All of us in the Chicago law library community are taking a collective deep breath before the games begin (you know what I’m talking about). In all the years I have been a librarian (over 20), this is the first time I have been in a “host city” for a library conference. I can tell you that a tremendous amount of work has gone into AALL Chicago—most of it behind the scenes. I honestly don’t know anyone in our large community here who is not involved in this event. From bag stuffing (that’s right—22 of us tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. sharp), to library tours, to dine-arounds, we’re all in.
Although I suspect that some of us locals are participating on the “suggestion” of a supervisor, or for professional “brownie points,” my overall impression is that the vast majority of us are involved because we truly love this city, and we want our AALL colleagues to love it too. I have lived here for about 20 years, and the transformation that the city has undergone during this very short time period has been truly remarkable. What was once a rather dingy and somewhat bland Midwestern city is now a stunning global metropolis. Whether it was the “Obama Effect,” Mayor Richard M. Daley’s vision, Oprah’s charisma (well, it’s possible), Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill, or some other force or factor, the result has been phenomenal.
Of course Chicago is not without its irritations–that huge Trump sign on the Trump Tower, for example, and those ridiculous red light cameras (yes, I’ve been caught). There are also, however, very serious problems. We have them all here—police brutality (protestors hit the streets most of this week), a crime rate that’s through the roof, and homelessness. We have the highest sales tax in the country, no state budget (don’t get me started on Illinois politics), and never-ending battles between the city and the CTU (Chicago Teachers Union). I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
We’ve got all kinds of people trying to fix these problems, but as a newbie to Chicago there are really only five names you need to know: Rahm Emanuel (aka Rahmbo) (Mayor); Mike Madigan (Speaker of the Illinois House); Bruce Rauner (Governor); Karen Lewis (CTU President); and Toni Preckwinkle (Cook County Board President). All of these people are part of the fabric of the city, and we’re just used to their antics and their dysfunctional relationships with each other.
Despite all of its problems and pesky politicians, however, Chicago is a wonderful place to live and work. And, as much effort as everyone here has put in to ensure AALL Chicago is a terrific conference, we also want it to be a terrific experience; that is, we want the city itself to shine through. Call it overzealousness if you will, but we Chicagoans are downright proud of our city, and we’re looking forward to showing it off.