It has been almost three years since the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) held its last in-person conference in Washington, DC. Since that time, both the New Orleans (2020) and Cleveland (2021) Conferences were replace with an online event. Needless to say, many members are ready, albeit still with some concerns, to meet their colleagues in person once again. From July 16th through the 19th, nearly 900 members will gather in Denver, Colorado to enjoy the educational and social gathering of law librarians. Another 60+ vendor organizations will also be at the Denver Convention Center under the gaze of the iconic Blue Bear.
We asked current AALL President, Diane Rodriguez, along with AALL Vice-President, Beth Adelman, to take time out of their busy preparation schedules to come in and talk with us about what members and vendors should expect from the conference. Those of us who attend AALL conferences understand that it is truly a technology conference where vendors go to show their enhancements to existing products or to launch new products to the tech savvy end-users of many of their products. Even Bob Ambrogi has put this as one of the top legal tech conferences in the legal industry
Rodriguez and Adelman have spent the last year preparing AALL for a post-pandemic presence in the legal industry and focused not only on returning to in-person events, but also creating a new Strategic Plan for the Association headed by Beth Adelman. In addition, the organization continued its fight for access to justice and legal information. Diane Rodriguez penned an article for the ABA Human Rights Magazine earlier this year titled “Putting the Spotlight on Civics Education: How Law Librarians Are Helping to Bridge the Access to Justice Gap.”
Of course conferences aren’t all educational programming and vendor interactions. We all are working in some baseball, concerts, books stores, and art exhibits while we are there as well. For more information visit the AALL Conference Website.

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Marlene Gebauer 0:22
Welcome to The Geek in Review, the podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer. And I’m Greg Lambert. Well, kids, it’s conference season again, really the first time since the summer of 2019, that conferences seem to be back in full swing.

Greg Lambert 0:39
Yeah, in a couple of weeks. So I’ll be headed to Denver, Colorado for the American Association of law libraries, or AALL’s annual meeting. So we brought in a couple of important leaders of AALL to talk about all the work that they’ve done, getting prepared for the conference this year.

Marlene Gebauer 0:58
Welcome Diane Rodriguez, Assistant Director of the San Francisco Law Library and current president of the American Association of law libraries. Diane, it’s really good to have you on the podcast.

Diane Rodriguez 1:10
Oh, thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m so excited to be here and talk about our upcoming conference.

Greg Lambert 1:16
And joining Diane is Beth Adelman, Vice Dean for Legal Information Services for the University of Buffalo law school, and the incoming president of AALL. Beth, welcome to The Geek in Review.

Beth Adelman 1:29
Thank you, Greg. And thank you, Marlene, I’m excited to be here today.

Marlene Gebauer 1:33
Diane, I know it’s been a crazy year. Well, probably a couple of crazy years. But we wanted to get you on to talk about the upcoming in person, double A double L conference in Denver, as well as all the things you’ve been up to during your year as president.

Greg Lambert 1:50
So Diane, can you tell us how the preparation is going for the event?

Diane Rodriguez 1:55
Oh, it’s going great. And everyone’s really excited to be coming back in person after three long years of not seeing one another. As of this week. We have 880 registrants. And so we’re really happy with that number. I think it’s going to be you know, a good group of people together. We also have over 60 vendors and exhibitors, so there’ll be lots to see and learn about. I’m just I the enthusiasm I’m hearing from members is really wonderful. So I think it’s going good.

Greg Lambert 2:28
Yeah, and I think a lot of us will love getting up in the Mile High air and hopefully it will be cooler. Up there. Have you have you looked at the extended forecast? Yeah,

Marlene Gebauer 2:37
well, well, people from here will hope it’s cooler.

Diane Rodriguez 2:40
The extended forecast, it’s always gonna be warmer than San Francisco fog. Maybe some rocky mountain? You know, blue skies will be beautiful. But I don’t think it’s going to be extremely hot. Maybe in the 80s.

Greg Lambert 2:56
Yeah, hopefully. So what is it that you’ve done to prepare for the meeting coming up?

Diane Rodriguez 3:04
Oh, well, first of all, we started, you know, early in my presidential term discussing, you know how we’re going to bring it back. You know, we’ve been watching the temperature of COVID changing and everything is starting to open back up. So you know, we had to make that call. We have a wonderful group at headquarters, of course, really working full throttle, with the MPC to put together the conference programming. We’re also working for the first time with a conference consultants and conference facilitators, ACI to help us put the conference together. And so they’re bringing us all kinds of new ideas to put it together. So you know, everybody’s working hard together as a team. And don’t let me forget the Local Arrangements committee who’s been working hard to, you know, come up with great tours and ideas on places, we can all spend our extra free time. So

Marlene Gebauer 3:57
you’re mentioning there’s some some new ideas that were brought to the table. So what should attendees expect when they show up at the conference this time?

Diane Rodriguez 4:05
Well, we’ve worked really hard to work with the Conference Center to bring everything closer together for one thing, because sometimes you go to a conference and things are far apart, and we spend way too much time trying to walk around. So for extra personal challenge

Marlene Gebauer 4:17
people like me can’t get around. Yes, yes.

Diane Rodriguez 4:21
directionally challenged, accessibility challenged. You know, we just wanted to make it a smoother experience for everyone. So we’re tightening that up. I think it’ll be good. There’s no private space for job seekers to come and talk with potential employers. I think the setup in Denver is really awesome. There’s the hotel right next door, you can go outside and see the beautiful view and that really fun, giant blue bear that looks in on the conference center as you walk inside. That’ll be really good. Some other things that the attendees should expect is you know, with over 60 educational programs offer they’re going to learn a lot of new things. This year, we have so much to share posts pandemic that have just really changed. There’s also going to be tons of opportunities for networking and seeing new colleagues that they haven’t seen in person for since 2019, meaning exhibitors to learn about all the new products that have come out and that we’re all eager to use. And I’m also excited, Greg, to see you, the emcee of the Gallagher awards this year. Thank you so much for doing that. I know you’re gonna be awesome. Yay.

Greg Lambert 5:27
And Beth, I want to I want to throw one year away, hopefully. What about the vendors? How are they approaching the conference this year?

Beth Adelman 5:36
Well, the vendors are plentiful from my eyes. My understanding is that they are filling up the tradeshow area.

Marlene Gebauer 5:46
That’s always a good thing.

Beth Adelman 5:47
I don’t have data on how many but I know that the numbers are excellent. Diane, you may have more data on that and your head. I do.

Diane Rodriguez 5:56
Yeah, there’s about 60 registered vendors and exhibitors this year.

Marlene Gebauer 6:01
That’s a good number. So Beth, I’ll start with you on this one. What are some of the things that you’re looking forward to doing while you’re in Denver?

Beth Adelman 6:09
Well, I have to talk about food because I’m a foodie. Yay.

Marlene Gebauer 6:13
We love food.

Beth Adelman 6:14
I can’t say that I’ve had time to plan all of my foodie adventures. However, one of our colleagues on the executive board did plan a dinner at Bardot which appears to be a fabulous Italian restaurant with a delicious menu. So I will be eating there, and probably planning my foodie adventures in the airport. When I’m waiting for my plane. A colleague also told me about Meow Wolf, which is an immersive art exhibit.

Marlene Gebauer 6:46
Yes, I was to the I was in the one in Santa Fe. It’s great.

Beth Adelman 6:50
Yeah, it says on the website. It’s a mind bending art. I would say that’s true. It’s psychedelic, too. It is excited about mind bending and a psychedelic experience in Denver.

Marlene Gebauer 7:02
Oh, I’m so excited for you. Yeah, Diane, how about you?

Diane Rodriguez 7:05
Oh, there’s a lot of things to do. My schedule is so busy as credible knows a former president every day is booked from about 7am till about 10pm. But you know, I’m going to try to find some time to do some things. When I first arrived, I have a little bit of free time, I’m hoping to catch a Colorado Rockies game. And at the end of the conference, I’m going to go to see a queen cover band at Red Rocks. And I’m not as interested in the band as I am interested in gonna check out red box as a venue. So that’ll be really fun. But you know, I’m just mostly looking forward to just really seeing members in person again and experiencing being able to walk around and see what our vendors have to offer. It’s been a long time. And it’s just going to be so great to have those side conversations, just see what members are really thinking. They will email and call, you know when issues arise. But there’s nothing like having those one off conversations you can just have in person and see how everybody’s doing and what their needs are.

Greg Lambert 8:06
The one thing on my checklist while I’m there is I’ve always been a an avid comic book reader, and the Holy Grail of comic book stores Mile High comics is up there. So I want to I want to stop in I’ve been wanting to go there since I was a kid. So hopefully, yeah, check that check that off. So

Diane Rodriguez 8:29
Oh, good. I’ll have to add that to my list as well.

Greg Lambert 8:34
Diane, Alyssa, you know, it’s been, like you said you’ve had to kind of check the temperature for COVID outbreaks. I know that even though we have getting close to 900 attendees, that that’s still a little bit below average. But I think that’s to be expected since a lot of people are still unable or unwilling to travel this year. But what’s kind of been some of the challenges as president during the so called tail end of COVID. You know, what, what kind of experiences have you had this year?

Diane Rodriguez 9:08
Well, in the first part of the year, we were still in a virtual environment, but we had to, you know, make the decision to how to go forward with many things. In addition to the annual meeting, we decided to have our November board meeting in person, which, you know, was I wouldn’t say a risk, but it was different, you know, getting people to feel comfortable about coming together again, we had a really important task this year to develop the new strategic plan for the 2022 to 2025 strategic plan. And I think that having that facilitated in person was a real bonus for us being able to really just sit down, hammer out those issues and be able to continue to talk to them about them over dinner that is in charge of the strategic plan as vice president and so she might have more to add about that. But you know, we had to make that choice. And I’m really glad that we did. Everybody was really comfortable once we all got together, and we, you know, we had to exercise those safety precautions, then we had to decide about the in person annual meeting, which also obviously is going forward. And I’m just really excited as things keep moving forward in that direction. But you know, also just handling the ongoing tensions and stresses of our members due to COVID. And all of the societal pressures that we’re under these days, we’re just, you know, keep getting hit with something new every time you turn around. And I’ve had them too. But we’re also we’re all working so hard to deal with all these constant changes. And I think that our AALL community is really important in people’s lives. So we’ve moved continued to move forward with our educational offerings. We’ve had a lot of coffee chats to share common experiences. Mentoring has been a big deal this year trying to really reconnect people with new mentors. And for me, just the friendship and collegiality has really kept me going in both my job and in the, you know, my elected position.

Greg Lambert 11:09
And Beth, how about you any how’s your year been as vice president,

Beth Adelman 11:14
it has been an interesting year, I think the biggest challenge that I have had, and my role as Vice President is actually finding volunteers, we did have a pretty good pool of volunteers for the AALL committees, but not quite enough. And it is difficult to recruit, I think everybody seems a bit busier in their worlds and not as willing to volunteer. On the other hand, I think it is a good quality to know when you don’t have the time to take on something rather than take it on and not be able to fulfill that duty. So it’s a big issue. And for those listeners that want to volunteer in the future, with limited time available, each committee charge page includes a projected time commitment. And it varies from committee to committee. But I recommend using that as a selection tool, if you’re interested in volunteering in some capacity.

Marlene Gebauer 12:16
Well, that’s a great idea to have the time commitment posted right up there, because that way people can really look and see and select what’s going to work for them. So that’s wonderful. Thank you for that. So we’ve been talking about the challenges over the past year, what are some of the successes that you both have seen over the past year or two. And, Diane, I’ll start with you.

Diane Rodriguez 12:39
Well, the past couple of years, we’ve had our special idea committee, and they came out with our final report for us in at the spring board meeting. And I’m really excited to say that we were able to put together AALL is first ever DEI policy, which can be found in the board book on the web portal. So we’ll be voting on that in July, and hopefully implementing that in July. That’s really exciting. It’s been a really wonderful effort by a lot of people. And I’m so glad to see that we’re moving forward with progress there. You know, we’re continuing to add new courses to our E learning platform, we have a couple of self study courses on there now. And we’re developing a new one on access to legal information for newer librarians. So that’ll be exciting to see. We’ve been working a lot in advocacy. On the professional front, we’ve been able to actually appoint some members to the NCBE next generation bar exam committee this year. And we also have a new newly appointed member to the GPO Digital Library Council, which is very exciting. So we’re, you know, getting our members actually into the decision making areas of the government which will be wonderful advocacy for access to legal information. I was honored to write and publish an article in the ABA human rights magazine back in January, on our all the ways law librarians provide access to justice. So that’s, that was really wonderful. I’m just so proud to promote the work of all all of our members. Everybody’s working so hard and we’ve, you know, making great connections with are out there in the world. And I hope to just you know, see that continue.

Marlene Gebauer 14:24
That is some great work. That’s how about you.

Beth Adelman 14:27
So I’m going to highlight the new strategic plan. I just want to point out we worked with an excellent facilitator, build policy from Association Options, he helped us yield an excellent strategic plan. Our five pillars are championing excellence, professional growth, diversity, equity and inclusion, pipeline to the profession and advocacy, championing excellence professional growth and advocacy has appeared in previous strategic plans in some form or another, and there will be new strategies and initiatives associated with those. This year, there are two new goals, diversity, equity, and inclusion is a pillar and pipeline to the profession. They’re not unique to law libraries, or actually any kind of library. They’re pretty universal concepts in most organizations at this point in time, there’s a lot of work to be done. And I look forward to working on initiatives associated with all the pillars and this coming year.

Greg Lambert 15:32
Well, Diane, I think you’ve probably heard this before. But I remember when Ron Wheeler told me, as he was stepping down as president, and I was stepping in as president at the end of the Austin conference is that pretty soon? You won’t be asked to do anything anymore. No one, no one will call you. And Beth, you will get all of the calls. So Beth, I’m going to turn this to you and just say, what do you see on the horizon for AALL and you have a theme for your year as president yet?

Beth Adelman 16:10
Yes, we do. The theme for the next annual meeting is map our future. I see this as not just about what challenges we’re facing next. But also deciding where we want to be and figuring out how we need to get there. I want us to be, you know, forward thinking. And I hope that our programs this year reflect that, because I think we’re in a really unique position, having experienced this pandemic, so much has changed. And I think we’re all exploring how those changes are impacting our workplaces. But I also think that we need to look beyond that. And there’s so much to learn and to discover. Looking beyond that,

Greg Lambert 16:57
with Diane Rodriguez and Beth Adelman, the current and the incoming president for AALL, we want to thank you both for taking the time and I know you guys have a busy schedule right now, to come on and talk with us about the upcoming conference.

Diane Rodriguez 17:11
Thanks for having us. It’s been a pleasure.

Beth Adelman 17:14
Yes, thanks to both of you for inviting us.

Marlene Gebauer 17:16
And of course, thanks to all of you, our listeners for taking the time to listen to The Geek in Review podcast. If you enjoy the show, share it with a colleague. We’d love to hear from you. So reach out to us on social media. I can be found at @gebauerm on Twitter.

Greg Lambert 17:30
And I can be reached @glambert on Twitter,

Marlene Gebauer 17:33
Or you can leave us a voicemail on The Geek in Review Hotline at 713-487-7270. And as always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca

Greg Lambert 17:46
All right. Thank you, Jerry.

Marlene Gebauer 17:47
Thank you, Jerry.

Greg Lambert 17:49
All right. I’ll talk to you later Marlene.

Marlene Gebauer 17:50
Okay, bye bye.