From May 26-29, 2019, around 300 law librarians and legal information professionals flooded the dusty streets of Edmonton, AB to congregate for the 57th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries/l'Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit (CALL/ACBD).
Last year I said that last year was different for me, but this year was different. Being the face of a conference is an odd feeling. I had a pink “planning committee” ribbon dangling from my neck, an Edmonton conference logo sticker over my heart, people constantly approached me, and I kept being handed the mic! Let me tell you…that is not what my normal life is like. Despite how busy it got, this time - my fourth CALL/ACBD conference - was my absolute favourite to date.
The 2019 CALL/ACBD Conference Planning Committee - Gisele Abt (Social Committee), Katie Cuyler (Programming Committee), Anke Eastwood (Sponsorship Committee), Kristin Hodgins (Professional Development Committee Liaison), Josette McEachern (Co-Chair), Shaunna Mireau (CALL/ACBD Executive Liaison), and Julie Rainey (Communications Committee) - was a small, but resilient team. We overcame several challenges together over the last couple of years…
Several construction plans within downtown Edmonton were (and are) scheduled to continue until 2020 or 2021
CALL/ACBD’s event management company changed around the 1 year mark
A plenary speaker needed to be replaced in January (4-5 months before the conference)
Alberta’s provincial election writ was dropped in February (3 months before the conference)
This meant that the election communications policy hindered the participation of about half of the conference planning committee
We had to remove certain local sponsor logos and government employee bios and session descriptions from the conference website and program until the election period ended
We couldn’t advertise anything to do with provincial government programs or employees on CALL-L, In Session, the CALL/ACBD website, or social media
The Westin Edmonton (our conference venue booked 2 years in advance) flooded in March (2 months before the conference)
1 of our social tours double-booked themselves
A number of flights coming in from BC were delayed within the first 2 days of the conference
2 of our lightning talk speakers experienced medical setbacks during the conference
We were in the middle of Alberta’s fire season and there were 7 states of local emergency declared right before the conference started
The list goes on…but despite these challenges, these superstars pressed ahead made it happen. If you decide to take a ride on the emotional rollercoaster of conference planning too, curating a solid and reliable team should be a top priority. Of course, the credit for logistics and operations has to go to Taylor Green, Samantha Rosen, and Maggie Large at Redstone Agency, who run CALL/ACBD National Office and were our tag team on-site in Edmonton. Kudos to them on their ability to find us a replacement venue for our conference and all their other magical event management ways!
This conference was really special to me.
There were more opportunities for new professionals to connect. In addition to our New Professionals Special Interest Group (NP-SIG) business meeting, we organized 3 informal meet-ups. The first meet-up for casual dinner and drinks drew 22 new professionals at its peak. It gave those of us within the first 5-6 years of our careers to lean on one another and bond in a way that we can’t necessarily do with more established colleagues.
The conference program was more diverse and inclusive (but we can always do better). We had an equal number of men and women on our plenary speaker roster. We had 2 breakout sessions and 3 lightning talks that highlighted indigenous justice issues and work being done in that area. Our pre-conference workshop, delivered by Helen Frost, was on the Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) method of analysis, which encourages the integration of an intersectional lens into planning, decision-making processes, policies, and programs.
There were sessions that addressed topics that we have a tendency to steer away from. Kristin Hodgins bravely stepped up to the plate to facilitate an interactive session called, “Things I messed up: Stories of failure and how to lead, support and learn from failure in your organization” where colleagues shared stories of failure and their lessons learned. Dr. K. Jessica Van Vliet presented her session, “Feeling Like an Imposter? Opportunities for Improvement”, which addressed the commonality of “imposterism” and the “imposter phenomenon” faced by many of us. Judge Charles Gardner presented his session, “Indigenous Justice Issues Being Faced by the Provincial Court of Alberta”, where he spoke about the work being done and the work that needs to be done in order to decrease the over-representation of indigenous people cycling in and out of the court system in Alberta.
There were more opportunities to network throughout the conference. We opted to host a splashier Opening Reception, nix the Closing Reception, have Dine-Arounds on each day of the conference, extend refreshment breaks, and have social tours near the start and end of the conference.
There was a committee that meant something to me in both my personal and professional life. 2 years ago, Kim Nayyer founded CALL/ACBD’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization Committee (DIDC). 1 year ago, CALL/ACBD passed Resolution 2018/1 put forward by the DIDC, which acknowledged that CALL/ACBD would incorporate diversity, inclusion, and decolonization into its activities and partnerships. This year, I joined the DIDC as their Membership Development Committee Liaison and as a self-identified queer person of colour and new professional.
I’m so excited to continue my involvement with CALL/ACBD and stay in touch with my new professional colleagues until we see each other again in Hamilton for #CALLACBD2020!