Welcome to the 55th annual Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference! / Bienvenue au 55e Congrès annuel de l’Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit!
Representing ICLR at the conference are Paul Hastings, Account Manager, and Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content. They will be demonstrating ICLR Online to potential new users, and discussing with existing users the forthcoming seismic upgrade, ICLR.3
This year is a significant one for Canada, as the country celebrates its sesquicentenary or 150th anniversary. The conference theme is therefore “Celebrate our history — Create our future / Célébrez notre histoire — créez notre avenir”.
5 May 2017: Arrival
The journey over was fine until we got to Toronto, coming in to land on a very wet runway after flying in low over fields more properly reclassified as lakes. Ontario has suffered one of the wettest Mays on record, at a time when it should normally be celebrating a tulip festival in spring sunshine.
At Toronto Pearson International airport we were required to go through passport control, collect our luggage and go through customs control, before re-checking our luggage in a different part of the airport, and going through the security check, for the onward flight to Ottawa. All of this would have been a lot less arduous if we hadn’t cleverly decided to avoid international shipping charges by bringing our stand banners and corporate gifts in our personal luggage, which in consequence was cumbersomely bulky and in one case oversized.
This short flight to Ottawa was in a small propeller plane counterintuitively operated by a company called WestJet. The captain was breezy, informing us that we would shortly be going up through the wet stuff into some white stuff and then after half an hour or so we’d descent again into the wet stuff. The flight attendant was like a mildly bossy (but in a funny way) kindergarten teacher, using the safety demonstration as an opportunity to audition for a comedy mime show. We taxied along the runway for so long I thought we might be going to drive all the way, but eventually we got clearance to take off and after a wobbly ascent got through the white cloudy stuff and into the clear air above the clouds. There was just time to serve us a plastic cup of something wet before we began our descent again.
Ottawa seemed on arrival even wetter than Toronto. The river is at flood levels, just about visible from our hotel rooms at the City Centre Delta Hotel where the conference is being held.
6 May: Exploration
Waking early, we set forth to explore the city. The rain holds off for most of the morning. First stop is the Parliament building, foregrounded with the Centennial Flame. It has only gone out once, not long ago, when there was a reported gas leak nearby. Behind the Parliament building with its iconic Peace Tower stands the circular library (modelled on the British Library’s famous reading room), which is the only surviving part of the original 1860s building, the rest having been destroyed in a fire in 1916.
From that side of the building, there’s a fine view across the Ottawa river which also marks the border with Quebec. The river is full with floodwater, roiling and frothing under the Pont Alexandra Bridge.
After a fine brunch at the Scone Witch in Elgin Street, we head towards Byward market to buy maple syrup in maple-leaf shaped bottles, maple butter and maple sugar sweets direct from the farmers (who charge a lot less, we can now report, than you’d pay in the tourist shoppes or at the airport). Good places for coffee, modern furniture, kitchen accessories and all kinds of food abound. (We will come back later for dinner at a pub called the The Brig, for fish tacos and miso pork washed down with an assortment of craft beers.)
Outside the art museum is a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois that is either the one that was in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in London when it first opened, or one very like it. The new Tate Modern extension has a gallery devoted to Bourgeois’s work, including a smaller spider. This one is called Maman and appears to be giving a lift to the statue of the Virgin Mary that fronts Notre Dame Cathedral across the road. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
Outside the Parliament building there is now a small protest (anti-Sharia) and a slightly larger counter-protest (anti-Islamophobia) both somewhat dampened by the rain. The police look on, calmly. This year is the 35th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including freedoms of assembly and of expression. The Charter is a fundamental part of the 1982 repatriation of the Constitution.
No law librarian conference can start, it seems, without a pre-conference party thrown by our friendly rivals and hyperlink-buddies, Justis Publishing. Old faces from conferences past and some new ones mingle in the deafening ambience of a Belgian-style beer-bar (fronted by a cherubic but prudishly fig-leafed Mannekin-Pis) where may of the guests have enthusiastically attired themselves in accordance with the dress code of “Hollywood Glamour”.
7 May: Opening
The next morning we set up our stand and at noon the conference is officially opened in the exhibition hall.
It is worth pointing out that the food is excellent at this conference, and is provided for exhibitors and vendors alike (unlike at some other conferences, where exhibitors are made to feel like bystanders at the feast). The exhibition hall is of manageable size, too, so exhibitors are all accorded more or less equal visibility, and there are no massive aggregator VIP pavilions. The delegates mill in and out and everyone gets a chance to chat and drop their business cards into the various boxes, bowls, jars or tins for a prize draw.
Our prize draw is for an iPad, as usual (only this time, because Apple changed the specs of the various models available, it won’t be a mini but a full size iPad).
In the evening, there is a fabulous Opening Reception at the Canadian Museum of Nature, hosted by LexisNexis Canada.
8 May: Wine and Cheese
While the weather deteriorates — today it actually snowed for much of the time, though it did not settle — the conference continues warmly indoors. There’s not much to say about how we passed our day: suffice it to say that it was spent talking to existing and potential subscribers, demonstrating ICLR Online and discussing the exciting upgrade that’s coming soon. Existing customers may sign up for beta trials over the summer months, and many do, partly in order to be able to familiarise themselves with the new service before the start of the academic year in September.
We break at 5pm for a love wine and cheese reception, which is when I took these photographs.
9 May: Prize-giving
The last full day of the conference concludes with a prize-giving session, in which those vendors with prizes to give away go to the podium to have the winners’s cards picked out of hats, bags or boxes and announced, to the jubilation of the crowd.
Our prize is a brand new iPad, which I braved the wind and rain to go out and purchase earlier. The lucky winner whose business card was picked out of the bag was Christiane Wyskiel, librarian Brant Law Association.
— ICLR (@TheICLR) May 10, 2017
We conclude with a closing reception at the Canadian Museum of History. Guests mingle among the beautiful artefacts from the west coast, including totem poles, painted canoes and carved masks. A band begins on a promising note with a song by Robbie Robertson and the Band, and continues while guests eat, drink and make merry.
This blog post was compiled by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content, who attended the conference with Paul Hastings, Account Manager, ICLR. There will be a further post, in due course, with an account of a visit to the Library of Parliament and the Supreme Court of Canada.