Friday, July 14, 2006

Rise to the Challenge: AALL in New Orleans, 2007

By Brian Huddleston, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

AALL has had its annual meeting in New Orleans twice before, first in 1932 and again in 1991. New Orleans holds a singular position in the consciousness of our nation as an exotic, foreign destination located right here on American soil. New Orleans is in the South, but not of the South; it is in the United States but is unique among American cities in countless ways. The food, music, and architecture in New Orleans all reflect the diverse cultural influences that have been mixed together during our city's history. The allure of New Orleans is well expressed in many song lyrics such as this one from Tom Waits:

Well I wish I was in New Orleans
I can see it in my dreams
Arm in arm down Burgundy
A bottle and my friends and me

Typically, little effort is required to entice people to visit our city. But nothing is typical in New Orleans these days. In the sheer size of urban destruction our recent catastrophe is second only to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Almost a year later, hundreds of neighborhoods are still ghost towns and thousands of damaged houses and buildings still wait to be cleaned up or hauled off.

The French Quarter, uptown, the business district, all the parts of the city built on the high ground along the river escaped the flooding. This "sliver on the river" has now returned to a somewhat normally functioning city, and if you stay in these areas you can walk around and almost forget what happened (when we also call this the "Isle of Denial" we're only half-joking.)

All of us in New Orleans can only inadequately express in words the appreciation we have for our fellow law librarians who helped our two law schools, our law firms, and our court libraries, both with your offers of assistance and your words of sympathy and encouragement. We also know many of you contributed personally to the overwhelming charitable response that the nation, and the world, provided in the aftermath of the hurricane. For that we also can only make do with a heartfelt thank you.

In June, the ALA successfully brought back large-scale conferences to New Orleans. Eighteen thousand librarians attended the ALA Annual Conference and the city was more than ready for them. It was a resounding success and was even a top news story. Our appreciation of their commitment to retain their planned venue is second only to our appreciation of AALL's similar commitment to again meet here in 2007.

A more recent lyrical tribute was paid to us at this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. As unlikely as Bruce Springsteen may have been for this annual centerpiece of our city's musical life, his recent incarnation as a re-interpreter of good time "hootenanny" folk music fit in perfectly, and his performance was a milestone in the on-going processes of our healing and recovery. He concluded his otherwise rousing, foot-stomping set with a haunting, prayerful acoustic version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" and included two lesser known verses of this New Orleans standard:

We are all traveling in the footsteps
Of those that come before
And we'll all be reunited
On that new and sunlit shore

Now some say this world of trouble
Is the only world we'll ever see
But I'm waiting for that morning
When the new world is revealed

Please come to New Orleans and help us to continue finding the new world of our rebuilding. Come to AALL in 2007 and bring your spouses, partners, and families. Come early or stay an extra day to enjoy all we have to offer. Come eat our po-boys, buy some beads, get a beer and walk with it through the centuries-old streets of the French Quarter. Have a cool and refreshing Pimm's Cup at the Napoleon House to help beat the heat. Bayona, Peristyle and many others of the city's best restaurants are open, and you can be assured of having a great meal, or several great meals. Just ask one of us locals next summer for our best recommendations.

Music of every variety can be heard every night at dozens of clubs. Some of our city's musicians lost everything and have permanently relocated elsewhere, but many are back and some that can't return still stop in town while on tour. From national acts at the House of Blues to musicians who play mainly on the streets of the French Quarter, there's always good music to be found in New Orleans. Again, ask us for our personal favorites.

The Audubon Zoo and the Aquarium of the Americas are both open, and the John James Audubon Riverboat has resumed river cruises between these two venues. The New Orleans Museum of Art and the Smithsonian-affiliated Ogden Museum of Southern Art both survived the hurricane intact and offer world-renowned collections. The National World War II Museum (formerly the D-Day Museum) has repaired its damage, re-opened, and continues to serve as the nation's premiere tribute to the Greatest Generation. And these are just a few examples of what is available to see and do in New Orleans. More attractions, restaurants, and businesses are re-opening all the time.

People are capable of things they never thought they could do and hardships can only make us grow stronger. We're rising to the challenge and hope that you can come see our progress and enjoy another great Annual Meeting in New Orleans in 2007.


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