I had been forewarned by my colleagues that the Conference of Newer Law Librarians (CONELL) was where I would make new friends with my librarian peers that would last throughout the rest of our library careers (“Just bring lots of business cards–you’ll be fine”). How right they were! It was fascinating. Speaking as a newer law librarian (in the profession less than one year), and as a newer law librarian in academia, it is rare to see other new law librarians. Just being able to network with other newly minted peers was an amazing experience in and of itself.
After a light breakfast, the newest librarianship recruits were rounded up, and ushered into Key Ballrooms 9-10. Greg Lambert’s opening speech–motivational, yet directional– served as a call to those seated at the podium before him to bring new ideas and inspiration to the profession. He advised us to use the services and guidance offered by AALL to blossom in our careers.
Following Lambert’s speech was a Q&A with the AALL Executive Board. The Q&A featured questions on avoiding burnout, successful networking for the fake extrovert or low-key introvert (like me!), mentor/mentee relationships, finding leadership roles in the profession, and overall general tips on turning our new careers into lifelong professions. Knowing that almost every speaker experienced what we were going through today acted as a soothing balm to the rash of anxieties faced by newer law librarians at the beginning of their careers.
After the Q&A, there were several speakers who discussed getting more involved with the AALL Community. This included information on how to become more involved with AALL online, submitting proposals for the Annual Meeting, as well as submitting proposals to the Law Library Journal and AALL Spectrum. This was beneficial not only because we were given information about publication opportunities, but Tom Gaylord and Kris Niedringhaus, the respective speakers for the Law Library Journal and AALL Spectrum, were able to provide a clear distinction between the goals of each publication and details on what each publication was looking for when reviewing submitted proposals. This was a helpful tidbit for those considering submitting proposals to either wide-reaching publication.
We were also given details about the AALL Leadership Academy. The Academy is a weekend-long, intensive program designed to cultivate leadership skills and techniques in newer law librarians. Although the Academy was just hosted this year, the next will be available in 2020. This information is good to know for those planning to seek leadership opportunities and those considering submitting an application to the Academy.
Finally, we discussed available mentorship opportunities. I have already been gifted with great mentors through various channels, but for those who had yet to find guidance during their professional journey, there will be several opportunities available via AALL’s updated mentoring program. The program aims to match mentors with mentees through shared interests listed by each applicant when applying for the Mentorship Program.
After discussing all that AALL had to offer, we were separated by last name into two groups to attend the CONELL Marketplace and participate in CONELL’s Speed Networking.
Speed Dating Networking, as its namesake implies, was where groups of two participants sat face-to-face in two rows, creating an awkward assembly line of getting-to-know-you’s. We were given two minutes to answer one of eight questions appearing on cards that were sat on the chairs of the inner most rows. After the two minutes, the whistle would blew, and the outer rows would shimmy over one seat to begin introductions all over again.
Unfortunately, the room we were in absorbed just as much sound as it did cool air, and we very quickly found ourselves shouting to perspiration how we came to be in the law library profession and where we would live if we could live anywhere in the world and why. Business cards flew like blackjack at the casino; but, I must admit, here is where I would meet new–and now familiar–friends with whom I would spend my entire conference weekend.
After leaving the Key Ballroom sized oven, we were directed over to the CONELL Marketplace, where we mingled with members of regional AALL chapters and AALL Committees. Although we received a lot of information in the Marketplace, the setting was easily navigable, all the volunteers were informational and engaging, and it was easy to gain more insight into the AALL chapters and committees we would consider joining. Depending on one’s professional goals or current position, there was a committee dedicated to gathering similarly situated professionals to promote the exchange of ideas and enable newer librarians to be successful in their librarianship positions.
After a quick lunch and break, we headed to the front of the Hilton for the annual CONELL Tour. The tour was amazing! We saw all that Baltimore had to offer. We started by passing the USCGC Taney, the last warship floating after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and continued through little Italy and little Poland, all while our vibrant tour guide pointed out the brickwork of new and historic houses and churches, like the Baltimore Basilica–the oldest Catholic Cathedral in the country! Also, she was sure to point out the history of the Baltimore Screen Paintings (“a Baltimore tradition!”). We journeyed down and around the Inner Harbor, where we gazed at the Under Armor Corporate headquarters from both sides of the lively docks, and up and around The Walters Art Museum–where a handy billboard gleefully informed us that the Museum currently housed a Faberge Egg! We passed both the Battle Monument and the Washington Monument, and we even made a brief stop at Fort McHenry, arriving just in time to catch the engaging Star-Spangled Banner mini-documentary and light show.
The Tour concluded back at the Baltimore Convention Center Hilton. Thus, we ended our CONELL 2018 adventure. Our novice introduction to the Conference via AALL’s CONELL was complete, and it was on to the big leagues–one floor down, at the AALL Opening Reception.
Overall, I felt my CONELL experience to be a successful and exhilarating start to my first AALL Conference. I thank all those who put in the work to make our 2018 Baltimore CONELL experience a great one. I can guarantee–just as my colleagues and mentors before me–that I’ll be sharing these stories with the friends I made for years to come.