Last week I had the pleasure to present at the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting and Conference in Philadelphia with Christine, Tammie, and Bob. Ours was one of several presentations by staff from the Library of Congress. It was my first time to attend the conference, and it was a great way to learn more from my peers in the profession.
Bob provided an overview of the history of THOMAS.gov, Tammie discussed our user-centered design initiatives, Christine focused on her experience answering THOMAS questions at the reference desk, and I talked about the many enhancements that have occurred over the last two years. If you weren’t in attendance, you can still see our slides (and feel free to ask us questions in the comments section below).
I asked some of my co-workers who attended for their thoughts and lessons learned from the conference. I ended up getting some great responses.
My most interesting session was the breakfast for Law Library educators. I learned a great deal about how library and I-schools are redesigning curricula and basically moving away from offering [m]any subject-specialized courses. This made me think that we need to continue (or even increase) our commitment to provide a laboratory for students to undertake internships, research projects, capstones, and even shadowing experiences with us here to help compensate, if possible, for more generalized library and information science education. After all, we need to worry about our own workforce and our profession in the future!
I visited every exhibitor booth at the conference. I also attended many of the Foreign Comparative and International Law interest section meetings, which will result in more collaboration in the collection of foreign legal material at the major law libraries in the United States.
I attended an important and timely session on “Authentication: The Evolution Continues.” The focus of this program was on efforts to ensure that state government legal information is authentic.
Barbara A. Bintliff, University of Texas (Austin), discussed the recent efforts of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) and their efforts to craft a uniform law and expected actions in various states to enact the uniform act.
One of the highlights for me of this year’s Annual Meeting was the number of good programs featuring Library of Congress employees. On Monday, Jolande Goldberg gave the first annual AALL Distinguished Lectureship Address, in which she displayed examples in early religious law books – many from the rare book collections of the Library of Congress and the Law Library of Congress – of the use of iconographic images as mnemonic aids for teaching legal consanguinity relationships. On Tuesday, Dante Figueroa gave a talk on how United States courts use the forum non conveniens doctrine to dispense with mass tort litigation arising from events in Latin America, but thereafter typically decline to enforce the resulting judgments by foreign courts against U.S. corporations.
But the event at the Annual Meeting I found most inspiring was at the Joint Roundtable on Library Services to Pro Se Patrons and Prisoners. Fernando Bermudez, who spent over 18 years in New York State prisons for a murder he did not commit, described his experience conducting his own legal research using prison libraries and working with pro bono attorneys to literally prove his innocence. In November 2009 a New York Supreme Court justice ruled that Bermudez had proved his actual innocence of the murder for which he was convicted. The Roundtable also featured Marissa Boyers Bluestine of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, who described some straightforward reforms, such as improvements in how eyewitness testimony is used, that would reduce the frequency of wrongful convictions like that of Mr. Bermudez.
The best part of the conference for me is always getting together with colleagues, especially those I may only see once a year. I learn a lot from going to meetings and just talking to people with different perspectives on librarianship because they work in law firm, court, and academic libraries. It was sobering to talk with librarians who are out of work and using the placement services to look for a job. The most useful presentation I went to was one on RDA. From a personal point of view, my favorite was hearing Dahlia Lithwick speak at the opening general session on the Supreme Court and Free Speech.
In addition to enjoying face time discussions with law librarians during meetings on issues and trends affecting the law library profession, I attended interesting programs including the opening remarks by Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor at Slate on the Supreme Court and Free Speech; financial and other advantages of cloud computing in law libraries based on the experience at Wake Forest University; using QR codes in law libraries based on the University of Colorado Law School Library project; Distinguished Lectureship Address by Jolande Goldberg: De arte et de jurisprudentia: Some Aspects of Legal Iconography; Copyright implications of republishing government information; the role of law libraries in promoting the open government initiative; and the future of e-books in the legal profession. I also attended the Native Peoples Law Caucus annual meeting and enjoyed participating in a panel discussion with my Law Library colleagues on the THOMAS system.
2011 was my first ever AALL annual meeting, and I participated in CONELL (Conference of Newer Law Librarians). I met over 100 amazing people from all over the world, handed out business cards, mingled with members of the AALL Executive Board, and lost my voice–all before noon on Saturday. To say that CONELL was an intense experience is an understatement, but I would recommend it to anyone who has never conferenced before. I’m hoping to volunteer for the CONELL committee next year and replicate the experience for the next crop of newer law librarians. After CONELL, I explored the exhibit hall, watched bits and pieces of a couple of presentations (including Peeping THOMAS with Andrew Weber and Christine Sellers), and met up with a new mentor from Columbia University Law School Library. For me, this year’s meeting was all about getting connected. Now that I’m back home, it’s all about staying connected with my new friends and colleagues.