6/30/10

AALL Conference - How About a "Less is More" Approach?


[Guest Blogger - Tracy Thompson-Przylucki]

I've given a lot of thought to the issue of Annual Meeting programming almost since my first meeting in 1997. I can recall in my first few years of attendance hearing my more senior colleagues express dissatisfaction with the programming, the scheduling, the no-conflict limitations, etc. As I newb, I was still absorbing so much I couldn't imagine what they were lacking. But now (and for a few years) I find myself in the same boat. I want to be part of the solution but so far the exact formula for Annual Meeting nirvana eludes me. I still really enjoy the Annual Meeting and wouldn't miss it for the world, but I'd be thrilled to see some disruptive change, some risk-taking. Even if it failed.

I don't have any transformative suggestions, but I do have some observations. First, less is more. I'd like the Annual Meeting to be less of a mad dash and more of an opportunity to really connect with our colleagues, vendors, etc. A time to reflect, consider and absorb. Recently, especially since it's been shortened, the AM feels frenetic and fractured.

Second, AALL (or any organization) just can't be all things to all people. They have to maximize their resources to approach a Benthamesque balance; the greatest good for the greatest number. There will always be some of us who need/want more.

Third, taking these two points into account, I'd like to see LESS programming (throw eggs and hiss here), limited no-conflict times, and that lost day returned to the schedule (with no programming or exhibit hall on the last day). AALL could facilitate meetings (members sign up for the space they need) on the final day (SISs, committees, working groups, ad hoc groups, chapters, etc.) so that members would have the opportunity to get some of the real work done without conflicts.

I know that the number of programs will always be an issue. I just don't think we need 6 or 8 programs in one time slot. Maybe 4? And rethink the tracks?

Perhaps (thinking out loud)
  1. New Professionals (<5 years) 
  2. Mid-career Professionals (5-10 years) 
  3. Advanced Professionals (10-20 years) 
  4. Mentors (>20 years). 
Or
  1. Law Library Administration and Management 
  2. Law Library Services 
  3. Technology in Law Libraries 
  4. The Future of Law Libraries and the Profession. 
Are you thinking about all the reasons these won't work? How about thinking about how they (or others) could work?

I like the approach of crowdsourcing as some part of the selection process (perhaps not definitive) that someone suggested. This puts some of the responsibility on us as a collective. Remain unengaged at your own peril!

When I've inquired about the shortened schedule I've been told that it was largely a response to PLL members' needs for less time away from their offices. If that is truly the case (could be urban legend!) front load the meeting with PLL content as much as possible to give those folks the flex they need.

Of course, AALL is a business concern. If they take big risks and fail, they risk losing us, their members and their lifeblood. So all of these comments are offered with one eye on that reality and an all too familiar understanding of the challenges membership organizations face in meeting members' expectations, especially in this economy.

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3 comments:

Mark Gediman said...

Great post! Tracy, this is exactly the kind of discussion we are trying to foster. You make some good points.

KenHirsh said...

All are excellent suggestions. Outside of programming, I'd note my observation that attendance at the closing banquet has dropped in recent years. Partly this is likely due to the cost of the event; maybe also folks are just too tuckered out from the frantic days you describe.

Caren Biberman said...

Tracy, really great thoughts and suggestions! I agree with you that less is more. Why why put on marginal programs just to have a bad smorgasboard of choices?

I also agree that since the meeting was shortened it has lost something. Most private law librarians I have talked to think the day should be added back to the conference and I agree.

There are all sorts of ways to set up tracks. I don't think there is necessarily a wrong or right away as long as there is still time for quality programming that goes beyond the tracks and is of interest to more than one group. I think this is the time to collaborate.

We need to keep the discussion going and work to accomplish some real change in our programming. I say yes to risk taking!

 

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