I’m finally back in my office in Houston today after taking a week to visit Austin and attend the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) annual meeting. Looking back on the last week, all I can do is take a deep breath and say… “WOW!!”
Here are just a handful of highlights:
- AALL announced that it is removing Texas from consideration for future conference location due to the Texas Legislature, Lt. Governor, and Governor’s anti-LGBTQ stances and laws. (I got to be on local TV and in Texas newspapers.)
- Bryan Stevenson gave perhaps the best keynote that I’ve ever seen, and inspired everyone in the audience to get proximate, change the narrative, stay hopeful, and make a conscious decision to do uncomfortable things. (AALL members can see a recording of the talk, here.)
- AALL’s inaugural Innovations Tournament was held, and BakerHostetler’s Katherine Lowry, and University of North Texas’ Jen Wondracek, each won the $2,500.00 prize for their innovations. Georgetown’s Tom Boone and Matt Zimmerman were a close third. The fact that the top two winners were both women tech leaders speaks volumes for the Association, and is something that makes me very, very proud.
- Speaking of AALL and technology, Bob Ambrogi had a wonderful write up of how AALL isn’t just a great conference for legal information professionals to discuss legal content and research, but that it is also a great legal technology conference. I want to quote Gabe Teninbaum (who gave a wonderful presentation at the PLLIP-Summit):
“It’s [AALL Conference] got nearly as much legaltech as any conference branded as legaltech, but a fraction of the push toward selling products.”
High praise, indeed!
- John Waters… yes, that John Waters, is going to be the 2018 AALL Conference Keynote speaker in Baltimore. I mean, it’s Baltimore. He was my immediate choice!!
- About a million other things happened. (Please post some of your favorites in the comments, if you’d like to share.)
- I officially became the AALL President for 2017-2018.
On Monday, at the AALL Business Meeting, I gave a talk on what my plans are for the upcoming year. The Baltimore conference theme is “From Knowledge To Action,” and I wanted to highlight some of the actions I would like to take. Now I have to get back to work!!
Here is the speech:
I am excited about the upcoming year, and proud to serve as your president. In the past 20 years, I have gone from academic, to government, to outsourced consultant, and to private law firm occupations. The constant throughout that change has been AALL, and I am honored to have the opportunity to lead an organization that has given me so much.
The Association has endured many challenges over the past decade. A global recession which decimated parts of our profession, especially in the corporate, private law, and government library sectors, and a retiring baby-boomer population which made up a large percentage of our overall membership.
We face competition from other associations for roles which are traditional or law librarian created functions. Now we face a legal educational market in retraction after decades of expansion.
AALL faced these challenges and we have adapted to become a leaner association. Staffing levels are down, and we have adjusted how the Association spends money to ensure we are fiscally responsible and providing stability for the future of the Association.
We are still losing more members than we are gaining. That is a situation we must address, and the long-term strategy of the Association must adapt to this trend. We have held off most of the losses through cuts. However, I am a big believer that you cannot cut your way to prosperity.
The Association must look at new revenue sources, and I believe that there are many opportunities out there to find ways of increasing the numbers of new members, finding options for retiring members who want to stay engaged with the profession, inform stakeholders about the value of professional development for our members, and providing programs to attract those who do not think of themselves as law librarians or legal information professionals, either into the Association as members, or through other revenue generating offerings.
We have so much knowledge and expertise in this Association that is of considerable value to the industry. We need to leverage that and put it into action.
I have written many times in my blog that the law librarian, or however you refer to yourself on an individual or department basis, is one of the most valuable and most credentialed members in your work place.
We all work tirelessly for our organizations to support the overall strategic goals of our employers. Our voices should be heard, our leadership and expertise recognized, and our contribution to the success of our organizations acknowledged.
Our professional Association should assist us in these efforts through leadership training, professional development opportunities, and promoting the overall value of law librarianship to our direct stakeholders, and others in the legal profession.
AALL is stepping up on this front to make the law librarians’ voices heard beyond our inner circles. This year we are working with a public relations firm to increase our reach and highlight the critical role we play within the legal community.
Most importantly, we will begin to share all the content created by our members broadly with the media, both legal and non-legal. We are confident these efforts will position us as the only national association committed to championing the essential role law librarians play in the legal profession.
We have a wealth of knowledge within AALL, and we will put into action processes to expose that knowledge.
We are currently working to develop a knowledge management system which will capture, share and use content in support of members. We are currently overhauling the AALL website, which will have more intuitive navigation, Boolean search, and taxonomic functionality. We will expand the site’s Knowledge Center so information and work product can be easily shared across AALL entities.
This will produce an evergreen process for identifying current and emerging competencies that will translate into knowledge points to apply to all or our education, publications, and programs.
We are also expanding our education programs, and this October and holding a one-day Competitive Intelligence program in Chicago, facilitated by Zena Applebaum, a well-known expert in the field.
The theme for is the 2018 Annual Meeting & Conference in Baltimore is, “From Knowledge to Action.”
As I mentioned earlier, law librarians and others in the legal information profession are some of the smartest and most credentialed members of their organizations. However, this does very little when you’re not part of the decision-making team. We need to find ways of exposing the powers-that-be in our organizations to the power of people in their law libraries and knowledge resources departments.
I want to see our members producing more White Papers, placing articles in journals and other publications that are read by those decision makers, and finding opportunities for members to engage with industry leaders.
We need to have more interactions with our own stakeholders and others in the legal profession in ways that presses the question of why aren’t they leveraging this talent in better ways to benefit the law firms, law schools, government institutions, and other businesses which have law librarians and legal information professionals on staff.
A local Houston politician once told me, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” She is right. It is time to go beyond being smart, and credentialed, and helpful, and nice. It is time we take action and create success for ourselves, our profession, our Association, our work place, and the entire legal profession.
It is my goal for AALL to work alongside you providing the tools and support to make that leap from knowledge to action.
As much as I have enjoyed having you all here in my home state of Texas, I’m excited to be in Baltimore next year. The AMPC committee, led by Kim Serna, is already in action, and will be reaching out to all of you to put your knowledge into action in Baltimore.
We have a lot to do between now and then. Please feel free to reach out to me with your ideas, and let me know of your own successes. I look forward to representing AALL and all of you this year.