SWALL Grant to AALL Annual Meeting 2019 Recipient Narrative

Aaron Retteen
Digital Services & Repository Librarian
Dee J. Kelly Law Library
Texas A&M University School of Law

I am extremely grateful for being awarded the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting Travel Grant by SWALL and the SWALL Grants Committee. This year’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. was a great professional development and networking opportunity and a perfect occasion to catch up with colleagues on important topical issues arising this year. There was so much to do and so many great presentations to attend that I can’t review everything that I enjoyed, but I wanted to provide some highlights and high points of my time at the conference.

This was only my second Annual Meeting that I have ever attended, so I was mentally prepared for the pace of all the conference has to offer, and I wanted to make sure to make the most of my experience. My first Annual Meeting experience started with attending CONELL as new librarian participant, and the experience was absolutely amazing; for this year’s conference, I wanted to give back and help the CONELL team with running the introductory program. To do so, I would have to come to D.C. a day earlier than the actual conference began, which is something the SWALL travel grant help make a possibility. I mainly filled in gaps that needed some hands-on help, like setting up the Marketplace and assisting one of the tour groups, but I was happy to help in any way I could and be a part of the excellent program. 

The CONELL Marketplace is one of my favorite points of the lead-up to the Annual Meeting, and I was able to help staff the Law Repository Caucus table, which let me more thoroughly meet the CONELL attendees and talk about the different SIS and Caucus offerings embedded within AALL. Another of my favorite pre-conference events is the Black Caucus’s annual dinner, which is such a great time to break bread and catch up with colleagues in different stages of their professional development. This year, the annual dinner was graciously hosted at the Howard University Law Library and featured Rhea Ballard-Thrower, the Executive Director of the Howard University Libraries. The night was full of fun games and networking events, but also proved educational as we were given a tour that highlighted some important history. Visiting libraries and learning from the librarians within them is one of my favorite ways of meeting new people and discovering different approaches to common challenges. I am excited to be able to continue serving as BCAALL Webmaster for the next year.

The programming at the Annual Meeting in D.C. was engaging and topically relevant to my position as the Digital Services & Repository Librarian at Texas A&M University School of Law. The presentation put on by U.S. News and HeinOnline has been a hot topic among the faculty, and it was apparently causing a buzz across the country as the presentation was jam-packed with people in the audience. I appreciated how HeinOnline and U.S. News used the presentation to clarify some details and also invite feedback from the librarian community. Several librarians shared a sense of communal frustration in that HeinOnline and U.S. News were making high-level decisions that impacted the workflows of law librarians. While criticisms about the underlying methodology and poorly designed institutional incentives remain, at the very least, HeinOnline affirmed that going forward it would do more to include the law librarian community before making any final decisions.

Another highlight from my Annual Meeting conference this year was the “Maximizing Your Faculty’s Scholarly Impact: Techniques to Increase Findability” program. My role at my law school intersects with most topics within scholarly communications, so any programming aimed at improving services in this area is very relevant for me. I was pleased to hear the panelists share information that I thought was crucial for anyone looking to learn about this field. Last year, topics that touched on scholarly communications were good, but this year it seemed to me our profession took a leap forward in terms of understanding core issues and coming up with ways to address the challenges of being in a niche subject specialty like the law. Whereas it was difficult to find many people tuned into ORCID or digital object identifiers (DOIs) last year, this year those two topics permeated many presentations and casual talks. I am currently working on an article that will help advocate for legal scholarship to adopt persistent identifiers at the article and author level, and I think the timing is just right to build a coalition of people and institutions that can bridge the expertise within law libraries with the workflows of law journals. At this presentation in D.C., I was sitting in the audience, but was called upon by others as an expert in DOIs and persistent identifiers, which was both humbling and exciting – directly thereafter, I was able to connect with many people who were interested in moving forward in this area over the next year. This is the kind of momentum that can be generated by attending the AALL Annual Meeting in person, and I intend to take this as an opportunity to move one part of our profession at least a tiny bit forward.

One session that I thoroughly enjoyed and learned a lot from was “Developing and Achieving Your Leadership Potential.” This session featured several panelists who shared strategies and approaches to developing leadership skills, and it was both refreshing and reassuring to hear from others about the pervasive “imposter syndrome” effect and how even the most effective leaders need to continually reassess responsibilities and time commitments in order to maintain a balance between taking on too many things and staying on the side lines. One of my favorite take-aways from this session was the conclusion that it is okay to look for a qualified replacement to take over a responsibility that you think you need to give up. Part of being a great leader is also knowing when to let someone else come in and take over something you may have managed for years, and it is healthy to have a rotation of perspectives, both for an institution and personally for leaders themselves. 

Finally, an aspect of the Annual Meeting that impressed me was the many amazing posters. Some of my favorite posters this year included George Washington University Law’s Lawlapalooza, Nicole Downing’s Encouraging Librarian Authors with Workshops, Jennifer Dixon and Fordham Law’s Teaching Tech: Law Practice Technology at Fordham Law, and Lynn Hartke’s Capitalizing on Librarian Strengths to Improve Research Skills of Law Journal Students. Each one of these posters provided important relevant information for my job responsibilities and empowered me with many creative ideas. I look forward to enjoying future posters at the Annual Meeting and, perhaps, submitting an idea of my own to share with the law librarian community.

In short, the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting in Washington D.C. was a terrific and meaningful conference for me, and the travel grant from SWALL made it all possible, for which I am very thankful. Opportunities to network with fellow law librarians and scholarly communications experts are few and far between, and I think the AALL Annual Meeting is one of the best venues for personal and institutional growth. I look forward to continue contributing to the organization and to attending the next Annual Meeting!

One thought on “SWALL Grant to AALL Annual Meeting 2019 Recipient Narrative

  1. Pingback: Volume 42, Issue 3 (Post-Conference Edition) Table of Contents | SWALL Bulletin

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