Being Involved: CALL Conference Organizer

08Sep14

Brenda and I have advocated often for volunteering with library associations. This year I took on my biggest opportunity yet – Program Director for the Canadian Association of Law Libraries’ annual conference. It was a huge challenge, but one I felt ready to do.

Back in 2010, I agreed to be on the program committee for the 2012 CALL/ACBD conference, to be held in Toronto. I consciously accepted that job, realizing that the conference would  be moving to Winnipeg sometime in the near future, and I wanted to be prepared to help out. That experience was invaluable! If you haven’t done it before, you may think that being on the program committee means thinking up all the programs and finding people to deliver them. Our committee was actually only tasked with finding plenary speakers (three) and advertising the opportunity for others to offer programs for presentation (and then selecting the programs that would be included). What a relief!

When I found out the conference would be in Winnipeg in 2014, I was prepared to take on programming. I selected my committee by considering colleagues I felt would follow through on the commitment. My core committee of co-blogger Brenda Wong, Jodi Turner, Michael McAlpine and Mary-Jo Mustoe were fabulous. We brainstormed plenary speakers, and divided the tasks of inviting them among us. We sent out requests for programs through as many networks as we could, both national and local. Since Winnipeg is a fairly small market legally, I took it upon myself to contact a few local lawyers to present on their fields of expertise.

The program came together nicely, although not without some pitfalls. I don’t know if it’s just librarians as a group who are not the greatest at responding promptly, but our first call for proposals required an extension – after the first deadline we only had a handful of presentations! Adding on another two weeks gave some people a push to at least let us know they were trying to put something together. It’s a little disappointing, considering we all know the conference is going to be coming up and yet we wait until after the last minute to respond.

I’d like to say the conference went off without a hitch, but that would be lying. Even before the conference started, one of the co-presenters of a session backed out, but the other presenter went ahead, so that worked out. Then two presenters cancelled at the last minute, requiring a quick change in the program. We ended up having no sessions on the last day, but that was okay. We got more attendees at the AGM, always a difficult task.

Overall the conference was a huge success. We made twice as much money as we thought we would, the cost for the program was significantly under budget, and members went home with a positive experience of the city. (The food was so good, I gained 7 lbs!) Exhibitors were happy and members were happy – what more could we ask for?

I’d like to make a special thank you to Brenda, who stayed on the committee even though she moved to Saskatchewan and switched libraries to a school library. The whole experience was a fantastic learning experience, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it again!

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