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Report from the seaside – BIALL 2015

Wednesday arrival

I arrived on Brighton’s sunny seafront as a BIALL first-timer on a wave of anticipation. I had been looking forward to this for a long time, having been a law librarian for years but for various reasons never having made it to the conference. The big hotel’s long corridors and huge function rooms reminded me a little of the setting of “the Shining”, but the atmosphere soon turned out to be far friendlier! I collected my conference bag and badge with an internal “whoop” and began networking. As delegates arrived and greeted each other I felt an air of familiarity and community gradually taking hold which grew steadily throughout the three days.

The pre-conference seminar was fabulous, darlings. Our tutor Paul was a former actor who now coached prominent people (such as a major politician whose name can’t be repeated here!) in the art of public speaking. He quickly calmed our nerves and by the end of the session had us all strutting the room as if we were on stage at the Theatre Royal, bellowing lines from Shakespeare’s Henry V. A great start. In the evening I headed out to enjoy some hospitality with friends old and new.

Thursday

Ah, the joy of a hotel breakfast after a busy night socialising! Re-fuelled, I hit the Exhibition and was met by all manner of devices to delight and to lure me into the vendors’ dens. I began a large collection of freebies, from pens and mugs to umbrellas and teddy bears, to haul back to the office for my colleagues.

In the cavernous main hall, President Marianne Barber formally opened the conference and the stage was set for the opening lecture. Professor Stephen Mayson gave a rousing call to arms, describing with great clarity the factors shaping the legal profession and our role as information specialists within it. Carpe Diem, he told us; seize the opportunities which the changes were presenting to us. His was a hard act to follow but the day continued with a variety of plenary and parallel sessions, several of which worked well and gave much food for thought.

In the evening we met up in Reception to form a “walking bus” (try explaining that to our visitors from abroad: “it’s… er… a group of people walking!”) to the first night reception, hosted by the ICLR at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. It was the hottest night of the year so far and even the Egyptian mummies were sweating. After the evening’s festivities, we headed back to the Metropole’s large, comfortable bar we rested our museum-weary feet and enjoyed a nightcap or two, still networking, still carrying on conversations provoked by the day’s sessions.

Friday

The two plenary sessions on Friday morning were totally absorbing. First up was passionate copyright expert Emily Goodhand. I never thought I would use the word “absorbing” anywhere near the word “copyright” but there you go. I was unfamiliar with the copyright status of a selfie taken by a monkey and felt strangely exhilarated to be enlightened!

Next came a moving talk from Sara Roberts about the impact of the 2010 earthquakes on her law library at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  The aftermath was a long period of great hardship for the library, the university, and of course Sara personally, her family and community. The room was hushed as we all tried to imagine teaching legal research methods to a group of law students in a rain-battered tent without electricity, computers or books, while our young children were at home living without water or sanitation. As Marianne said afterwards, Sara’s experience made many of our own problems pale into insignificance. Since the conference, the phrase “well at least there hasn’t been an earthquake” is becoming a rallying call among my team when we experience a comparatively minor setback.

After lunch the AGM was held, matters being dispatched with ruthless procedural efficiency by the Officers. Then I joined the Senior Managers’ stream, which was actually open to anyone to attend, and enjoyed a particularly relevant talk by Jane Bradbury of Slaughter and May on the fusion of Knowledge Management and Information Management, a recurring theme.

And so to the climax of the conference, the President's Reception. Everyone scrubbed up nicely for an excellent dinner, award ceremonies and a disco.  Tip to the organisers for next year: get a bigger dance floor, these librarians like to strut their stuff! A highly enjoyable evening, topped off with the inevitable final visit to the hotel bar, bustling with BIALL-ers in celebratory mood.

Saturday Kitchen

This had its moments but definitely felt like the conference was suffering a collective hangover. Though the audio equipment did not play ball, the speakers battled on bravely; Alden Bowers of Wildy’s and Alex Smith of LexisNexis had very interesting things to say about the survival of hard copy law books and the Big Data future respectively. Marianne brought down the trusty gavel to mark the end of conference and the sad farewells began; see you next year in Dublin?

What I got out of it from a developmental point of view

From a developmental point of view I gained an enormous amount; a chance to practice networking, public speaking, and sharing thoughts and ideas with like-minded professionals together in one conference. I’m sure the contacts and inspiration will have an impact on my work for the months and years to come.

Theme of conference

The conference themes of collaboration, co-operation and connectivity ran through the conference and I picked up several examples of how these principles could be applied in real life back at my office.

Bursary

Being awarded a Bursary gives you a boost and you feel a bit special.  I am very grateful to the. City Legal Information Group (CLIG) for the bursary and plan to give something back to them by becoming a committee member.

As a bursary winner, you have some roving mic duties to perform at the conference; in the plenary sessions, two of us cover the audience of about 250 people. In a lively discussion, if a hand goes up in the middle of the room it's a race to get there first and on one occasion I nearly came a cropper as we both flew in like rival seagulls descending on a discarded chip!

Overall, the conference is a grand way to meet a lot of friendly, interesting people with similar interests to you.  You learn a lot about your profession and feel part of a lively community. It’s a busy, stimulating three days. I thoroughly recommend attending and hope to see you there in future!

Julee Carroll, Stephenson Harwood LLP, City of London

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