I’ve been trying to wrap my head around AALL 2009 and figure out what I want to say and how I want to say it. It’s appearing that it’s not going to happen, at least not before I forget something important. There are some things I really need to cover and explain, but there’s a chance my discovery of guacomole may get equal footing to Lawberry Camp. So please forgive me, Gentle Reader, because this entry is going be a bit disjointed.
Going into #aall2009, Lawberry Camp was pretty much taking up most of my brainpower and emotions, more so than the talk I was going to give, the socialization requirements that always freak me out, and my general fear of plane travel. I was stressed out, yo. (Correlation does not imply causation, but in the past two weeks, I have found about a dozen grey hairs. I’m just sayin’…) Right up until the 3pm start time, I couldn’t believe it was going to happen. I thought no one would show up, or we’d get kicked out of the room, or people would show up and no one would talk.
I’m pleased to report that I’m pretty sure Lawberry Camp was a success. People showed up, they talked, everyone seemed to have a fruitfull conversation, and I heard plenty of nice comments about it afterwards. It was all sort of a blur for me (especially now, 8 days later), but Jason and I wrote an article for the Capitol Crier describing it a little bit. (Page 7) We’re definitely going to bring it back for AALL 2010 in Denver, hopefully as an official all-day workshop, but in a more punk-rock way if need be. If you have ideas about what you’d like to see, we’re crowdsourcing the planning on the wiki.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank my Lawberry Camp co-organizer Jason Eiseman. Planning an unconference is tricky…you need to have some things in place, but at the same time , given the nature of unconferences, you can’t do too much. I don’t think I could have asked for a better partner than Jason. Our skill sets really complimented each other and he always laughed at my jokes. I don’t want to say that he’s renewed my faith in humanity, because let’s face it – that’s gone and never coming back , but he did renew my faith in teamwork and project partnerships, which is a big thing for a self-described “Lone Wolf” such as myself. Not only did I get to have an awesome professional experience because of him, but I also gained a new friend.
Okay, two things I need to cover here…both the “cool kids” themselves and the borderline infamous “cool kids” badge ribbon.
As for the “cool kids” themselves, I am totally not going to try and name names because I will likely forget someone and frankly, I gots enough drama in my life. Basically, it’s the cohort group I discovered at CaliCON09 which has expanded out some more. It’s so much fun for me to finally find “my people” and it makes me really happy to know that I’ll be seeing them for years to come at AALLs – both for professional reasons and because they are a Hell of a lot of fun to hang out with.
While at CALIcon, someone jokingly suggested that we get badge ribbons for AALL that said “cool kids.” Since I knew I would be getting some for Lawberry Camp, I volunteered to pick some up. Okay, here’s thing…it was a joke that devolved from a random comment on Twitter at another conference. We do not think we’re better than anyone else nor are we exclusionary. We just thought it was a funny way to punk the conference.
Badge ribbons are relatively inexpensive to order. I highly suggest them! They are great conversations starters (both at the conference and online), just pick a phrase that doesn’t cause someone to accost you in the middle of the Library of Congress. #awkward There’s lots of funny suggestions at the FriendFeed link above. Or just make one advertising your SIS or Caucus.
Guacamole is awesome. Why did it take me 33 years to figure this out? Unfortunately, I think I may only like the type that is made tableside and costs $12/bowl. But look, Ma, I ate guacamole!
This one’s another twofer…
I only went into the exhibit hall twice. Once to see the first prize drawing (although since I won an iPod last year, I’ll probably never win anything again), once to chat with a friend because I was nervous about a meeting I had to go to and wanted a distraction. But that’s pretty much it. I actually would like to cruise the hall and see what the vendors have to offer (and no, I don’t mean swag…I have no use for that stuff really), but I simply don’t have time. I wonder if, like last year, I’ll login Wexis tommorrow to see big changes that I could have learned about instead of being surprised.
I would love it if AALL returned to the four day schedule, but I’m guessing that this will only happen if the vendors call for it because we’re not visiting the exhibit hall. I’m afraid, though, that so many of the #totebag brigade choose exhibit halls over meetings, that the effect of the shortened schedule is not noticable.
Part two of vendor relations involves the involvement of vendors in social media and other adverts….
As you my know, Gentle Reader, I set up a wiki for AALL 2009 for people to share info and connect prior to the annual meeting. I included in it a Vendor Section because, even given my socialistic tendencies, I do realize that big annual meetings cannot happen without vendors and exhibitors paying a lot of the bills. So providing a free space for them to hawk their wares was my way of saying “Thank you for making this experience barelyaffordable insteadof completely outside the realm of possibility”.
I was quite displeased to recieve a message from one of my correspondants alerting me to the fact that a vendor had put an advertisement on every page of the wiki. I’m choosing to believe it was an honest mistake, but it still felt “gross” for lack of a better word. Later a vendor began to use the #coolkids hashtag, which felt, again “gross.” After 4 days of conference travel and little sleep, I did not react to that as well as I might have hoped, but after exchanging some messages with all of the parties involved, I think the drama has been resolved. I learned many things from this experience, not the least of which was that I think I understand what students may feel like when they see a librarian on a social media site.
I guess I’m still trying to work out my feelings about vendors. On one hand, they do provide a valuable services…I mean, if I can avoid digging through the Decennial Digests by running a few database searches, you bet your sweet bibby I am going to do that. On the other, we pay dearly for these valuable services. Perhaps too dearly. I mean, how much profit do they need to make? How is it we’ve allowed ourselves to essentially be cornered by two major vendors who provide information that’s technically free? (Yes, I know, we really pay mostly for the “value added” materials such as indexes and annotations.)
And then there’s the swag…I mean, I like pens. They’re very useful to write with. Do I need stress balls, binders, stuffed animals, mugs, etc.? No. No I do not. I guess given my above reservations about vendors, I feel weird accepting “toys” from them and participating in their advertising, either by getting my picture taken at their parties (and yes, I totally agreed to be interviewed by West and have it put up on their site, but (a) I’m not shilling West products and (b) the rational part of my brain shuts down when I hear “would you like to be interviewed and put on Internet?” so DONT JUDGE ME) or by accepting their swag. I don’t know about y’all, but I would feel weird when a student asks me my opinion of Lexis vs. West (and I do get that question a lot), and I pause to sip out of a Wexis branded coffee mug before I answer.
Prior to AALL2009, someone set up an anoymous twitter account modeled on the ALASecrets one. I will neither confirm nor deny that I set it up, because pretty soon enough people will deny it and I want to respect the anonymity of everyone that partcipated. I have to say though…compared to ALA secrets it was sort of boring. Maybe because we are all connected to the legal field in one way or another we’re a little more circumspect in what we post on the Internet, even if it’s supposed to be anonymous. (Oh, and it turns out that it’s not as anoymous as one might have hoped. The privacy holes were pointed out to me, but I’m not going to reveal them here. Hopefully whoever sets it up next year will close those holes.) Or maybe it’s because Law Librarians aren’t as much of party animals as, say, an elementary school librarian who has 4 days to get their partying done for the year.
All in all, it was an interesting social experiment to watch from afar, but like I said, sort of boring. The only real drama to come out of it was some people deleted posts. Again, I will neither confirm nor deny that I deleted posts NOR that I posted instructions on how to recovered deleted posts. You know, let’s just pretend that I never metioned AALLSecrets at all.
As mentioned previously, I had an awesome time hanging out with the #coolkids. But they weren’t the only people at the conference. As much as it pained me to pull myself away from them, I did try and take Jason’s advice to mingle more outside of my comfort zone. Besides, I have a lot of professional interests and there were some people I really wanted/needed to talk to. And it worked out for the best, because I have some great ideas as a result of these conversations.
I also remain amazed and perplexed that people come up to me and introduce themselves to me and seem excited by this fact. Of course, I am borderline stalking a certain Southern Gentleman Scholar of Legal History and I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to introduce myself to him for YEARS and have yet to do so and I’m sure he would be surprised to learn this fact himself. (I was going to say his name and link to his profile, but I had one of those rare moments of wise decision making and self censorship, so let’s all take a moment and bask in that, shall we?) Anyway, I guess since I spend most of my social networking/blogging activities either alone in my office or, like now, sitting on my couch, I forget that anyone actually reads these things and that the people I interact with really exist. (What? Some of you people could really be a dog and I’D NEVER KNOW!) So, as I’ve said before, with my shyness and general feelings of social awkwardness, it makes my conference experiences so much more pleasant to have a pre-connection with people.
I alluded to it before, but I need to say it plainly…AALL, please take the Annual Meeting back to four days. I simply cannot fit everything in that I need to in the current schedule. And I’m not talking partying. I mean, all of the required committee meetings, visiting with vendors, SIS and Caucus events and programs are just not physically possible in three days.
Oddly, it seemed that a lot of my conversations at AALL 2009 revolved around AALL 2010. Like I already said, Lawberry Camp is coming back bigger and better. I have, at last count, 9 program ideas I’m going to try and flesh out and propose. (That sounds like a lot, and it is, but (a) I’m not working on most of those alone (b) some of those ideas can be combined (c) at least one has absolutely no chance of getting accepted.) But I hope to have at least one program in next year, aside from Lawberry Camp.
I’ve also figured out some things that I learned this year and/or need to remember for next year:
- Wear comfortable shoes. Even more comfortable ones than the ones I currently rock.
- Overpacking is okay, especially when weather delays cause your flights to be canceled and you have to spend an extra night in town. Clean drawers, FTW!
- It’s worth it to end your night a little early if it means you can function the next day. Made this mistake in Portland, now I don’t. Still ended up averaging 3-4 hours a night. MADNESS! The 3 day schedule is madness, I tell you!
- I need to pack Powerbars, slimfast shakes, nuts, SOMETHING for a meal replacement because there were a couple days where I realized “Oh, hey, I haven’t had time to eat yet today…” MADNESS, etc.
- Just because no one else is volunteering project, that doens’t mean you have to. I’m all for being a good soldier and supporting the orgs and profession, but know your limits when it comes to activities.