As I unpacked my bags from the whirlwind that was AALL 2022 at the Colorado Convention Center (home of the "big blue bear" statue) in Denver, I unearthed the pristine conference booklet I received upon registration. I cracked open the pages, and images flashed through my mind as I recognized names, presentations, and roundtable talks. I reflected on what I learned and all I gained during this conference, my first AALL, and I imagined the significance it held for experienced attendees.
It has been 3 years since the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) held its last in-person conference, which was in Washington, D.C. The 2020 New Orleans conference and the 2021 Cleveland conference were replaced with online events. This year, during AALL, held July 16–19, the organization seemed ready to accept the challenge and responsibility of trying to make the event as safe as possible. All participants were required to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or show a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to attending the conference. Although masks were not required, from my observations, approximately 30%–50% of attendees wore them at any given time, and I was asked for my vaccination card at the registration desk.
The conference was technologically in touch and accessible on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, with up-to-date event announcements and real-time postings. AALL supported an app that could be downloaded to your device in which the entire conference schedule was maintained—with to-the-minute updates, additions, changes, maps, information about Denver, and discussion groups. I received push notifications from the app throughout the conference for event reminders, the drawing of winner names, and announcements.
There were several preconference workshops available on July 16, including Teaching Law Tech Teachers, Legal Fundamentals When You Don’t Have a JD, and CONELL (Conference of Newer Law Librarians). I attended Teaching Law Tech Teachers, during which we learned from other librarians how and what they included and taught in their Law Practice Technology classes. The attendees for this workshop generally fell into three categories: librarians who had never taught this class but were interested in it, librarians who were working on a proposal for this class to present to their institutions, and librarians who had been tasked to teach the class and were trying to build their own course. I walked away feeling like I hit the jackpot, with a list of helpful professional contacts; multiple immediately usable forms, resources, and syllabi; and ideas of what, how, and why to include certain topics in the course.
The Colorado Convention Center ballroom was bursting at the seams as the keynote speaker, Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, gave a talk during the opening general session on July 17. She delivered an inspiring message on the vital role law libraries play in advancing access to justice and the importance of collaborations in promoting a strong judicial system. A Q&A segment followed her keynote address in which she discussed the importance of bringing diverse groups of people into conversations to help make more equitable decisions, which strengthens the justice system and leads to greater justice for us all.
Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye giving the keynote at the opening general session
The presentations were organized in time blocks that lasted from 45 minutes up to 1 1/2 hours throughout the day. They were held at the Colorado Convention Center and the hotel designated for the AALL conference, the Hyatt Regency, which is across the street from the convention center. The offerings were diverse in topic and audience focus, and I had multiple choices of sessions for any given time block. Admittedly, sometimes it was difficult to choose, so I split my time block. The sessions included the following:
- Deciphering Statutory Codes: When Is the Law Not the Law, and Other Statutory Riddles
- Bringing the Law Library to the Community: Access to Justice With Remote Services
- Cryptocurrencies, Blockchain, and the Law
- Black Land Matters: Advancing Justice by Mitigating Generational Land Loss
- Designing Data Projects Using Court Records
- Aggravation or Aggregation: Managing News Information Overload
- You, Too, Can YouTube: Making the Case for Law Library Channels
- The Law Library’s Role in Data Integration, APIs, and Attorney Workflow Initiatives
- How Design and Plain-Language Writing Can Increase Accessibility to Legal Information
Between any of these sessions, you could visit the exhibit hall located in the convention center, where vendors, poster presenters, and attendees could network. There were mountains of swag to be had, and there were some fun games and activities provided by vendors that yielded high-end prizes to carry home. Live demonstrations of new features of informational and legal tech were around every corner of the exhibit hall, and refreshments always seemed to be available. What I found most helpful was to be able to put a face to the names I see regularly in email and to talk face-to-face about our services and agreements.
LIBRARY TOURS AND EVENTS
There were opportunities to tour several libraries: the University of Denver’s Westminster Law Library, the Colorado Supreme Court Library and the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, and the University of Colorado–Boulder’s William A. Wise Law Library. Vendors and AALL groups graciously hosted multiple events that kept me busy, including breakfasts, socials, dinners, and luncheons. Bloomberg provided transportation to an event it sponsored at the History Colorado Center, which included a tasting menu in the lobby, a stained-glass-making station, a panning-for-gold station, and a dazzling string quartet that inspired some spirited dancing with its modern adaptations. Thompson Reuters hosted an event at a popular restaurant called the Denver Milk Market, where multiple drink and food stations circled a beautifully decorated event space.
Left to right: Christina Jurusik, Susan Winters, Jacob Waldo, Justin Huckaby, Marci Wicker (all from the University of Mississippi), and Stephen Parks (from the State Law Library of Mississippi) at Bloomberg’s History Colorado Center event
The general consensus from both new and experienced attendees I spoke with during the conference was that they were glad to gather. More than once I heard someone say, “I feel like you are my people” before beginning their presentation. I felt and experienced energy and innovation throughout the event, and I will be bringing some ideas, questions, and gratitude back to my organization. We traverse our workday with information, analysis, and service, and it was truly nice to meet and be with “my people.”
Photos by Marci Wicker