This is the full report on the 2018 BIALL Conference from CLIG's bursary winner, Karen Palmer. Snippets of this have also been used as my contribution to the Bursary Winners report in the July 2018 BIALL Newsletter.
Bursary award winners are also asked to assist the BIALL Conference Committee during the conference, and so I got to scurry around with roving mic after two of the Plenary Sessions, I helped with checking members into the AGM, and I also helped collect the envelopes* for the Charity Raffle during the Annual Dinner on the Friday evening. None of these were at all onerous – and made the conference even more enjoyable – so please do think about applying yourself next year!
Wednesday 6th June
To make sure I arrived in Birmingham in time to attend the pre-BIALL Conference Justis party I had booked myself on the mid-afternoon cheap train from Euston to Birmingham – which turned out to be a four-carriage train. Luckily, I had arrived at the station early and so was able to join one of the queues waiting for the doors to open before it got too long, and then many years’ experience of boarding overcrowded Southern Trains ensured I got the last seat in the carriage! Being able to sit back and relax meant I had time to check Twitter for conference tweets from the comfort of my seat - other BIALL-bound travellers on Twitter seemed to have all booked the inter-city option (faster, but more expensive), and in one case, even gone first class, but the method of travel didn’t matter to me as long as I got to Birmingham. I also took the opportunity to re-read the amazing instructions (which included pictures!) posted by @julie_ferret for getting to #BIALL2018 on foot from thetrain station. Arriving at Birmingham International Station these pictures proved to be very useful, as they not only got me to the hotel, but I also was able to assist a lost delegate from the US as well.
By the time I was checking into the hotel, my excitement levels were rising - lots of people in the queue who had been to the pre-conference seminar, but no time to dawdle, as I needed to get ready for the Justis party… I think my top was appropriately ‘garish’.
Thursday 7th June
A fair few people I knew to be delegates were at breakfast early-ish – all probably with the same plan as me … get a quick dash around the Exhibition in the 30 minutes before the Formal Opening @ 9.30am! And I was very glad I started my collection of goodies early, as the lovely scarf/shawl I snaffled was soon in use.
The first ‘banging’ of the BIALL gavel at conference is when the President officially declares the conference open – this year Anneli Sarkanen’s opening remarks were very personal around her involvement with the Association, and Anneli is a great example of what is the wonderful community of people that make up BIALL.
The Keynote Address was given by Dr Gemma John, she spoke about the planning of library spaces, how library services can use the space they have, and the space itself being a service. This was followed by the official opening of the Exhibition (more about this later).
For the first Parallel session I had selected to attend 1C ‘Using technology to provide a global library service’, as this is a topic I face every day. Issues covered included balancing the needs of different offices, working across time zones, physical location of staff, language barriers, different public holidays and cultural differences across the firm. Technology in the form of online services brings up the issue of global v limited licences – which to have, and then explain to management that the global is actually cheaper than selected offices … It can also be really difficult when the firm is trying to work globally, but your vendors have multiple account managers and they don't speak amongst themselves. I have come away from this session with lots of thoughts and ideas about what could and should be done with firm intranets, and presenting information from the library to the firm as a whole.
Lunch – was excellent!
The afternoon started with a session that I was really looking forward to - Daniel Hoadley of The ICLR speaking about - ‘Mission impossible! Perfecting open access to English case law’. I was aware that case law reporting in UK is behind where it should be, but until this session I was not fully aware of how woefully behind it really is. I loved this quote:
… Providing free access to case law might be like bringing a knife to a gunfight [for self-represented litigants], but it’s better than bringing a banana, which is what they have now …
The root of the open access to case law problem in the UK is the extempore [oral] judgment (as compared to a Handed Down judgment). An Extempore judgment is the beginning of an extremely convoluted, inconsistent and cumbersome process – we are in the 21st Century and the court systems have not caught up! The tax payer is getting very poor value for money from the MoJ when information is not being made available to the public. There is a good case for this whole process being brought back in house (but I do not think politics will see this ever happening).
Looking to the future, the use of technology could help – and the question asked was how long will it be before the audio of the judgment can be captured instantly and transcribed accurately by software and then automatically uploaded to BAILII? #IdealWorld
Four Lightning Talks followed, but the down-side of co-presenting one of them was that I was not able to make any notes on the others – but from the side of the stage they were all brilliant, and I would really recommend this as a way of dipping your toe into speaking at conference.
For the final Parallel of the day I stayed with stream C to hear about the experiences of Gowling and Withers moving to agile working.
InfoTrack again sponsored the entertainment for the Thursday evening entertainment at conference (Thank you!!), and this year there was a Beach Party. Lots of Hawaiian/tropical/flowery shirts and shorts, and some very snazzy sunnies were worn. I did not try out the Surfing simulator myself (too klutzy), but lots of people did with varying degrees of success, and it actually got very competitive towards the end of the evening.
Friday 8th June
This was my day to ‘help’ and my first outing with the microphone came with the Q&A at the end of Plenary 3. It was surprisingly enjoyable dashing from person to person. I also had to make sure I was back at the Plenary room early after lunch (again – very scrummy) ready to check members in for the BIALL AGM.
Following the AGM, it was a quick dash to 3C, to listen to Claire Fox speak about business planning … lots to think about in the day job.
The final Plenary on Friday afternoon saw Neil Currams returned to the BIALL stage again this year (after a Parallel Session last year – Neil either likes/or is a glutton for BIALL punishment!), with ‘Effective ways to improve your working relationships and generally have a better day’. I love Neil’s presentation style and he again covered a ‘soft’ skills topic in both an engaging and interesting fashion, BUT … there is always more to learn and I would happily attend another of his sessions [ #didyouseewhatIdidthere #BIALL2018 ;-) ]
Friday evening was BIALL Awards Evening – this started with the President’s Reception sponsored by Bloomsbury Professional (I LOVED the A-Z of Birmingham music), and we then moved onto the BIALL Annual Dinner. This was once again very generously sponsored by LexisNexis, who were celebrating their 200th anniversary in 2018, and made this evening very special.
No awards for me, but the highly coveted Wildy Law Librarian of the Year was awarded to a very deserving recipient - Loyita Worley.
Following the Awards and the charity raffle, the dance floor was smoking with the dance moves from delegates until Pumpkin time.
Saturday 9th June
Not so many people made it to an early breakfast on the Saturday (I believe there were a few people who saw the sunrise after the BIALL Annual Dinner) … but the turnout for the Panel Discussion showed how keen we all were to listen to them, and then fire questions at them.
Another set of Lightning Talks followed – I think @JustisAiden was a little ambitious thinking he could cut an hour talk into a 10 minutes presentation, but I loved watching him try!
So, the final session of the conference – Barry Vickery - thought provoking as always, I just need to identify my edge.
The BIALL Conference experience
Visiting the exhibition and speaking to the vendors is an important part of coming to the BIALL Conference – I love being able to catch up with vendors in person and to put a face to a voice if I’ve not met them before. It’s not just the vendors you know though – it’s also getting to see people and products that you don’t know, and this year the Passport competition (anagrams of types of Cadbury chocolate) ensured that you had an ice-breaker if you didn’t know the people on the stand. BTW – some of these were fiendishly difficult to solve, and I now still hanker after a bar of Old Jamaica …
This was a very lucky conference for me – not only was I awarded the CLIG bursary, I also won a prize in the Exhibition Draw from Wolters Kluwer (thank you!), and that was on top of the prize I won in the Charity Raffle at the Awards Dinner on Friday night, when I won a Regency Hamper, kindly donated by Justis.
*Honestly, I did put all of the envelopes into the draw …
Coming to Birmingham for a BIALL Conference had me misty-eyed, the Birmingham Conference in 1994 (Silver Celebrations in the Second City @ the Grand Hotel, Birmingham) was my first ever BIALL experience, and 24 years later I am very grateful to CLIG for awarding me a bursary which enabled me to attend the 49th BIALL Conference.