Last week I attended the BIALL annual conference in Brighton. I will be writing up some of the sessions I attended over the next week or so. Probably not all of them – I’m a little short on time! – but I will write about the ones I found most useful/interesting. In the meantime, I just wanted to jot down a few thoughts on the conference overall, while it is still fresh in my memory.
Although this wasn’t my first library conference – I attended several last year – it was my first conference as a New Professional, not a student. It was also my first time attending a conference specifically about law librarianship. I really feel like I got a lot out of it – certainly far more than I would have done had I attended this time last year. I’m sure the conference would still have been useful to me as a student, but much of it would have gone straight over my head (in fact, some of it still did!). Having worked in a law firm for almost exactly a year (I think it’ll be a year next week) gave me a much better base level of knowledge to work with, so the presentations meant more to me. I’m really glad I had the opportunity this year – and many thanks to Sweet & Maxwell for the bursary that allowed me to attend 🙂
My second observation – BIALL are a really friendly crowd! I knew a few people who were going beforehand, but not many, so I was a bit nervous about turfing up on my own and having to make conversation with a bunch of strangers, but it was actually really easy to get chatting to people. It helped that BIALL organise a “buddy scheme” for first time attendees, which I signed up to – basically they pair you up with someone else who’s attending for the first time, so you’re not just thrown in on your own. It also helped that there were a lot of Twitterers going to the conference. Although I’d met very few of them in person before, having chatted online it was easier to start talking to people. Before the conference a few people had suggested printing off your Twitter avatar to stick to your name badge (apologies, I can’t remember who actually came up with that idea!) – I did this, and it really helped in identifying people I knew from Twitter.
The final point I wanted to make was, never underestimate the importance of free WiFi at a conference! The conference centre were charging a substantial amount for WiFi, and I wasn’t lucky enough to stay in a hotel that provided free WiFi, so that severely limited the amount of Tweeting I could do. I do have a smartphone, so could have used 3G, but that really drains my battery! There were also a lot of people who didn’t have smartphones, but had brought laptops and netbooks with them to use in the conference centre, but were unwilling to pay the amount the conference centre were asking for WiFi access. As a result, although there was a conference hashtag which had been publicised beforehand, there was very little usage of it. I really thought that was a shame – I’ve got used to seeing high volumes of Tweets from library events, so it was odd not to be able to share the conference proceedings in real time. That’s something I think the BIALL conference committee should perhaps look at for the next conference.
Watch this space for more comment on the individual sessions!