Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to get to attend CONELL, the Conference for Newer Law Librarians, a part of the American Association of Law Libraries’ Annual Meeting. This year’s conference was held in Philadelphia; having only been to this city once before, I was quite excited about the location choice!
I was hesitant to go to CONELL this year, because I will not graduate until May, and I had heard that most new law librarians attend the conference for the round robin interviews, most of which are for jobs beginning in August. However, after talking to several law librarians at IU’s law library, all of whom continually encouraged me to attend, I decided to follow their advice. Even though I was only able to stay for the day of CONELL, while all other CONELL attendees, it seemed, were staying for the duration of the Annual Meeting, I believe CONELL to have been well worth my time.
CONELL began with several speakers introducing us to AALL and the different participation opportunities available. We met the incoming AALL president as well as the editors of the two main publications of the association, AALL Spectrum and Law Library Journal. We then had small group breakout sessions where we had a chance to speak candidly with members of the Executive Board about the association and the conference. Our final speaker discussed strategies to get the most out of our attendance at the annual meeting. Even though I was unable to attend the remainder of the annual meeting, I still took to heart this speaker’s message and tried to apply it to the remainder of my day at CONELL.
Following the speakers, we participated in two more morning activities: speed networking and “the marketplace.” Speed networking, inspired by and set up like speed dating, gave us the opportunity to network with each other for five minutes, before switching to another CONELL attendee. I will admit that this was the event I was least looking forward to, but, as it turns out, this ended up being my favorite part of CONELL! In fact, in most rounds, I wished they would have given us more time to talk with each other, because it was so interesting to get to hear about the different roles people play in law librarianship, and the various impressions people have about undertaking this career. For a person getting ready to start seeking out jobs in this profession, I found this event incredibly valuable.
The marketplace was an opportunity for us to get to know the various committees and caucuses available for participation in AALL. Each had a booth (usually with free goodies, like candy and pens) with pamphlets of information about their groups, and we had 45 minutes to go around the room and talk with the representatives from the groups and explore possible areas of interest to us. This was an excellent means of introducing us to AALL. While I have been exploring their website since I began my librarianship program a year ago, I never realized what an array of special interest groups they offered until I attended the marketplace.
After a lovely lunch, our last CONELL activity was a tour of Philadelphia. This was meant to give us an opportunity for further networking while we explored the city together; unfortunately, because the annual meeting lined up with the current heat wave sweeping the country, the weather in Philadelphia was blistering hot and oppressively humid. Thus the weather distracted us from any productive networking! Had the weather been more pleasant, this would have been a lovely event, as it not only allowed for more networking, but also afforded the opportunity for those unfamiliar with Philly to get to know some of the historic sites they may not otherwise have had the opportunity to explore. That said, I think we were all grateful that our tour guide did not make us get off the bus to see the Liberty Bell – the line for it was all the way around the building, and made no sign of moving quickly!
After the tour, CONELL was officially over. I later met up with an acquaintance who directs a law library in Chicago to discuss the ins and outs of the interview process, another invaluable opportunity for me as I begin my job search. Sunday morning I took a quick tour through the vendors’ exhibit hall to see all the services available to law libraries, then returned home. Despite the fact that I could not stay for the duration of the annual meeting, I am so glad that I attended CONELL. This experience gave me a much clearer picture of law librarianship as a career; afforded me the opportunity to network with professionals already in the field, exchanging business cards and even distributing a few resumes; and connected me with several members of my “CONELL class” whom I will likely continue to see at these meetings for years to come. Although I could not stay and use the tips I learned in CONELL to get the most out of this year’s meeting, I am looking forward to attending next year’s meeting (being held in Boston – one of my favorite cities!) and using these tips then. Thank you, AALL, for offering such a wonderful conference for those of us new to the profession.