Forget the Alamo: Four Busy Days in San Antonio

By Joanne Kiley

Thank you, Chicago Association of Law Libraries and Grants Committee, for the opportunity to attend a AALL conference. Here is where I disclose something shameful. I had not attended a AALL conference since 2002 (and had only attended one other major association conference from 2002 to 2014). I know, terrible. Much has changed at AALL, and it is very good. I learned so much and met many new people. All of this will benefit my work at the office, for CALL, and for the AALL Leadership Development Committee.

My first day was spent in the Leadership Training Session led by Paul Meyer, of Tecker International, discussing the importance of associations and how to sustain them. We discussed the need for our association to do something of true benefit for its members and the need for involved and invested members.

Mr. Meyer shared two interesting facts on engagement. First, many volunteers are showing more interest in project-based involvement rather than position-based involvement. For the CALL committee chairs, if someone is not sure they want to join a committee, try asking him or her to help with a finite project.

Second, members of an association tend to fall into one of four categories: Leaders (2-5%), Doers (10-15%), “Do-Somethingers” (15-20%) and Belongers (60-80%). This is one of those glass half-empty or glass half-full scenarios. With over 300 members, CALL has up to 120 members likely to volunteer in some capacity. Impressive! CALL members: even if the committees have their roster of members for the 2014-2015 year, ask around. I am sure someone could use your help, perhaps on a project.

The meat of the program and receptions occurred Sunday through Tuesday. On Sunday, I attended “Life Cycle of the Employment Relationship” and “Librarians and Law Firm Pricing,” moderated by our own Julie Pabarja. Wisely, I believe, the employment cycle session spent more time discussing nurturing and leading employees and oneself to make smart choices in the workplace before sharing best practices for the termination procedure.

The program on pricing was invigorating and encouraging. Billing in today’s legal market is a bit of a game. Clients question line items on the bill and law firms re-write bills to better reflect the work done. In part because of this “game,” alternative fee arrangements are moving into the mainstream. AFAs can only be financially successful with the right information. Repeatedly, the presenters shared how librarians are perfect for analyzing bills to develop financially viable AFAs and for working on the bulk of RFPs. We were encouraged to get to know our CFO and billing teams.

Monday and Tuesday were a whirlwind of sessions, including my practice and preparation to moderate a session on Tuesday morning. Monday morning had several “recharge” sessions. I attended one on integrated visibility. Thom Singer, the presenter, spoke about networking and creating one’s own brand. To be more specific, he reminded us that our brand is being created whether we like it or not. We should work to make sure we are presenting our best selves for the best possible brand. I also found it especially compelling that he described networking as an important task within one’s organization, not just for job hunting. I plan to implement this as much as possible in my firm.

I also attended a Competitive Intelligence session giving me some new tools and templates, a copyright session reminding me that the Supreme Court is hearing more copyright cases, and a great session on the “digital age”. This session stressed the importance of flexibility and always thinking of how our users will approach technology and resources.

On Tuesday I moderated a session called “Learning to Lead Yourself and Others Through the Unexpected.” This was a terrific opportunity for me, as I had never moderated before and had never presented to such a large crowd. My speakers were knowledgeable and well-spoken, so they made my job easy as they spoke on resilience and managing stress.

I could not write an article on what I learned at a conference if I did not also include the opportunities I had to speak with librarians and vendors throughout the country. I made plans to collaborate with the chair of the AALL Grants committee, I learned about stressors affecting many academic and government law libraries lately, and I met with vendors and saw new product launches that could help me help my firm.

When I landed in Chicago late Tuesday night, I was glad to be home, but the conference was a great and enriching experience for me. Because I attended and learned from this conference, I will work harder and do better—as law librarians are apt to do.