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Lessons Learned from the AALL Annual Conference in Philly

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This post is coauthored by Jeanine Cali and Andrew Weber.

It seems like only yesterday we were running around Philadelphia for the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries. The week before the conference, Kelly wrote a post previewing the programs in which our staff would make presentations on subjects from content management, to the marketing of events, management of library internship programs, and the future of information policy.

Philadelphia Skyline,  (Photo by Flickr user B. Reynolds, taken during the 2015 AALL Annual Conference July 2015). Used under Creative Commons license,
Philadelphia Skyline. Photo by Flickr user B. Reynolds, taken during the 2015 AALL Annual Conference July 2015. Used under Creative Commons license,

On Tuesday morning, we presented “The Multi-Channel Event Marketing Cycle.” During the program, we promised to put our slides up and here they are.  Jeanine reviewed the history of our programs and events, described how we refined our marketing techniques over the last five years, and showed our event marketing cycle.

Andrew illustrated the marketing cycle using the Magna Carta symposium from December last year. The cycle started with the press release; which led to the Facebook event; the In Custodia Legis blog post announcement; a Facebook post about the symposium with a link to the blog post; a tweet from @LawLibCongress (including the event hashtag, #1215MCLC); an RSS/email alert; and reminders leading up to the event. Next, Andrew showed how the event was live tweeted, recapped on this blog, and posted as a video on YouTube.

We were also joined by Cassie Rae DuBay from SMU Underwood Law Library. She provided a private academic law library perspective on marketing programs to faculty and students.

It is a tradition to survey staff who attended the conference and share our takeaways from various programs and events. Here are this year’s insights:


The annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries provides a wonderful opportunity to learn about current trends in the profession, re-connect with colleagues from around the world, and nurture new relationships. I attended several enlightening educational programs.

I found particularly interesting a program on “Net Neutrality and Law Librarians: It’s a Good Thing.” Christopher Dykes, O’Quinn Law Library, University of Houston Law Center, explained that network neutrality or “net neutrality” essentially means that no particular kind of content should receive priority over other types of content. He then provided a historical overview of related legislative and regulatory actions. Leslie Street, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, explained why law librarians should be concerned with the issue. She noted that librarians already have a tough time trying to both determine and promote authoritative sources on the web and their job becomes even more difficult in an environment of pay prioritization. “Libraries require an open internet,” she said. Finally, Daniel Donahue, also from O’Quinn Law Library, University of Houston Law Center, suggested several subscription and free alert services available to those interested in tracking the status of legislative, regulatory, and court activities related to net neutrality. I was happy to note that one of the free alert services he mentioned was

Jennifer González:

This year at AALL I was delighted to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the University of Washington Law Librarianship Program. We honored Mary Hotchkiss for 20+ years of service to the program and Penny Hazelton for 30+ years as director of the program and as one of this year’s recipients of the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award.

My lessons learned include two programs that expanded my knowledge of what law librarianship is and does. I attended “Researching the European Union” with Ian Thomson from Cardiff University’s European Documentation Centre. It was an all-day event to understand the increasing amount of information from the European Union and where to locate that information online. I also attended a program on “databrarians,” which talked about how law librarians are increasingly being asked to focus their research on data, statistics, and empirical legal research services. I think it’s time to brush up on my mathematics skills!

Andrew Winston:

The AALL annual meeting is a wonderful way to learn of new developments in law librarianship, exchange ideas about issues affecting law libraries, and connect with colleagues from across the country and around the world. My favorite session was one on empirical legal research entitled “So You’re a ‘Databrarian’ Now: Learning the Tools of the Trade.” The presenters, Sarah Ryan of the Yale Law School Library, Michelle Hudson of the Yale University Library, and Jon Ashley of the University of Virginia Law Library, described how to conduct effective data reference interviews, a roadmap of resources for data research, and empirical research project management. I also enjoyed a panel discussion entitled “Confronting the Future of Information Policy,” with the Superintendent of Documents at the Government Publishing Office Mary Alice Baish; Acting Director of the Office of Federal Register at the National Archives and Records Administration Amy Bunk; and our own Deputy Librarian of Congress David S. Mao. The panel discussed issues regarding collection of digital content and their agencies’ digital content strategies. Another highlight was visiting a number of exhibits by publishers and vendors at the conference, which is a great way to learn about new legal research publications, products, and technologies.


On Saturday I attended an all-day pre-conference workshop on “Researching the European Union,” presented by Ian Thomson, the director of the European Documentation Centre at the University of Cardiff. He provided a remarkably comprehensive presentation that covered the historical development of the EU, a description of the EU’s policymaking institutions, the EU’s legislative procedures, and a thorough demonstration of sources and techniques for researching and monitoring EU law and policy. He did a terrific job making the EU’s rather complicated institutional structure and processes understandable. Portions of the information presented in the program can be found on the European Sources Online website (of which Thomson is Executive Editor) in an Information Guide entitled “Europe on the Internet” (updated July 2015).


This year I really enjoyed two relatively new additions to the Annual Meeting: Poster Sessions in the Exhibit Hall and Coffee Talks.

The Coffee Talks are informal discussions, on select topics, with a host leading the discussion. They offered fifteen topics including, for example, mastering the Skype interview, law firm and academic law librarians discussing how to best prepare new associates, and platforms for communicating about vendor relations. I joined the table discussing leadership development and learned about many resources within AALL, including the Leadership Academy and the Mentoring Committee.

The Poster Sessions included 27 posters within six broad categories such as, Collection Development and Cataloging, Information Technology, and Reference, Research, and Client Services. You could browse the posters any time the Exhibit Hall was open and the presenters were available to respond to questions at a designated time. These posters were based on very practical experiences or issues that arose in a library. I wasn’t able to see all of the posters, but some highlights for me included a comparison of Lexis Advance and WestlawNext on accuracy and speed of search results, an analysis of the question of whether or not to continue participating in the Federal Depository Library Program, how to use crowdsourcing to select a new library logo, and how to improve search engine optimization of legal scholarship in open source repositories.


I attended a fascinating presentation about Watson, the IBM computer system that appeared on Jeopardy. This presentation focused on moving cognitive computing beyond trivia and into other fields such as medicine and the law. Currently, IBM’s Watson team is already working with doctors in hospitals throughout the country and they are working on trying to break into the legal profession. Audience participants expressed concern about confidential and proprietary information; however, Watson is not a single unit. Rather, each hospital, law firm, etc. has their own Watson computer system that starts with a blank slate and the doctors, nurses, and lawyers work with the system, and technicians, to feed it the information they deem important. As stated in the presentation, this has amazing potential because, with doctors and the lawyers already working 60 hours a week, it’s hard to find time to read all of the new articles in the field about new drugs, new diseases, and new case law. Well, they could simply give the Watson system all of the files and it would instantly search them for relevant data while the doctor or lawyer is doing more research.


I attended the conference on the Sunday only, but even in that short time came away with some new ideas! One of the sessions I attended was on using infographics for legal information. Here at the Law Library we’ve recently started using maps in some of our multinational reports to show countries that have certain or similar legal approaches to an issue. Sayuri’s report on the legal responses to the 2011 Japan earthquake also included some visual displays of information. Of course, there are many different ways that information can be displayed visually, and there are various tools available to help with this. The presenters at the session gave some great tips about creating infographics for legal information, showed lots of examples, and provided links to online tools.  Definitely plenty to think about!

Also in the technology-related area, I attended a fun, informative session on free technologies for law libraries. The presenters may have inspired me to add different features into the various presentations that I give here at the Law Library on our foreign law research products, services, and expertise. Future visitors from law schools might even get a pop quiz or game on their smartphones, so be ready!


This was my first year volunteering for the CONELL (Conference for Newer Law Librarians) Marketplace. I staffed the Government Law Libraries Special Interest Section table with two federal colleagues, sharing a table with the Federal Law Librarian Caucus. Meeting new law librarians and first time attendees excited about the profession is always enriching and invaluable. The Cool Tools Café  session I found to be quite amazing, with academic, private, and federal librarians showcasing the latest technology on presentation software, tablets, encryption, project management, and more.  Equally invaluable (as always) is connecting with colleagues at both the Government Law Libraries (formerly State Court County) and Government Documents Special Interest Sections at the early-morning (7:30am and 7am!) business meetings.


My activities at the AALL included a presentation as a guest speaker at the FCIL-SIS meeting. This year, the section tried a new model to conduct its meeting, and in addition to discussing ongoing business, regional interest groups organized substantive presentations by guest speakers. At the invitation of the European Law Interest Group,  I briefed the audience on recent legal developments in Ukraine. I focused on ongoing legal reform in Ukraine and reviewed recently proposed constitutional amendments. During the questions and answers, which followed my presentation, I was asked to explain which laws apply in occupied Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Additionally, I described English-language resources on Ukraine available online.

On Tuesday, July 21, together with other academic and government librarians, I spoke on the panel entitled Law Library Interns: How to Make Them Work for You. Participants discussed how to make internships mutually beneficial for interns and host institutions and avoid miscommunication. Reviewing the Law Library’s experience in partnering with universities and other organizations, I provided examples of how to make internships and  preparations for them less time consuming for an organization. I described specific projects initiated by the Law Library, which allow us to extract interns’ knowledge and use it to increase the efficiency of Law Library’s staff.

In regard to the learning experience at the conference, it was useful to attend panels where law librarians discussed how they digest data and statistical information in preparation of varied reference and research products, and what tools they use to make law reports more visually attractive.

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