If, then, unless: How many law libraries belong to the American Association of Law Libraries?

Sounds like a simple question that can be easily answered, right? Well, not according to a review of a recent “report” provided to our elected leaders at their November board meeting. See Membership Statistics 2019-2013 (Numbers as of May 31 of each year) behind AALL’s paywall.

The report includes a table for the “number of entities with AALL members” and itemizes AALL member entities in the follow categories:

  • Law School
  • Private Firm
  • Government & Court
  • Corporation
  • Other
  • Non-Affiliated

A couple of data definition questions. Did any member of the E-board seek clarification about the categories used? For example:

  • Does the “Corporation” category report data just for member corporate legal departments, etc., or does it include vendors?

Whatever it includes, “Corporation” membership declined from 80 in 2008-09 to 52 in 2012-13.

  • “Other” probably includes a couple of library consortia, non-profit, non-library-types but god knows what else. Vendors here?

Whatever this category’s stats capture, “Other” declined from 169 in 2008-09 to 133 in 2012-13.

  • As for “Non-Affiliated,” a footnote explains that the category covers those who “have not indicated an affiliation.”

Does that mean individual human beings are being included as institutions or entities in this head count? It’s kind of hard to draw any other conclusion.

Just the “facts”, please. Excluding the mysterious categories a/k/a “Other” and “Non-Affiliated,” but including “Corporations” under the assumption, right or wrong, that it captures corporate legal departments and the like, total law school + private firm + government and courts + corporations membership declined by 191 institutions, from 1,595 in 2008-09 to 1,404 in 2012-13. That’s only a 12% decline. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Oh wait, that’s about half the percentage decline for similar reporting periods reported in  “Table 5: AALL Libraries Estimated Information Budgets” published in the online editions of AALL’s Biennial Salary and Organizational Characteristics Survey.

There also is a substantial difference in the absolute number of AALL member libraries, institutions, entities, whatever, for similar reporting periods when the above reported stats are compared to stats used to estimate AALL member libraries total information budgets. Compare the below chart sourced with the data supplied to the E-board this month (which includes “Corporations” in the Private Sector category)

aall member entities 08 13

with the below chart compiled from AALL biennial survey data that was reported at Has AALL lost more than 50% of its institutional membership since 2001? (Nov. 4, 2013):

aall member libraries stats

What’s up with this? Hell if I know. I lean toward having more confidence in the committee that has been responsible for collecting and reporting AALL’s biennial survey findings. But  if  the data reported to the E-Board is correct,  then  AALL’s estimated total information budget stats for AALL member libraries are wildly inaccurate,  unless  someone recently decided to count “affiliations” at some sort of internal local level, like, for example, counting each branch office or each functional unit of a law firm as a unique institution, entity, whatever.

— Joe

One thought on “If, then, unless: How many law libraries belong to the American Association of Law Libraries?

  1. Mikhail Koulikov November 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm Reply

    How many law libraries belong to the American Association of Law Libraries?

    Is it really *that* difficult to take a few minutes and count the number of individual organizations listed in the latest edition of the AALL Directory?

    “Other” probably includes a couple of library consortia, non-profit, non-library-types but god knows what else. Vendors here?

    There are at least two dozen independent membership libraries around the U.S., plus a few bar association libraries. “God knows what else” is just your way of saying “I still have no idea how my professional field actually looks like – and I don’t care”

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