At the time of the AALL conference in July, I was about two weeks from finally becoming a bona fide librarian, and I was excited to see what a national conference in my chosen profession would look like. My experiences with CALL have been wonderful, specifically because the CALL community is so close knit and collaborative, and I wondered whether the national conference would be the inverse since the geographic regions represented were so vast. I quickly found my concerns could not have been less warranted. I met librarians from Tennessee, Massachusetts, Hawaii, California, Florida and elsewhere, and I was struck by how similar my interactions with them were to those with Chicago librarians. This was tremendously encouraging: as a new librarian, I am very happy to have chosen a field where there are so many supportive and friendly colleagues, not just locally, but nationally. This was my biggest, and most relieving, takeaway from the conference.
Beyond my realization, there were three specific elements of the four day conference which I will never forget. The first was the sheer convenience of the location: having never been to an AALL conference, I didn’t fully appreciate (until the third day) how wonderful it was that my first one would be in the city I work in every day. Staying in the hotel with my wife and 1 ½ year old son, there was no question about how we would get there, where we would eat and what we would do in the city, because the answers to those questions were so obvious to me. It dawned on me that this experience would be far more stressful in a city where I had no previous interactions, and that I was incredibly lucky that my first conference was in Chicago. I will never truly know for sure, but I believe that being “home” helped make the conference less stressful and far more enjoyable.
Second, and unfortunately a criticism, I groaned at the scheduling of presentations when I saw the schedule. As I went through the schedule and began identifying what events I wanted to attend, I was pleased to find that there were many presentations on legal analytics, data processing and legal technologies, all three topics of interest to me. As I began to plan my days based on which presentations I would like to attend hour by hour, I began to realize a pattern that was none too welcomed. Of the five presentations I had highlighted as “must see,” four of them were on Tuesday morning! This was a huge bummer since I would have liked to attend each presentation in person. However, even this has a silver lining as the conference provided video recordings of all the presentations, and I could see everything I wanted in the weeks following. While I would have preferred a more staggered schedule based on topic, I understand that scheduling these many things in such a short period is no easy task, and I am so appreciative that I had the option to go back and watch the presentations.
The last, which was far more comical (only because of the outcome), occurred on the second day. I came down to the conference early to (1) get settled and (2) finish up some of my library school assignments so that I could focus on the conference. Specifically, I wanted to see the keynote address at 9:00 am. I went to get coffee and a bagel and found a quiet spot. At around 8:45 I began to pack up, and realized to my horror that I could not find my wallet! I retraced my steps, checked in with the security desk at the hotel, the registration desk and the staff offices. None of them had it, and I couldn’t find it as I kept looking for the next 45 minutes: needless to say, I missed the address. As panic turned into acceptance, many people whom I told were very helpful, offering me cash, offering to buy me lunch, or any other acts of kindness; more impressively about half of these offers were from people I had met only the day before. I was finally able to find my wallet, but those hours of bewilderment were softened by the gracious and friendly librarians associated with AALL.
I am so grateful to have received the CALL grant to attend the conference and to have had the opportunity to learn so much and meet so many wonderful librarians. On the last day of the conference, I was already looking forward to the 2017 conference in Austin. Beyond the knowledge and experiences that I obtained, the conference reaffirmed for me that I had indeed found the career I wanted and colleagues I wanted to be around.