Recharge Your Career

Whether you are starting your career, are mid-career or are winding down, you should take time to recharge. Ever since 1975, one of my favorite ways to refresh lagging enthusiasm for the rigors and routines of work has been to go to the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). In the early days I was energized by meeting new people and learning new skills. As the years rolled by, my excitement was in honing skills and in catching up with the many friends I made over the course of my career. Now that I am retired, I still attend the conference, but I can be choosier about which programs I attend. I try to leave plenty of open time to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

This year the meeting was in Seattle, Washington, from July 13th through the 16th. AALL 2013’s theme was Rethink Your Value: a very good one for our challenging times. Due to a personal conflict I arrived on Sunday the 14th so missed the opening reception and the keynote speaker. After lunch with former colleagues, I went to my first program: the AALL Public Policy Update. After a briefing on the AALL Government Relations Office’s current initiatives on federal and state legislation and policy, I encountered a new format where we broke out into three smaller groups to be updated in turn by members of each of AALL’s three policy committees. This was a particularly good format to keep my jet lagged self engaged and awake. That evening I went to a lovely reception and library tour at the University of Washington Law Library.

The next day brought another programming innovation – the mid-conference Monday Morning Recharge with a choice of five programs focusing on business skills. I went to the one called Own the Room: Presentations That Captivate and Win Over Any Audience. The presenter, Steve Hughes, was a bundle of energy with a wide array of ideas for spicing up talks. His four main points were to:

  1. Open big
  2. Practice good PowerPoint
  3. Make it interactive
  4. Speak confidently.

He illustrated these by using a variety of techniques in his program and later sent out email copies of his slides to all who requested them. I had a hard time choosing between the five offerings, but am extremely satisfied I went to that one.

After a quite welcome Exhibit Hall Attendee buffet lunch and a committee meeting, I moved on to a program on Copyright and Digital Images: “If It’s on the Web I Can Use It, Right?” The answer was that it depends on where you find it and how you use it. The presenters recommended that you look for usable images by going to such sites as Flickr, Creative Commons Search, U.S. Government Photos and Images or iStock Photo. On Flickr you can search images in their Commons of public photo archives such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives UK and the Law Society of Upper Canada Archives. Also when you use a creative commons image, you should list the title of the image, the creator’s name and the type of license. However, their main advice was not to use an image if there is any doubt as to its copyright status. Monday evening ended with a lively Member Appreciation event at the Experience Music Project Museum. I found the “quiet area” to be extremely useful for meeting friends and networking.

Tuesday was the final day, so I slipped off to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop in the early morning, then finished looking at the exhibits. Several years ago AALL shortened the meeting by one day and then eliminated the final banquet, which was replaced by an Association Luncheon on the final day. I find this lunch event to be a good way to see a few more people, watch the awards presentations and hear another speaker. This year’s talk was by futurist Andy Hines on Making Your Future Happen and focused on change management. He was a good speaker but note taking was difficult at the table, so you should explore his website for more information.

After lunch and a dessert break in the exhibit hall, I tucked in two final programs. The first was an interactive program put on by staff from the Library of Congress entitled Please Turn Your Electronic Device On: Exploring The presenters challenged the audience to use their laptops, tablets and smart phones in a contest to find Congressional information and thereby highlighted the extreme usefulness of its apps. On July 18th Kim Nayyer blogged about this program, so I will not go into more detail. Even though is still in beta development, I find it to be an excellent model for a responsive and authoritative government site.

My final program was called Joe Janes Discusses the Library of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Janes is a professor at the University of Washington Information School who recently edited a book: Library 2020: Today’s Leading Visionaries Describe Tomorrow’s Library. He opened by asking the audience to fill in their answer to the question “The Library in 2020 will be ____? Then he explored five themes derived from the book: Stuff, Place, People, Community and Leadership and Vision. His optimistic conclusion was that these five elements will endure in the libraries of the future, but that libraries must be about much more than just access to information. This exciting program was a perfect ending to another stimulating annual meeting. I topped off my Seattle visit with a delicious salmon dinner near Pike Place Market and left feeling properly educated and energized to begin my third year as a retired volunteer. I highly recommend that you take the time to do whatever it is that will recharge your career and your life.


  1. Nice summary of the AALL Conference! Made me feel like I was there. I would also add that if funding or scheduling is tight a good way to recharge your batteries is to look at this year’s past conferences where many of the sessions are available as PowerPoint or as a webcast. ILTA, Internet Librarian and many of the speakers post on their websites. Draw up the sofa, learn and recharge!!