Following the Yellow Brick Road: My First Trip to AALL

By Le’Shawn Turner

Comfortable dress shoes, check.  Crossbody purse, check.  AALL agenda, CHECK!  

As I prepared for the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), I couldn’t help but hum the song, We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz. Of course, I know that AALL is far from the Wizard of Oz, but the description and anticipation of it does make it seem just as magical.  After two long years, AALL Annual Conference will be held in person AND I am going!!!!!

When I first started taking law librarianship track classes at the University of North Texas (UNT), Dr. Yvonne Chandler, my advisor, told me to attend AALL.  Those of you who knew Dr. Chandler know that it was a directive not a request. As a student with small children, that was not something I could do right away. After I started working for the Oklahoma City University School of Law Library, my co-workers also encouraged me to attend. I decided I’d wait until after I graduated from library school. I graduated in December 2019. Then in March 2020, COVID brought the world to a screeching halt. Classes weren’t the only type of learning that shifted to the virtual world. Conferences also became virtual. For two years, the AALL Annual Meeting was held virtually. The programming was still powerful and timely but it was delivered in the virtual setting.  

But this year, it was IN PERSON. So off I went to Denver, CO! Despite what I’d heard, I honestly had no idea what to expect. The hotel was beautiful, big, and pricey! I was assigned a room on the top floor with a beautiful view of the mountains and the big blue bear. The hotel breakfast buffet was delicious, but not included in the price of the room (it should have been, but I digress).  

What I loved about the conference – the programming options, the exhibit hall (the vendors present), the length of time for each program, the Career Services office, the countless amount of flags one can add to their name tag, and the Keynote Speaker (Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye from the Supreme Court of California). It is hard for me to determine my favorite session, but if I had to pick one (or two) it is (they are) Black Land Matters and Remote Work and Hybrid Workspace.  If I have to mention Cool Tools Café’, which I believe is a crowd favorite, then dear Reader, you have OBVIOUSLY never been to an AALL convention.  

What I would love to see more of – representation.  I would love to see AALL continue to diversify its membership. In an industry that is an important part of the legal field, I would love to see more minority representation. In EVERYTHING – from the officers, to SIS groups, to presenters, to vendor representatives, to advertising, etc. Librarians, whether law librarians or other areas of librarianship, are the gatekeepers of information. The face that you see when you go to seek knowledge and information makes a difference. If a patron or student sees a friendly face ready to help them, they feel at ease. In the same sense, if a person of color sees someone who looks like them, ready to assist them with their work or to find what it is they need, they will likely feel more at ease. Seeing more diversity in law libraries benefits society by showing the world that different views and different “flavors” make this traditionally “vanilla” industry vibrant. Plus it shows that the legal field, a field that is known to be stagnant, biased, and closed off, is open to change.  Librarians of all colors facilitate conversations with the public regularly. Law librarians can insert knowledge, understanding, and access to resources in a field that has traditionally been monochromatic in color and gender for years. AALL is making strides and creating opportunities, but I would still like to see… more.  

During the conference, I was honored to be able to attend the inaugural social event celebrating BLL-SIS (Black Law Librarians Special Interest Section). The night was PERFECT! The event was not just a group of Black Law Librarians patting themselves on the back. It was an event well attended by a variety of people celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the Law Librarian field.  It also honored those who were special to our group that had passed away this past year. BLL-SIS contributed to the community of the host city by conducting a fundraiser for one of the libraries in the city. Plus, I was honored to be chosen as the first recipient of the Educational Fund grant which provided me with financial assistance to attend this year’s annual conference.  

I thoroughly enjoyed myself in Denver! I went to the movies and the mall. I am a bit of a movie theater snob so of course I went to a movie theater that brought my food to my seat. I had the opportunity to dine at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp and several delicious restaurants around the hotel. I was blessed to be able to bring my children with me to Denver. They also enjoyed the trip. They said the best part for them was attending the BLL-SIS reception and watching mommy give a speech.  

So where do I go from here? Continued participation in my chapter (MAALL) and SIS groups (for example, BLL-SIS) and the bank; to begin saving up for what my children now refer to as our next year’s trip to BOSTON!!


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.