarian at the USC Gould School of Law.

Posted By Karen Skinner at 12/19/2013 7:00:00 PM  0 Comments