AALL Annual Meeting in the Windy City Doesn’t Disappoint: Overview of a Grant Recipient’s Adventures and Educational Experiences

I always look forward to the AALL Annual Meeting and informal gatherings each year because of the variety of activities, opportunities to connect with dear colleagues and friends from around the country/globe, and informative educational sessions. The meeting is also filled with business meetings of special interest sections, committees, and task forces, which provides an opportunity to serve our association in myriad ways. I was grateful for the CALL grant this year which facilitated my attendance and participation in the Annual Meeting programs and Special Interest Section meetings and allowed me to share ideas with other law librarians and law library directors.

I contributed to two programs at this year’s annual meeting and also volunteered at the hospitality booth and registration desk. This was a wonderful way to involve myself with the educational programming while also meeting new people as a local volunteer. The receptions, such as the ALL-SIS reception at Loyola, also didn’t disappoint. That reception was a great way to celebrate the successes of our very active AALL ALL-SIS members this year and recognize those who have done wonderful things for law librarian scholarship and service.

Although I generally learn a lot from the various program tracks at AALL, I especially enjoyed Improv(ing) Library Communication and Teamwork with Applied Improvisation. At the session, fellow CALL member and law library director, Patricia Scott, and I learned what it is like to be improv partners and step outside of our conference comfort zones. We had to rely on our gestures and reactive facial expressions to intuit understanding and follow the improv director’s lead. It was challenging to step outside of our normal activities as law librarians and socially acceptable professional nonverbal cues, execute gestures that aren’t within our normal bailiwick, and then react and pivot as we responded to each other’s gesturing. It was a master class in being flexible and creative, and it could also be described as perhaps teaching more mindfulness of the full range of human emotions, expressive capabilities, and further expressive cues that we can bring to meetings as colleagues. I came away from the improv session (which, let’s be honest, had its share of laughing and disbelief while responding to the improv director’s cues!) with one important lesson about the tone of responses. One of the breakout exercises was to have one person say “Yes, and…” versus responding to someone who says “No, but….” Inevitably, the person that is saying “Yes, and…” is viewed with a more positive and productive tone than someone who is always saying “No, but…” or “No, and…this is why that won’t work.” This was something that we could bring back to our home organizations and practice. Well, that and that improv retreats could likely do a lot of good as a playful and fun exercise of stretching of the mind in a creative way (which lawyers/law librarians often don’t do).

I also enjoyed the Negotiating with Confidence session by my Northern Illinois Univerity colleague, Professor Alan Boudreau, which I moderated for the conference. Professor Boudreau identified the importance of research and planning for successful negotiation outcomes. He also described the “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement” (BATNA) method. Before breaking out into groups to let participants chat about applying BATNA to law library negotiations, he also explained how important it is to understand the other side’s needs and interests and to brainstorm possible outcomes based on your organization’s interests versus the other side’s needs and interests. Through this, you can better anticipate the plausible outcome(s) of the negotiation and glean incentives for the other parties involved. Overall, it is vital to gather information, research, and plan effectively for negotiation meetings to achieve success and come to the negotiating table with all information gaps addressed and critical questions answered.

The Chicago conference was a memorable one. It was in a familiar and favorite home city of mine. It also provided a plethora of ways to connect with colleagues to learn new professional skills through informal and formal conversations facilitated and impeccably planned by the AALL Annual Meeting Programming and the Local Arrangements Committee with CALL members’ active participation.