Attending the AALL Annual Meeting and Conference can be a worthwhile – and fun! – experience for law librarians at any career stage. The two of us, as newer law librarians, found this year’s meeting to be especially rewarding. It made us feel good about our profession and the people who have chosen it.
We are both relative newcomers to this career–Sarah at the Illinois Supreme Court Library and Leslie at DuPage County Law Library. We met at a CALL Mentorship and Leadership Development Committee lunch last year.
Six months later, with the help of generous grants from CALL, we headed off to Washington, D.C. for our first AALL Annual Meeting. We both want to thank CALL for the grants and support which allowed us the opportunity to attend AALL.
As first-time conference attendees, we attended the Conference of Newer Law Librarians (CONELL), held a day prior to the official start of the Annual Meeting. CONELL included a full day of programs, networking, and a tour of our host city, Washington, D.C.
The day began with a Q&A session with AALL leaders, who reminded participants that law librarians are hired to make decisions and that we should not be afraid of taking some risks in our career. After a show of hands in the room demonstrated that a majority of participants did not have J.D.’s, several members of the panel also spoke of their careers in government and corporate libraries and the paths available to those without dual degrees.
Going into the day, we were apprehensive about speed networking, but it ended up being one of the most fun and engaging parts of the program. The CONELL Committee assembled a series of conversation starters that allowed us to talk to other librarians from all over the country about cool tools, travel destinations, and our paths into law librarianship. Making so many connections in a short amount of time, as well as having familiar faces around for the rest of the conference, made this day well worth it.
We’ve both spent time in our nation’s capital, but we still had a great time exploring the sights and trying new restaurants.
The CONELL tour took us to the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. Unfortunately, Secret Service turned us away when we tried to approach the White House on foot, but we were still able to catch a glimpse from the bus.
Later in the week, we visited the Library of Congress and were delighted to be addressed by both the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, and the Law Librarian of Congress, Jane Sánchez. We explored the Library’s exhibits on the Women’s Suffrage Movement, examined the shelves of Jefferson’s library, and took in the building’s stunning architecture and city views.
Sarah: AALL Lobby Day
My favorite part of AALL was Lobby Day (pdf), where I joined advocates from 26 other states for Advocacy training before heading, along with three Illinois colleagues, to meetings on Capitol Hill. The four of us met with staff for Senators Durbin and Duckworth and Representative Davis.
I had the pleasure of serving as coordinator for the Illinois advocates, which meant contacting and scheduling meetings with the Congress members’ offices. Speaking with Congressional staffers via phone and email eased some of my nerves heading into the meetings and allowed me to do plenty of research ahead of time.
I had a wonderful time accompanying three of my more experienced CALL advocates as we spoke to our representatives about free PACER, Library of Congress funding, and net neutrality.
Web Archives Session
My favorite educational program session at AALL was “I Know It Used to Be There: Using Web Archives in Legal Research.” I use the Wayback Machine frequently, but I was unaware of many of its more advanced capabilities.
I was also pleased to learn about Perma.cc, which the Illinois Courts began using in August 2018. This tool allows scholars and courts to archive web-based resources cited in their work, preserving those citations against future link rot.
A2J Resource Partnerships
Leslie: I genuinely enjoyed all of the sessions I had the opportunity to attend, but if I had to choose one which was most relevant to what I do day-to-day working in a courthouse law library it would be “Surfing the Horizons: Law Libraries, Pro Bono, and Community Resource Partners for Access to Justice.” It is crucial for self-represented litigants to have access to the right resources and information, but they have to know that we are there to help them in the first place.
There are many avenues for collaboration between courts, bar associations, public libraries, legal service providers, social services and legal aid. A great benefit of courthouse law libraries and the free legal advice clinics that often accompany them is that people are better prepared for court if there is a place where they can get their questions answered and the court process explained to them ahead of time.
Connecting with the CALL MLDC
While the two of us are at different points in our lives, we are at the same general point in our careers, which brought us together for the first time at a gathering sponsored by the Mentorship and Leadership Development Committee (MLDC).
At that event, we heard for the first time about the possibility of applying for a CALL grant. That’s when we both decided that we wanted to be a part of the AALL Annual Meeting and Conference in Washington, D.C. The Mentorship and Leadership Development Committee has been a valuable connection and resource for both of us, in Chicago as well as at the conference.
AALL can be overwhelming – so much to see and do, so little time – and it was helpful to have members of MLDC who were willing to spend time with us, meeting up with us from the start at the Opening Reception in the Exhibit Hall. They advised us on how to plan our time and what sessions to attend, and they introduced us to their AALL contacts, with whom we probably would not have connected otherwise.
Sarah’s Favorite Advice
The best advice I received was to go to a least one session where you don’t “belong,” about a topic that has no direct connection to your current position. So many sessions and events are available at the Annual Meeting, and it can be hard to choose.
Attending an educational program that is completely “out of the box” for you is a way to reset, to meet people that you likely aren’t meeting at other sessions, and to learn something completely new.
Leslie’s Favorite Advice
You definitely will not be able to see everything and meet everyone, so take some time to smell the roses along the way. Rest a little, eat a lot, take advantage of whatever the host city has to offer, and learn a little history about where you are. There are host city programs offered at each AALL Annual Meeting and Conference, sponsored by the Legal History and Rare Books Special Interest Section.
Thank You to CALL
Thank you to the MLDC for your mentorship and advice and to the Grants and Chapter Awards Committee for the funding. We are grateful for having had the opportunity to travel, learn, and connect with other law librarians at AALL 2019.