Beginning My Journey to the Summit

by Heather Hamilton

In May of 2009, I graduated from law school with the goal of becoming a law librarian. I had received my library science degree in 2006 and three years of law school had convinced me that I belonged in a law library.

In September of 2009, I began my first job as a law librarian. One thing I had heard from the start was that the Annual Meeting of AALL was an essential activity for all law librarians, and certainly for new librarians. It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to July 2010, when I would head to Denver and finally find out for myself what the Annual Meeting was all about. My trip was made possible by my employer, the University of Richmond, and by a grant from VALL, both of whom I am indebted to, because the Annual Meeting was everything I had hoped it would be, and then some!

One thing I had heard from others, but wasn’t fully prepared for was just how exhausting and overwhelming those 4 days of programs could be. I attended CONELL on Saturday and that alone made me realize the importance of pacing myself. CONELL was an exciting whirlwind of meeting others, be they newbies to the profession, like myself, or seasoned veterans who offered sage advice on how to get the most out of my time at the Annual Meeting. Between making as many contacts as I could, and being whisked around Denver on an amazing tour of the city and its surroundings, I was exhausted Saturday evening. Exhausted-and exhilarated-at the prospect of meeting even more people and learning about what had brought such varied people into this unique profession.

The bulk of the conference, for me, was spent in programs, meetings, and volunteering to man the SEAALL table in the exhibit hall, though I did make time on Tuesday to go white water rafting, wherein I almost died (not really) and broke my middle finger on my right hand (really). The moral of that “program” was that I’m better off sticking to the programs offered by AALL and not creating my own excitement at the conference.

Of all the programs I attended, the one that stuck out most in my mind was, “Starting Off on the Right Track: Avoiding Mistakes Common to New (And Not-So-New) Instructors.” One reason this program resonated with me is that I was preparing to teach a class for the first time once school began in the fall. The information I gained from the speakers shaped the planning and preparations I put into my class, including giving me a great activity to use with my students in the first session. As I looked around the room at others attending the program, I was comforted to see a mix of new librarians and librarians who had been teaching for years. It brought home that AALL is an organization that never stops being useful to a law librarian. As I progress through my career, I will need to meet others outside my own library and to learn from the experiences of law librarians across the country.

To me, that was the greatest lesson I took away from the Annual Meeting and I can’t wait for next summer and the chance to further broaden my horizons professionally!

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The Virginia Association of Law Libraries (VALL) supports and serves its members’ professional pursuits by fostering a spirit of leadership and cooperation, providing educational and leadership opportunities, and promoting and enhancing the value of law libraries.

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