Given the current economy and reduced financial support for travel and professional development, not to mention staff reductions and hiring freezes, how can you obtain support to attend the 2016 AALL Annual Meeting and Conference? The key is to understand the benefits of attending the conference and, ultimately, that you can't afford to miss it! You also have to consider what this means from your employer's perspective.
Why You Can't Afford to Stay Home
Education: More than 70 different educational sessions planned over the four-day period will return you to your library energized and armed with new money-saving and innovative techniques and strategies to benefit your library and users. The AALL Annual Meeting and Conference is the premier educational and networking event for legal information professionals. The schedule of programming is designed to maximize your time away from the office. We've even identified timely and pertinent sessions to get your boss's attention, based on the library setting in which you work:
The sessions are presented by industry experts and colleagues who provide current information on challenges and solutions that are impacting law libraries today. Multiple programs running concurrently allow you the flexibility to tailor an education experience that meets the specific needs of your institution. In addition, you'll receive complimentary audio recordings of educational programs, so even if you don't attend a program live, you'll be able to access the recording when you get back home.
Exhibit Hall: Meet face-to-face with vendors and preview new products and services in the exhibit hall, saving you time – and money. Nearly 100 vendors will display their services in Chicago, including legal publishers, bibliographic services, library suppliers, and much more.
Networking: Once a year you have the opportunity to network, share ideas, and learn new ones with legal information professionals from law libraries of all types. There are so many opportunities to make new connections with other AALL members – gain insight from the very people who understand the exact issues you face each day. This is the only event of its kind that is specifically designed by law librarians, for law librarians.
Map a Plan to Get Support
1. Plan early! In addition to early bird registration discounts, planning early will enable you to obtain lower airline fares and ensure availability in conference hotels offering significant AALL discounts over standard room rates. An early request shows that you are a careful planner. AALL Annual Meeting Grants and SIS and chapter sponsored grants are available to cover registration costs for the Annual Meeting or for workshops presented at the Annual Meeting, but most application deadlines are in April.
2. Formalize your request in writing (see sample memo below). Support your request with specific reasons you should attend. Specifically identify what benefits your institution will obtain by your attendance at the conference. What sessions meet objectives and learning opportunities that are of critical importance to your institution? (See our lists of programs geared toward your type of library; you can find a printable list of all programs here.) Prepare a list of exhibitors that you want to meet with to discuss their products and why.
3. Prepare a budget for the cost of attending and be willing to show your commitment by absorbing a portion of the cost personally if needed. Use frequent flyer miles or hotel points to offset the cost of attending. Would you be willing to share a hotel room with a colleague? Consider using vacation time for some of the days out of the office. Remember that you are making a commitment to your own education as well as your institution.
4. Involve your staff. Share conference information and ask them for input on which education sessions would benefit them. Agree to share the complimentary conference recordings with them after the event.
5. Share conference materials with your employer. Ask for input on which sessions and vendor information they feel would benefit the institution the most. (See our lists of programs geared toward your type of library.)
6. Identify those individuals on your staff who will handle your responsibilities while you are out of the office. Remind your employer that current technology allows you to be easily accessible during your time away from the office.
No Time for Rest When You Return
- Maintain an action list of ideas you want to implement or develop further when you return.
- Summarize this list and provide an executive report for your employer. By doing so, you demonstrate the value in attending and plant the seeds for attendance at future annual conferences.
- Share ideas and vendor information with colleagues and staff.
The Power of One New Idea
- Emphasize the most important thing that you learned as a result of attending. Share this idea with the colleagues and staff. Show how the power of just one new idea (a change in procedure, policy, learning about a new product or service) made the investment of attending the Annual Meeting and Conference worth it!
Sample Memo to Your Employer
Here is a template you can use to convince your employer to support your attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting and Conference.
To: Powers That Be
Re: Attendance at the AALL Annual Meeting and Conference
1. Describe AALL and the Annual Meeting and Conference
- Date, time, and place of Annual Meeting you plan to attend.
- AALL is the largest professional organization for law librarians.
- Describe networking opportunities.
2. Describe How You Would Spend Your Time
- List four or more specific programs directly related to your work that you plan to attend, along with a brief discussion of why they will help you. (See all program descriptions, as well as those geared toward your type of library).
- Describe vendor issues best dealt with in person at the meeting. Describe new product demonstrations you plan to attend.
- List any SIS, committee, or other AALL-related activities you plan to attend along with a discussion of why they are important.
- List estimated budget, including registration, hotel, transportation, and meals. If you plan on sharing a room or staying through a weekend, list that here. Remember that Friday travel may be required because committees and workshops meet on Saturday.
- Respectfully state when you need a decision, reminding employers that late registration will cost more.