Answering the call for AALL consumer advocacy: 10 years after the Great Recession AALL is living up to its potential — what’s next?

The Great Recession sent AALL into a tailspin with members over consumer advocacy. Rank-and-file members’ calls for AALL to commit to consumer advocacy due to numerous complaints about price inflation and unscrupulous vendor business practices were pushed back by successive AALL executive boards during the Great Recession and its library-related aftermath, the “Shed West” (print) era, 2008-2013. Push backs? Sure, (1) the vendor liaison fiasco usurped CRIV’s traditional jurisdiction and authority; (2) the Vendor Colloquium and its (in)action plan left consumer advocacy almost entirely unaddressed and (3) the issuance of AALL’s Antitrust FAQ, our association’s stringent interpretation of antitrust rules, heavy-handedly reminded AALL members that “AALL cannot be used by any of its members as a vehicle for engaging in collective action that would be anticompetitive.” There was also the short-lived Consumer Advocacy Caucus which died on the vine due in part to the animus certain AALL executive board members had toward the group (and due to leadership changes within the caucus).

But that is in the past. Now AALL is living up to its potential in consumer advocacy. “Law librarians revolt,” said executive board member Jean O’Grady in her Dewey B Strategic post. The anticompetitive tying controversy with LexisNexis also demonstrates that our association can commit to consumer advocacy for AALL’s institutional members, the employers of firm, government and academic law librarians. AALL president Greg Lambert reminds readers that this controversy is not just about law librarians at Why Lexis’ Sales Approach Should Concern Law Firm Management and Leadership, 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, June 11, 2018 (“It is definitely an issue which those outside the law firm libraries should take notice, and be very concerned. This is something that affects the entire law firm, not just the law librarians.”)

What’s next? “[AALL legal counsel] ask[s] on behalf of AALL that representatives of LexisNexis commit to a meeting with AALL leadership, which prefers and encourages open dialogue on this issue, as opposed to legal or commercial action,” is how AALL closed its letter to LexisNexis’ CEO Mike Walsh. While AALL did not stipulate a drop-dead deadline for discussions before taking legal or commercial action, it would be wise for LN C-suite occupants to meet with the executive board members and CRIV representatives before or at AALL 2018 in Baltimore next month. It most certainly would be a good idea to conduct this meeting (and hopefully resolve the controversy) before CRIV’s annual vendor roundtable which is scheduled for July 15, 2018. Remember, all members (and vendors) are invited to attend and participate in the roundtable discussion. I bet anticompetitive tying demands by Lexis will be a hot topic at the meeting. The roundtable may also learn of questionable tying practices by other very expensive legal information vendors. As CRIV explains “This roundtable discussion can often inform CRIV’s activities for the upcoming year.” So what’s next in my opinion is that all interested AALL members attend CRIV’s vendor roundtable.  — Joe

CRIV Vendor Roundtable

Sunday, July 15

1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.

Hilton Key Ballroom 9

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