Westpac 2023:  Scholarship, Connection, a Pool Shark, and a Wedding?

By Jenny Silbiger (Follow us on LinkedIn)

Aloha and Happy Fall!

I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my first “outside of Hawai‘i” AALL Western Pacific Chapter conference experience, held on September 28th-30th, 2023. We had a beautiful start with the opening reception on the San Diego Harbor, where AALL Board Member, Kris Niedringhaus joined us to kick-off an amazing meeting full of innovative and thoughtful programming. And, look at these views!

The official numbers of participation included 62 attendees, plus vendors. Westpac speakers and attendees represented a wide geographic region, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Guam, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Nevada, New York, Oregan, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

Our keynote speakers Anne Rowley and Kathleen Spero gave us a “real-talk” and real-world view of where immigration law stands today—perched precariously on the ever-shifting sands of changing administrations. What might be in a textbook in an “intro to immigration law” in the fall is likely out-of-date the following spring. The key to navigating all of this is open and clear communication with all parties involved, alerts to hot-off-the-press administrative memos, immigration law colleagues, and immigration system stakeholders, including general service and legal service providers. What we took from our speakers’ time with us was that the stakes are extremely high, the need for constant support and scrutiny around immigration practices and access to legal sources and information is more important than ever before. 

Westpac continued on with our brilliant presenters confronting colonialist and racist approaches present in the study of international law, as well as implicit bias and pervasive gender and racial disparities in legal education and scholarship (and what we might do about both of these), discussing the nuances of managing neurodiverse employees, explaining where we’re at with generative AI (emerging, exciting and out of the top secret Harvard University summit – that even the AI experts and developers aren’t 100% clear on how it works). We shared about access to justice initiatives at public law libraries in California and Hawai‘i, reflective teaching methods and tips to improve our legal research courses, IP resources, outreach & education, and were given a preview of the thoughts behind creating, along with sample questions of NextGen Bar Exam. Every break-out session invited us to think critically about our law library profession and how we could make a positive impact, big or small, to effect thoughtful changes in our workspaces.

And of course an important part of our time together was talking story and connecting with dear colleagues and friends we have known and also newer law librarians in our field—some just mere months into their positions. Please join me in welcoming our newest members with aloha into AALL! 

Shared experiences are a language that can only be learned by living them, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn a bit, side-by-side with our Westpac folks to Old Town, Coronado Island, Little Italy, there and back again. There may have been some singing, including an el mariachi birthday serenade to one of our own who celebrated his birthday on the 29th. There may have been some dancing. There may have been a little bit of pool sharking (aka the law librarians vs a very-friendly-pool-sharky crowd)!  There may have also been an impromptu celebration of a two-groom wedding having the time of their lives. And there may have been even more fun and impromptu adventures, in-passing as well as wholehearted conversations that are the gifts of collegialism and friendship that keep on giving. It’s so hard to say goodbye, but I know it’s only a matter of time when we’ll all be connected again—and we have AALL and Westpac to thank for that.

Many thanks to now Westpac Past President Anna Blaine, current president Dan Blackaby, Mari Cheney and to the conference planning committee, for creating an inviting and inspiring conference experience, and special thanks to our San Diego County law library colleagues and everyone who participated in the local arrangements. These memories will last a lifetime, and I’m so thankful we could all be together.


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 those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.