AALL 2016: A Noob’s Perspective

by Alex Jakubow

Attending the recent AALL meeting in Chicago symbolized my formal transition into academic law librarianship.  I never attended law school.  I never received any formal training in library science.  Instead, I spent most of my twenties earning a Ph.D. in political science.  The data science skills I acquired during the course of my studies and in my first few jobs after graduation prepared me for my current role as an empirical research librarian, but this path to law librarianship missed many of the important foundational milestones commonly crossed by most other individuals in our profession.
Attending AALL helped me fill in several of those gaps.  The pre-AALL Conference for Newer Law Librarians (CONELL) provided a fun and inviting environment for learning about our profession and forging connections with other librarians who are new to the field.  Each session I attended, each vendor with whom I spoke, and each introduction I made helped me conceptualize our profession with greater clarity and vividness than anything I have read about law librarianship.
Substantively, the AALL programming provided very accessible, yet informative, introductions to many of the current issues, ideas, strategies, and tools circulating in the field.  As a data scientist, I gravitated towards sessions that focused on the role of big data in law librarianship, metrics for benchmarking the performance and practices at different academic law libraries, and new database solutions for documenting and showcasing faculty scholarship.  Additionally, I found Will Evans’ keynote on ‘Lean Startups’ particularly inspiring and insightful.  I returned from Chicago with a handful of new ideas about how to provide more efficient data service to library patrons without sacrificing added value.
All of this rumination and reflection about the field occurred within a friendly and supportive environment.  I engaged with brilliant, devoted, and fun minds who not only shared their insights and experiences about law librarianship with me, but took equal interest in my own experiences as a social scientist.  I attended the business meeting of AALL’s Empirical Research Caucus, and I look forward to continuing transdisciplinary conversations about the role of data science in law librarianship with other interested individuals.  The Caucus is strongly considering proposing a program on empirical legal research for AALL 2017, and I am excited to be part of the planning process.  My involvement with the Caucus is a pleasant reminder that the transition to a new career is substantially easier when the professional culture values the diversity of experiences and perspectives among its constituent membership.  For that, I am particularly grateful!
With generous support from VALL, I was able to attend my first AALL conference this year.  I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with so many brilliant and fun minds, as well as learning about our discipline. Being present at AALL this year has only reaffirmed me in my decision to leave political science behind.  Law librarianship is my new professional home.  

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