Summer Conference Wrap-Up

Each summer I attend two conferences:  in June, the law school technology conference hosted by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) and in July the annual meeting and conference of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).  This year the CALI conference was scheduled later than ever, and the AALL conference the earliest it has been in many years, leaving a span of only two weeks between the end of CALI and the first day of AALL.  Each conference has its own “personality,” an amalgam of the number of attendees and their backgrounds and interests, the subjects of the program sessions, the formality of the programming, and other intangibles.  CALI typically lasts 2 1/2 days, AALL 4 days, with the first day for workshops and committee business, and programs on the remaining three.

The CALI conference is hosted at a different law school each year, although for many years it was hosted at Chicago-Kent and many of us think of that as its home.  Last month’s conference was hosted by Rutgers-Camden.  AALL is hosted at a convention center with ancillary events in a hotel nearby.  Typically, at AALL the level of technology, such as wireless access, has been lower than one would like, but this year BNA sponsored wireless connectivity in the convention center for the duration of the meeting.  One of the byproducts of this was extensive tweeting on sessions.

The biggest single difference between the conferences is in the number of attendees, with CALI averaging 250 and having achieved nearly 500 once several years ago, and AALL averaging 10 times that average, around 2,500.  This means that CALI is the more intimate setting.  CALI also has a much more informal session selection process, with most proposals making the grade.  AALL has an official program selection committee with a revised annual set of guidelines.  AALL also requires program proposals to be submitted ten months before the meeting, while reserving one session for a “hot topic.”  On the other hand CALI’s proposals are made in the three months before the conference.

I find that both conferences offer worthwhile programming, but beyond that both offer wonderful opportunities for networking.  Even in this age of instant communication through email, blogging, social networking and tweeting, there is still value in the face-to-face meeting of individuals and groups. Tips are shared, consensus is reached, ideas are moved, persuasion is achieved, and lifelong friendships are made or strengthened.  In fact I find that my “conference friendships” are as strong as any others that I have ever made.  At this point this posting is more primer than wrap-up, and I’ll leave it at that.  More to come…

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