This July, I was fortunate enough to attend the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The conference overall was incredible, and it featured panels on topics like how to perform a Return on Investment survey for your law library, how to form strike teams to accomplish tasks, and an in-depth look at how BIBFRAME implementation is developing. However, my number one piece of advice for library students thinking about attending the AALL Conference would be this: sign up for CONELL (which stands for the Conference of Newer Law Librarians).
Many CONELL participants arrive the Friday before the main conference and participate in “Dutch Treat” dinners where the checks are split by the restaurant. My group was small—just me, a librarian from Minnesota, and our two CONELL hosts, who are librarians from Columbia and Rutgers respectively that had been CONELL participants a few years ago. It was a really great chance to get tips about the conference and to start recognizing faces.
The next day was the full CONELL workshop, starting with a breakfast and some socializing. This was followed by presentations from AALL leadership about the different ways we could start getting involved in the organization, like publishing in Spectrum and Law Library Journal or participating in the mentorship program. The group was then split in half, and my half went to “Speed Network” with each other, which involved sitting across from each other and talking for a few minutes like you would in a speed-dating situation. This was a little exhausting, but it was a great way to start to get to know people, which was a huge benefit when we would run into each other later on in the weekend. Next my group visited the Marketplace where chapters and special interest groups had booths set up—similar to an Activity Fair at college. Everyone at the Market Place was really encouraging about getting newer librarians involved in groups, and they encouraged me to attend their meetings and lectures going on during the conference. Finally, many of us attended a walking tour of historical Philadelphia. It was a little warm for a walking tour, but it was a good bonding experience and we got to see landmarks like the Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross’s house.
Throughout the rest of the conference, there was usually at least one other person from CONELL at every event that I went to. Unlike larger conferences like the American Library Association conference, both AALL and law librarianship in general are much more close-knit, and breaking in to the group can be intimidating. It was incredibly reassuring to have a group of people to talk to that were in the same position as me, just starting their careers. If you’re starting out in law librarianship, I heartily recommend attending CONELL when you go to your first AALL annual meeting. It will help you find your footing and it will be an excellent experience overall.