Your First Rodeo:  What to know before you go to the AALL Annual Meeting

By Ramon Barajas (Follow us on LinkedIn)

This year’s Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) will be my first in person conference since the Baltimore meeting in 2018. Little did I know at the time that I wouldn’t return for another five years. In preparing for this year’s meeting, I find myself resorting to my old ways of creating a checklist and a social calendar to make sure that I have the best experience possible. In the past few weeks, I have met with several librarians making their first trip to the annual meeting. It occurred to me that a little cheat sheet of useful tips might be appreciated by first time attendees. From a veteran of many AALL annual meetings, I hope you find some of these insider intel helpful.


  • Annual meeting schedule – Download the AALL Events app to your mobile device. This is the best way to make sure you always have the schedule of events. Favorite the sessions you want to attend for every time slot, and make selections for alternate sessions (more on this later). When logging into the app, you’ll need to refer to the access key you received when registering for the conference. Search your inbox for an email from AALL with the subject “AALL 2023 Login Credentials”. When picking your sessions, don’t forget to allow yourself some downtime. Of course, you want to attend as many sessions as possible, but it’s 100% okay to take a break and recharge your batteries. 
  • Getting around town – If you will be riding public transportation in Boston, start familiarizing yourself with the schedules now. Here is a link to the MBTA site. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to read 2-D maps where all the lines are represented as flat lines.  Furthermore, The Sumner Tunnel, which connects Logan Airport to East Boston will be closed for a restoration project between July 5 – August 31. You’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with all public transportation options! 
  • What to wear – Remember this is a professional work event. In the olden days, business casual was the norm but in post pandemic times, new casual is probably acceptable. If you choose to wear jeans, dress them up with a nice shirt and shoes. You will be meeting many vendor sales reps and AALL leadership. First impressions are still important. Considering the heat and humidity of Boston, you may want to pack one or two extra shirts. Just in case. 

Social networking skills

During a recent gathering of PLLIP librarians of a certain age, the importance of in person networking skills was discussed. As a young conference attendee, you will find yourself in situations that can potentially shape your career. Here are some pointers for handling yourself in social circles. 

  • Business cards – if you have business cards, be sure to pack them. If you don’t have business cards, make sure your LinkedIn profile is current and up to date so your new connections can easily find you online. 
  • Elevator speech – Can you tell someone what you do in under 60 seconds or less? Read this.  
  • Drinking – Yes, there will be many opportunities to enjoy adult beverages. I for one am looking forward to a pint of Harpoon IPA. While enjoying some drinks, check yourself and be aware of your limits. Self-awareness is key.  
  • Cocktail events & receptions – hold your drink in your left hand to avoid the awkwardness of a wet handshake. If you’re enjoying finger foods, the same rule applies. Hold your plate in your right hand and snack with the left.    
  • Get out of your comfort zone – The best way to meet new people and make new contacts is to get out of your comfort zone and dial up your inner extrovert. I know most of us are a little timid by nature, but generally folks at AALL are warm and friendly and are eager to meet you.  

Exhibit Hall

If you are a technology and content nerd like me, the exhibit hall is like one huge playland. This is a wonderful opportunity to see the latest developments in legal tech. Visit as many booths as possible and learn as much about all the products. When meeting with the vendor reps, be transparent about your intentions. As a newer librarian, you may not have the agency and authority to procure new subscriptions, but you can influence decision makers at your institution. Make sure to be clear with the reps. It’s okay to tell the rep you are only “window shopping”. They will appreciate your openness and I have found that often opens the door for a more organic dialogue, rather than a sales-y pitch. 


Educational Sessions

  • Review the agenda and plan for two sessions for every time slot. 
  • If your first session doesn’t hit the mark or meet your expectations, it’s okay to walk out and go to your second pick. You’ll notice others doing the same thing. It’s nothing personal against the speakers. You need to make the annual meeting work for you. 
  • Ask questions. Step up to the mic and ask questions. It’s a great way to spark conversation. Other attendees will appreciate it. 

Note taking

  • Take notes! You will not remember every salient point, even the ones you thought you’d never forget.
  • Don’t just jot down isolated keywords – provide some context within your notes, because when you’re revisiting after a few days (or years), having some context will help. 
  • The AALL app has a built-in note taking feature, but I would advise using something like Evernote or Google Keep as this is a good way to keep an archive of all your conferences and meetings over the years. According to my Evernote account, I’ve been doing so since 2015. 

I hope you find this article of tips and hacks useful. Sure, much of this you can “wing it” and you’ll be just fine, but a little bit of preparation goes a long way to alleviate stress and to handle any unanticipated obstacles. Have a great time at the AALL Annual Meeting!


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.