A little over a month ago, some of the Nova Law librarians had the opportunity to attend the SEAALL (Southeastern Chapter of American Association of Law Libraries) Annual Conference in Knoxville, TN. University of Tennessee Law and Lincoln Memorial University Law did a fantastic job of welcoming us into their city. Rob Beharriell, Carolyn Brown, Dean Eric Young and I had a blast while taking in the Knoxville local cuisine and culture as well as learned about some very insightful topics from the presenters at the conference. I want to share a little bit about our SEAALL trip with you in this entry so that you can have an idea of how beneficial it can be to put hundreds of librarians together in one place!
Knoxville’s Downtown Market Square, across the street from our hotel:
We started our Conference by attending the Institute, which is a series of presentations catered to beginning law librarians to give them extra ins and outs about the profession.
The first presentation that caught my attention was Job Satisfaction: What Can Each of Us Do to Put It in Reach, presented by Maureen Cahill, University of Georgia; Caroline Osborne & Judy Stinson, Washington & Lee University. The program discussed some of the challenges librarians and staff face when working in a library environment. The presenters came up with some suggestions about how to relieve work-related stress and maintain a balance between your work and personal life so as not to drown yourself in too many responsibilities that you lose sight of who you truly are. That way, you can genuinely have a passion for your job. At the end of the program, the presenters asked us to share some things we did to “escape” from our work environment momentarily to get a recharge to finish the day out on a strong note. I thought about it and realized that it really helped me to utilize my lunch break in that manner. I either had lunch with members of other departments at the school, such as Student Affairs, Administration, or IT, so that I didn’t have to talk about library-related topics. If no one was available, I would drive to a nearby local eatery for lunch, even if it is a fast food place, just to get some fresh air away from the officer. If I can’t leave campus, I try to take a walk to the University Center, which has the food court for the main campus, instead. That way, it allows me to physically pull away from my desk and take my mind off work for just an hour. When I come back, I’m ready to tackle the rest of the day! What things can you do during your work day to give yourself a breather?
The presentation, How Low Can You Go? New Frontiers in Applying the Tools and Strategies of Succession Planning, by Elizabeth Outler & Patricia Morgan from University of Florida, discussed plans to make succession transitions go smoothly. The presenters suggested that the library should have a game plan in place for both successions and unexpected position vacancies (people moving on to other positions, people having family emergencies and leaving their jobs for personal reasons). It involved cross-training most of the librarians and staff and allowing everyone to have a little experience in each department, if not just the basics of how to perform a certain job task, so that there could be a structural shift to fill the void if and when the time comes for one. I thought that was a neat backup plan to instill. I support the notion of cross-training not just for succession planning, but also just so each person can truly appreciate their colleagues’ and coworkers’ special skills and have a general understanding of how crucial each department’s part is to running an effective law library. Sometimes, you have to step into someone else’s shoes in order to fully acknowledge the contributions they bring to the team. And that way, your library is covered if a particular person leaves (even if only to go on vacation), knowing that there is at least one other person who can temporarily take over for them.
And then the Conference began the next day, officially. Since there were about three different programs happening at one time, I can only report about the highlights of the programs that I was able to attend, but I hear from Rob and Carolyn that the programs they attended were equally as comprehensive and informative, and I commend all of the presenters at SEAALL for their hard work in putting the programs together for us.
While all of the programs gave me priceless tips to take back to Nova, the most engaging program for me was by Sara Sampson and Tim Gallina of the University of North Carolina Law School called What’s Your Problem: Designing Engaging Assignments for Your Course really gave me great ideas about how to create lesson plans, since I am new to the profession and have not taught my first solo class yet. Sara and Tim did a great job identifying how to keep the students’ attention and to make the assignments relatable to them.
The other program I really enjoyed was Law Lib Tech where the University of Georgia law librarians Thomas Striepe, Jason Turbinis & Anne Burnett gave us a good overview of how technology use in the classroom can increase productivity. For instance, UGA Law promotes the use of clickers in their classes to not only draw the students’ into actively participating, but it also gave the professors an additional tool to gather statistics about the students’ learning habits and what areas they needed the most help in. Another way UGA supported student services was through their Digital Repository, which hosted both faculty scholarship as well as student scholarship and provided another database of resources for the students to tap into for their research needs. This included digitizing the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law and making all of its issues accessible through the Digital Repository.
And now, the best part: the food, sights and atmosphere! We had the opportunity to experience some downright Tennessee cookin’. Over the week, I ate my heart out at as many local places as possible, including CRU, Bijou’s Bistro, Tupelo Honey, Blue Coast Grill, Preservation Pub, and Stock and Barrel. The consensus among the group was that the Tupelo Honey presented itself as the favorite, especially impressing us with their Southern style delectable such as shrimp & grits, biscuits, fried okra, and the like. If you’re craving mama’s home-cooked meals, this is the place to go. They even had their biscuit mix and homemade jam for sale, and I’m sure some of the librarians at the conference took advantage of loading their suitcases up with that, because they were to die for!
Photo courtesy of http://www.chattanoogan.com/photos/2013/9/article.258977.large.jpg
During the day between programs, we enjoyed the art culture surrounding the Market Square and perused the delightful corner shops for unique souvenir items. I bought a few items from the Wallace Paper Company which held unique and witty greeting cards, posters, and stationary that I truly have never seen anywhere else. There was also a stroll through the World’s Fair Park to catch a glimpse of the landmark Sun Sphere and was treated with a llama race event nearly! I also took a little detour with some old friends to the McKay’s Bookstore because what kind of a librarian would I be if I didn’t go on a hunt for books? McKay’s turned out to be a giant two-story warehouse of used books, movies, records, cds, action figures, comics, and so much more! The prices were incredible, anywhere from $0.99 and up. It made me wish there was something comparable in Fort Lauderdale.
McKay’s Used Bookstore:
Art Festival at Market Square:
We got a taste of the nightlife, including a hidden speakeasy called The Peter Kern Library (http://www.theoliverhotel.com/parlorLounge.php) where the whole place followed a library theme. The coziness of the speakeasy, whose entrance could only be found through a narrow back alley tucked behind the Oliver Hotel, boasted a fireplace and bookshelf painted background, a hollowed out book as a menu, cocktails named after literary characters and books, and even a tab that was printed on a “Check Out / Return By” slip that are commonly found in the back of public library books. It was definitely a unique experience that was apropos to the Conference.
Peter Kern Library Speakeasy:
Stroll past Tennessee Theater at night:
Overall, Knoxville exceeded my expectations with its small-town charm juxtaposed with big city activities, the nice weather and Tennessee River breeze, and the many treasures that we found at the Downtown shops and restaurants. My only wish was that we had more time to explore the rest of the city and its natural landmarks such as the Smoky Mountains. Until next time, thanks for the hospitality, Knoxville, and thank you to the SEAALL committee members who worked hard to make the Conference possible!
Postcard Wall Mural: