A Fun and Enriching Experience, Deep in the Heart of Texas

By Jesse Bowman, Electronic Research, Technology, and Instructional Services Librarian, Pritzker Legal Research Center, Northwestern University School of Law

With the generous assistance of the CALL Grants Committee, I attended the AALL Annual Meeting & Conference in San Antonio, Texas from July 12-15. Amidst the educational programming, networking opportunities, Tex-Mex cuisine, and unparalleled margaritas, I had a fantastic experience. In this article, I will relay a few thoughts and observations about my time in the Lone Star State.

Bexar County Courthouse ~ Photo by Jesse Bowman
Bexar County Courthouse ~ Photo by Jesse Bowman

I arrived in San Antonio feeling excited but very nervous. I was scheduled to speak at “Deep Dive: Inventing the New Classroom,” a session focusing on legal research instruction. In particular, I planned to speak on how social media tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be used when teaching today’s legal research students. Although I felt prepared, I found myself feeling surprisingly anxious about speaking to an audience of professional colleagues. As such, after getting checked in at the Convention Center, I spent the eve of the Opening General Session back at the hotel, reviewing my notes and aiming to awake ready and refreshed.

The conference got off to a thought-provoking start with a keynote address by Andrew Keene, an Internet entrepreneur and technology author and commentator. Mr. Keene argued that the role of librarians will increasingly shift toward that of information curator.

At the conclusion of his address, I briefly met with my co-presenters to finalize some logistics relating to our session, and I then found a quiet spot to prepare. Once my session began, I was reminded of a familiar truth when it comes to presenting: the build-up beforehand is typically the worst part. Our audience was receptive and eager to participate, and the session was over in the blink of an eye.

Over the next two days, I split my time between attending programming, exploring the exhibit hall, and touring San Antonio. Although I attended several excellent programs, my favorite was entitled “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: Celebrating Its 50th Anniversary.” In this session, Professor Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas School of Law recounted the events and process surrounding the passage of the Act, particularly focusing on the role of Lyndon Johnson. Professor Levinson was a compelling storyteller, and attending this session reminded me that, often times, the most informative and rewarding sessions are those covering unfamiliar topics.

Additionally, in both program sessions and informal settings, I was able to visit with numerous colleagues from throughout the country. I believe the friendliness and collaborative spirit of our profession is one of its most unique and rewarding aspects, and I returned from San Antonio having reacquainted with old friends and having gained new ones.

This was my first AALL Annual Meeting & Conference at which I was a presenter, and I found the experience to be significantly different from that of past years. Ultimately, being a presenter was largely rewarding, both in terms of the positive feedback we received about our session, as well as in its helping me to overcome my anxiety about presenting to professional colleagues. I am deeply grateful to the CALL Grants Committee for its financial assistance, as attending this conference provided me with ideas, memories, and enthusiasm for the year ahead.