The San Antonio conference was my second at AALL -- I also attended the Seattle event in 2013. Last year I was a wide-eyed newbie who thought I had to attend every possible program, fill my days, and justifying the expense of my trip.
I learned a few things for sure, rubbed shoulders with major vendors that I'd only conversed with over the phone and via email, sat through some interesting and some not so interesting programs, and managed to come back with a few ideas to apply to my position. As the librarian at a private firm which manages itself in practice groups, the biggest tip I learned in Seattle was to look for assistance in understanding the value of resources that we purchase. At my suggestion, we assigned an attorney in each group to fully consider the resource expenses assigned to each group, and have them review for redundancy and waste. The. Plan. Worked. Well.
We circulated lists (resources and prices), identified those that we supplemented because we "always had" -- resources that we realized no one used anymore, and most importantly (and not surprisingly) those that no one could justify based on the expense. No one had a clue about individual expenses until then, and this was quite an eye-opener for most. A fresh and thorough examination allowed us to eliminate more than expected, to get better resources into the hands of the attorneys, and still lower the overall budget by 30%. Its an exercise we plan to repeat every so often, and one that I highly recommend.
Needless to say, getting approval for the San Antonio conference was a cakewalk.
So in traveling to San Antonio, I was looking for that nugget of knowledge that could match last years. Turns out things ended up a bit differently than I expected. Besides the weather (MAJOR difference), this time I was more relaxed. I didn't feel the need to cram my schedule with programs that couldn't possibly benefit me or the firm. I saw familiar, welcoming faces. I was invited to attend private functions, dinners, lunches and focus groups. I spent even more time with vendors and the knowledge I gained wasn't found in a meeting room. It was found in coffee breaks, and impromptu conversations where the folks I met were as interested in my experiences with products and resources, and how I did my job, as I was in theirs.
This second time around, I wasn't the shy guy in Seattle. I transitioned beyond my personal boundaries, and I felt part of the larger whole, a union of professionals who are sometimes taken for granted, often undervalued, and it was our time to laugh about it, refresh, and pump one another up as only similarly-situated individuals can do.
I shared some good food and drink while sharing experiences, I put names to faces for those people I see on list serves, and I further solidified relationships with people I'd met before. I might even remember a name or two when our paths cross again, but don’t hold me to that – I will never be good with names. I met people that I think can be called "friends" and not mere acquaintances. And while I didn't come away with a nugget as golden as last years (at least in monetary measure), I valued these experiences just as highly. This time I focused on the conference as a whole, and not as a series of smaller, inter-woven programs, and the experience was just as satisfying, albeit, no less exhausting.
Now, what will Philadelphia and Chicago bring? I can't wait to find out. But please, let there be less humidity.
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