by Cassie DuBay
Are you feeling conference fatigue from going to the same local conference year, after year? Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve gotten to attend any conference at all. Or perhaps you’re tasked with planning a conference in the near future. Well, I urge you to attend something new, something less obvious.
As a librarian at SMU, I am a member of the Southwestern Association of Law Libraries (SWALL). But this year, I decided to see what SEAALL and all the seersucker-wearing crazies are about. Actually, I love seersucker and SEAALL friends who wear seersucker. I had so much fun, I learned a lot, and I met fabulous people. Let me tell you about it…
The opening reception set the tone for the weekend with an all-star cast of dining options and an open bar. I appreciate any dish that serves as a vessel for blue cheese so if you saw me at SEAALL as a stage-five clinger to the wedge salad bar, you know why. But the opening reception also served pasta three ways, beef and vegetarian sliders, and an assortment of desserts including cactus cupcakes. Personally, the main attraction was Louis Rosen’s display of magic card tricks (each table had playing cards or Uno sets as an ice-breaker – so smart!). Breakfast the next day was the talk of the hotel. The reason for these dining details? Lunch service the next day was a typical sandwich-apple-chips-cookie boxed lunch. For future conference planners: a box lunch is 100% worth it for an opening reception SEAALL style.
My other favorite part of SEAALL? The vendor-sponsored activity choices. Upon registering for SEAALL this year you had the choice of a mixology class, wine tasting, or a waterfall walk. I have been saying for years that we need more physical activity at the AALL annual meeting. I mean really, what could be more fun than a step challenge in Washington D.C. this year?! Andrew Weber at the Library of Congress would probably win because he literally runs at least a mile every single day, but I bet second place would be loads of fun to achieve and just think of all the pride and applause you’d receive…
Ok, yes, the Fastcase suite is more fun than a step challenge, but that’s not the point.
I chose the waterfall walk activity and got to explore 1.5 miles and 13 waterfalls in rural Virginia. Also, I willingly ate a stick. True story. The walk was such a unique way to meet new friends. As for the other activities, I heard all positive reviews. Dine-arounds are fun, but additional activities take a conference to the next level.
SEAALL also had four programs run concurrently for each time slot and I learned that about 50% of the program proposals had to be turned away. If you attended SEAALL, this wouldn’t be a surprise: all of the programming was fantastic. But it should be pointed out that good programming can only come from good proposals. If you want more material in an area that interests you, you must propose something. At the very least, you must encourage others to present. So, thank you to each of you at SEAALL who did.
I personally walked away with a new professional interest. At least two programs focused on storytelling and data visualization. I am 100% willing to admit that my home has decorative items that my fiancé is not allowed to touch (form over function, my friends). So, when I saw what UGA, BU, Illinois and other schools’ law libraries are doing with data – visually – I was hooked. I immediately had the library order Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations. I learned that while I love Canva and others do, too, I should be exploring Tableau. I learned that while library annual reports can share library data, they can also publicize the work and achievements of the library staff. Really, I just cannot wait to learn where data visualization can take both the law library and the law school.
From check-in to programming, everything ran smoothly at SEAALL. Major props to the meetings’ organizers and the local arrangements team. Those tasked with planning a meeting in the near future should take note of the fun SEAALL created in Virginia this year.
Thanks for a great weekend!
P.S. No, I didn’t get a grant or some other bribe to write this review (just a blue cheese salad). I just really had a good time.