A Great Conference in Beantown

by Evelyn M. Campbell

When you come away from a meeting exhausted but at the same time energized by the programs you attended, inspired by the speakers and ideas you heard, and bolstered by the colleagues you encountered, it is safe to say that you've had a very productive meeting!

Attending AALL's 105th Annual Meeting and Conference was a shot in the arm for me and I have come home brimming with ideas. I owe a big "thank you" to the VALL Grant Committee for the travel grant to attend the conference. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and I want to write about every single program I attended but I shall refrain from making everyone cross-eyed, and shall highlight the programs I found particularly useful.

Since WestlawNext has been on my institution's radar for about a year or so, I wanted to make sure that I attended the session The New Generation of Legal Research Databases: 2012 Boston Sequel and I am glad I did. The room was packed with people lining the walls and sitting on the floor. I believe this program was supposed to be a follow-up or sequel to the WestlawNext program that took place in Philadelphia last year.

I thought Victoria J. Szymczak, Jean J. Davis, Emily Marcum, Susan Nevelow Mart and Jean P. O'Grady, did a valiant attempt to address this, but it is difficult to hold a meaningful discussion about databases that are still evolving and incomplete. What I took away from this was -- hang on to your Westlaw.com or classic Westlaw because WestlawNext is not it for now. The panelists had lots of questions about when particular content would be migrated.

What was of particular value to me were the responses from the Westlaw, Lexis and Bloomberg reps who were at this program. My institution is a Westlaw user and some of our librarians had been getting conflicting stories about whether our Westlaw.com would go away, so it was good to hear the West rep say that there was not a "sunset" period for Westlaw classic. His comment about clients migrating quickly drew a swift response from the panel who wanted to know "Who ARE these people we keep hearing about?" We were not enlightened that day.

There was no pinning any one of the reps down as to what content would be migrated when ... it was the equivalent of wrestling with a slippery eel. I'm keeping my Westlaw.com and will diligently work with WestlawNext, and dread the thought of having to tell the Legal Studies faculty that they will have to teach both ... perhaps next year.

Another program that I attended which was of particular interest was Embedding Librarians to Add Value to Your Institution. This is something that South University has already been doing for a number of years and I wanted to see how other people were doing their programs. I discovered that this is something that is still in its infancy in many libraries but it is really another way to build relationships and alliances between the library and its patrons/clients/organizations. Marguerita T. Young-Jones from Reed Smith shared her experiences about being embedded in her firm's intellectual property group. I learnt a few things I hadn't quite realized before but I came away knowing that my library had long been on the right track, and I also came away with an idea for a program for next year's annual meeting in Seattle. Now to wait till October to see what the "theme" is for the 106th Annual Meeting.

In Hot Topics in Copyright For Librarians I learned a little more about that pesky little thing -- orphan works. It is still not a perfect science as to what you need to do to find that elusive owner or copyright holder of an orphan work but you have to make and document your good faith attempts -- do diligent web searches and physical searches before you use any of the works in question.

I learned something from every program I attended and also from observing the vendors in the exhibition hall. The guys from Research Solutions are still the most engaged bunch -- they are friendly, they make eye contact and they talk to you whether you are interested in their product or not. The other vendors could learn a thing or two from these guys.

But my absolute "favorite" was the guy who was manning the AALL booth on Tuesday morning before lunch and I had to go to get a replacement registration card because my entire card had fallen out of the cheap plastic holder. He never once looked at me or greeted me when I came up to him, he slammed things around the table and then glanced at the empty plastic holder I held out and snarled at me "How did you lose that?" The retort I wanted to make was "That's the stupidest question I've heard in a long time. If I knew that I wouldn't be here dealing with your friendly self and if you took some of that very pricey registration fee that we pay and got us some decent name holders this wouldn't happen" but instead I just told him I didn't know and that I had retraced my steps and couldn't find my card. Note to self -- bring tape next year to tape shut all the edges of the plastic name holder or bring one's own.

He was just a little irritant on the last day of a great conference with lots of educational programs, catching up and networking with friends and colleagues in a great city.

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