Category Archives: Library Associations

Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review,William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website: http://www.aallnet.org/sections/lhrb/awards

Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 16, 2018 (EDT).

AALL’s ‘extreme vetting’ removes post on professional ethics for suggesting collective action by AALL readers

As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike. — Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker, LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics, Law Librarian Blog, Dec. 11, 2017

Last week, Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker published “LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics” on the RIPS blog. (Later republished on LLB.) The RIPS blog contains the disclaimer that “All opinions expressed in the posts herein are those of the individual author and do not represent the opinions of RIPS-SIS or AALL.” The disclaimer wasn’t good enough to stop our association from taking down the post in its entirety on the advice of AALL’s general counsel and without consulting with the post authors until after the takedown.

Why?

Two answers have been offered to the above question. First, our association’s rationale may be that AALL fears an antitrust lawsuit from one of our very expensive legal information providers mentioned in the post. Alternatively, perhaps, AALL fears alienating an organizational member that contributes funding to our association. Since our association’s general counsel was involved, it appears likely that AALL was afraid of possible litigation on antitrust grounds for singling out LexisNexis in the blog post. If so, we have a problem here, one that cannot be addressed by our association without some risk exposure. How much? Would LexisNexis sue AALL over this? I seriously doubt it but…

According to a comment posted by Dennis Kim-Prieto to an Immigration Prof Blog post about the Lamdan and Harker piece:

The upshot of [LexisNexis’s role in ICE surveillance] is that LexisNexis may no longer be a secure research resource for immigration practice and appeals. By searing [sic] LexisNexis, attorneys are giving them access to their search terms, which is what ICE really needs to inform the algorithms that will run the proposed database. Every immigration attorney and clinic should, in my professional opinion, find another source to use instead of LexisNexis. You may be inadvertently putting your clientele at risk by using LexisNexis!

If that is the case, then we have a situation where our ethical concerns for searcher privacy in database usage cannot find expression in concerted activity under the AALL umbrella because it might lead to an anti-competitive boycott of LexisNexis. As a professional association we are sinking in the quicksand of antitrust rules again. — Joe

LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics

by Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker

A recent Intercept article listed the data corporations vying to build ICE’s Extreme Vetting surveillance system. The list of companies signing on to this project includes LexisNexis, a go-to product for legal and business research, news, and public-records searching. LexisNexis is a ubiquitous library resource. It can be found on public use computers and webpages in public, academic, and private libraries across the nation. For librarians in the legal field, especially, LexisNexis is an often unavoidable product, as it is one of two major research systems for the law.

Civil liberties activists and artificial intelligence (AI) experts quickly responded to the news by writing a letter, en masse, to IBM’s CEO, condemning the company’s potential participation in the ICE program. The AI experts decried the program as being “tailor-made for discrimination”, as it is meant to determine and evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute to national interests and predict whether an applicant intends to commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States. These types of programs have not been proven to be effective, and in other cases, have falsely labelled individuals as criminals or security risks. This program is not totally dissimilar to IBM’s role in the Holocaust as the statisticians and data-gatherers behind massive deportation and roundup lists. Librarians should be active participants in the conversation about the ICE project to build a system for surveillance and deportation.

Librarians are advocates and activists for privacy rights and the protection of personally identifiable information in surveillance, standing up against recent-anti-muslim Executive Orders and making it clear that libraries and information are for everyone. Librarians know that privacy and the ability to do research without fear of surveillance are the cornerstones of intellectual freedom. We have historically been active in the fight for civil liberties, even going to jail to protect our patrons from intrusive government surveillance.

Librarians are also invested in the ethical use of information. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy emphasizes the role of “using information, data, and scholarship ethically” and the AALL Legal Research Competencies and Standards states that a successful legal researcher “distinguishes between ethical and unethical uses of information”. The Boulder Statement on Legal Research Education specifies that legal research instruction should include “an ongoing examination of professional standards, including the identification of ethical responsibilities.” Given this focus on ethics, librarians should explore and publicize the ethical implications of a system that would use personal data in a way that technology experts believe will falsely identify people as posing a criminal risk and expose those individuals to serious repercussions.

Critical information literacy, or understanding the source of information and the roles information providers have in society at large, is also a cornerstone of the library profession. As librarians, we must investigate the source of LexisNexis data. While many librarians are pleased by LexisNexis push-of-a-button dossiers on potential clients and library users are tickled that they can use LexisNexis products to track down ex-beaus and high school classmates, we cannot ignore the rotten roots from which this personal data springs. As of 2006, LexisNexis had the world’s largest electronic database for public-records related information. Along with Accurint, a huge public records database, LexisNexis purchased Seisint, a post-9/11 creation whose MATRIX system combines commercial and government records to enable the quick creation of “suspects” or surveillance targets. Seisint, and its MATRIX system, were condemned by civil liberties activists as a tool to propel the nation towards a “surveillance society.” It is incumbent upon librarians to understand and build awareness about the products we provide to the public. Especially if our patrons are likely to be harmed by ICE surveillance, we cannot, in good conscience, counsel them to use products under the LexisNexis umbrella to conduct research in our libraries.

As library organizations discuss ways library professionals can advocate for intellectual freedom, democracy, and equality, we should begin by grappling with how to react when our major database providers engage in massive surveillance projects with the government. It is an opportunity for us, as professionals to put our ethical standards and critical information literacy practices to practical use. As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike.

Editor’s Note: The above post was originally published on RIPS Law Librarian Blog, a publication of the Research, Instruction, and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS) of the American Association of Law Libraries, on December 5, 2017. It was removed from the blog on the “advice of AALL General Counsel” as stated here. The authors asked to publish their post on LLB and I am happy to provide a means for this very important contribution to see the light of day. — Joe

 

Trends in AALL membership, 2007-2017: Law Firm/Corporate professional membership continues to decline

Since 2007, the biennial Salary Survey has reported on AALL membership by market sectors: Law Firm/Corporate, Government and Law School. The table, above, details non-AALL membership as a percent of the professional workforce as reported in the last six biennial salary surveys. The percent of non-AALL members in the law firm/corporate legal sector workforce increased 19% in 2017 compared to 2015 and has increased 56% since 2007. Note that the percent of the professional workforce in the law firm/corporate law sector who are not AALL members has steadily increased during the past ten years. No similar increase is manifest in the government and academic sectors.

Why?

Time to mount an AALL membership outreach campaign targeting non-traditional legal information professionals in law firms and corporate legal departments? — Joe

New milestone reached in law firm/corporate law information budgets

According to AALL’s 2017 Biennial Salary Survey & Organizational Characteristics, total information budgets increased substantially for government and law firm/corporate law libraries but not academic law libraries when compared to the 2015 survey results. Government libraries’ information budget increased 31% and law firm/corporate law libraries’ information budgets increased 26%. Academic law libraries’ information budgets were flat.

Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budgets essentially was unchanged for government law libraries in 2017 at 35%. Not so for other market segments. Electronic information budgets as a percent of total information budget rose 16% for law schools, from 38% in 2015 to 44% of total information budgets in 2017. Law firm/corporate law libraries’ electronic information budgets rose 9%, from 69% to a record 75% of total information budgets in 2017. No time in the history of AALL’s biennial surveys has a market segment reached this 75% milestone. Is the end of this substitution trend in sight? I have my doubts. — Joe

Relevance: AALL leadership requires a diversity of types of institutional perspectives holding the office of president

There was a time in the not too distance past of AALL when it was very unusual for someone other than an academic law librarian to hold the post of elected AALL president. Diversity of types of institutional perspectives in the AALL’s presidential officeholder was lacking. Between the 2000-01 term and 2011-12 term, for example, academic law librarians held the position of AALL president 11 of the 12 terms of office. During that time, it was fairly commonplace to hear complaints that AALL was no longer relevant to the professional careers of many AALL members, particularly among disenchanted firm librarians.

Since 2011-12, the situation has improved. From the 2012-13 term through the current 2017-18 term, government law librarians, academic law librarians and firm law librarians each have filled the presidential post twice. Could this be why we hear fewer, quieter complaints about the relevance of AALL for members’ professional lives and their employers’ missions? — Joe

AALL members, time to get your vote on

This year’s slate of AALL candidates —

Vice President/President-Elect:

Michelle Cosby, Associate Director, Univ. of Tennessee Law Library
Carol A. Watson, Director, Univ. of Georgia Law Library

Executive Board Members:

June Hsiao Liebert, Firmwide Director of Library & Research Services, Sidley Austin LLP
Liz Reppe, State Law Librarian, Minnesota State Law Library
Karen Selden, Metadata Services Librarian, Univ. of Colorado Law Library
Christine L. Sellers, Research Specialist, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

Resources:

Candidates’ Statements and Bios

Recording of the AALL 2017 Candidates Forum for President-Elect

Recording of the AALL 2017 Candidates Forum for the Executive Board

Q & A PERSPECTIVE: Get to Know Your 2018 AALL Executive Board Candidates, AALL Spectrum, July/August 2017.

— Joe

ALA: “The Copyright Office belongs in the Library of Congress”

Currently the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. For several years this administrative arrangement has caught the attention of members of Congress because, in 2015, the GAO identified the Copyright Office’s shortcomings in terms of the inability of the Library of Congress to support and management of the IT needs of the Office. See Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses (Mar. 31, 2015, GAO-15-315). That would change if H.R. 1695, Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, passes. [LLB post]. The bill would make the Register of Copyrights position appointed by the president with confirmation by the Senate. Most, if not all, of the library community opposes this change as does Alisa Holahan, Google Policy Fellow, ALA, in Lessons from History: The Copyright Office Belongs in the Library of Congress (2017). Here’s a snip from the report’s conclusion:

The Copyright Office can benefit enormously from the support of a modern, efficient, and mission responsive IT system at the Library of Congress, particularly when the Office is empowered to collaborate with the Library’s IT department. Congress’s rejection of multiple prior proposals to move the Copyright Office indicates that it recognized the important benefits of the Office’s location within the Library of Congress and the significant costs of severing that socially and economically valuable relationship.

This remains the case today. Little would be gained by moving the Office, and a great deal would be lost, particularly in terms cost savings and coordinating the modernization process. The progress toward critically needed modernization that has been made so far could be erased, and future such efforts would likely be stalled, slower, less efficient, and more expensive. Further, maintaining the traditional connection between the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office is important both because it honors a cherished relationship of more than a century and because it recognizes the special role copyright plays in promoting the creation and dissemination of knowledge for all: the
Library’s own most fundamental mission.

— Joe

Why did Lexis Advance never receive AALL’s New Product Award?

AALL’s annual New Product Award gives the recipient vendor free fodder for an advertising campaign and a dose of much needed good press each year. “This award honors new commercial information products that enhance or improve existing law library services or procedures or innovative products which improve access to legal information, the legal research process, or procedures for technical processing of library materials. A ‘new’ product is one which has been in the library-related marketplace for two years or less. New products may include, but are not limited to, computer hardware and/or software, educational or bibliographic material, or other products or devices that aid or improve library workflow, research, or intellectual access. Products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.” Quoting from AALL’s New Product Award page.

Thomson Reuters won the award for WestlawNext in 2011 and Bloomberg Law won for BLaw in 2012. What ever happened to Lexis Advance? Launched in 2011, Lexis Advance would have still been eligible for the award in 2013 but PLI’s PLI Discover PLUS received it that year. PLI Discover PLUS is an excellent service but…it’s not from a major vendor of what was then a next-generation search service like, for example, WestlawNext was at the time Thomson Reuters received its award. Besides, I believe, PLI Discover PLUS would have been eligible for the award in 2014.

Lexis Advance was no better or worse than WestlawNext and arguably better that BLaw back in 2011-2013. So I’m left wondering why LexisNexis never received AALL’s New Product Award. For that matter, why didn’t LexisNexis receive the New Product Award when it launched the first professional grade, enhanced law eBooks and/or the first law eBook lending platform, the LexisNexis Digital Library? If LexisNexis systematically enhances its secondary works accessed on Lexis Advance with videos as it did with one title, the Company might be eligible again because “products that have been reintroduced in a new format or with substantial changes are eligible.” — Joe

List of Previous AALL New Product Award Winners

2017: Casetext, Pablo Arredondo, Vice President, Legal Research, San Francisco, CA, CARA

2016: Ravel Law, Daniel Lewis, CEO and Co-Founder, San Francisco, CA, Judge Analytics

2015: Lex Machina, Josh Becker, CEO, Menlo Park, CA, Legal Analytics®

2014: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Getzville, NY and Fastcase, Inc., Washington, D.C., HeinOnline/Fastcase Integration

2013: Practicing Law Institute, New York, NY, PLI Discover PLUS

2012: Bloomberg Law, New York, NY, Bloomberg Law

2011: WestlawNext Team, Eagan, MN, Thomson Reuters – WestlawNext

2010: Fastcase, Inc., Fastcase Legal Research iPhone App

2009: William S. Hein & Co., Inc., Subject Compilations of State Laws (HeinOnline)

2008: Cassidy Cataloging Services, Inc., WLX Cataloging Record Service (WLX E Treatise Collection, Lexis II Primary Sources, and Westlaw IV Journals & Law Reviews)

2007: No award

2006: No award

2005: Thomson Gale, The Making of Modern Law

2004: Jenkins Law Library & American Lawyer Media, http://www.palawlibrary.com

2003: No award

2002: No award

2001: W.S. Hein & Co., Inc., Hein-On-Line

2000: IndexMaster, Inc., IndexMaster

1999: West Group, Key Cite

1998: Congressional Information Services, Inc., CIS Congressional Universe

1997: BNA, Inc., Health Law & Business Series

1996: No award

1995: Shepard’s McGraw-Hill, Inc., How to Shepardize

Learning analytics implicates ALA’s Code of Ethics

In Learning Analytics and the Academic Library: Professional Ethics Commitments at a Crossroad, College & Research Libraries, Forthcoming, Kyle Jones and Dorothea Salo discuss learning analytics and the ways academic libraries are beginning to participate in wider institutional learning analytics initiatives. The authors address how learning analytics implicates professional commitments to promote intellectual freedom; protect patron privacy and confidentiality; and balance intellectual property interests between library users, their institution, and content creators and vendors. From the article’s conclusion:

Though pursuing  LA [learning analytics] may lead to good outcomes for students and their institutions, higher education and the library profession still face an ethical crossroads. LA practices present significant conflicts with the ALA’s Code of Ethics with respect to intellectual privacy, intellectual freedom, and intellectual property rights. We recommend that librarians respond by strategically embedding their values in LA through actively participating in the conversations, governance structures, and policies that ultimately shape the use of the technology on their respective campuses.

— Joe

AALL awards Casetext’s Case Analysis Research Assistant product of the year

I must be getting old because when I read that AALL gave its annual product of the year award to Casetext’s CARA I didn’t know what it was. But Bob Ambrogi does. He reviewed the service last summer in New Casetext Feature Finds Relevant Cases For You, But Along With It Will Come New Pricing. CARA, which is short for Case Analysis Research Assistant, is a productivity enhancement tool for document review which automatically finds relevant cases to any document you upload into the system. Bob writes “[w]hat CARA is actually doing is comparing the cases in the uploaded document to the cases and articles in its database. For every case in the document, it is looking for other cases that are usually cited together with that case. It uses various indicators to weigh relevance, including how often two cases are cited together and how often they are discussed together in third-party articles contributed by Casetext users.” CARA’s output is a list of relevant cases not mentioned in the uploaded legal memorandum, brief, opinion letter or other document containing legal text.

Kudos to Casetext for creating what sounds like a useful tool. — Joe

Register of Copyrights: ‘Why should the Librarian [of Congress] have unilateral authority over an appointment that impacts so many livelihoods in the United States?’

Currently the Register of Copyrights is appointed by the Librarian of Congress. That would change if H.R. 1695, Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, passes. The bill would make the Register position a presidential appointment with confirmation by the Senate, with 10-year term limit. It would create minimum standards for those who hold the Register of Copyrights position by requiring the officeholder to be a U.S. citizen who has professional background and experience in copyright law. Under the proposed legislation, the President will select a nominee from a list of names identified by a Congressional leadership panel that includes the Librarian of Congress.

H.R. 1695 was reported out of committee [H. Rept. 115-91] and placed on the Union Calendar on April 20th.  The Hill’s Dina LaPolt and John Meller in H.R. 1695: A vital first step towards Copyright Office modernization opine that this change makes sense:

The Register advises Congress and accordingly, Congress should have a hand in who holds this position.  It makes sense to appoint the Register via a standard nomination process involving our elected representatives, same as most other high-ranking government officials. Why should the Librarian have unilateral authority over an appointment that impacts so many livelihoods in the United States?

AALL opposes the bill, stating that our association believes it is unnecessary and would create management conflicts within the Library of Congress. But LaPolt and Meller report that two former Registers support it.

This bill is also supported by two previous Registers of Copyright, Marybeth Peters and Ralph Oman. They point out that the Act would address issues that have escalated in the relationship between the Copyright Office and the Library, which they state are “structural, not personal or political”, and explain that Congress should be able to obtain “independent copyright advice straight and true from the expert agency” rather than “filtered through the lens – and shaped by the perspective – of the head of the national library”.  Their opinion should carry great weight here—especially since they were themselves appointed unilaterally by the Librarian.

What do you think? — Joe

ALA’s top ten most challenged books in 2016 includes series written by Bill Cosby

Out of 323 challenges recorded by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the “Top Ten Most Challenged Books in 2016” are:

  1. This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.
  2. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier. Reasons: challenged because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit, and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint.
  3. George written by Alex Gino. Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”
  4. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. Reasons: challenged because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints.
  5. Two Boys Kissing written by David Levithan. Reasons: challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing, and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content.
  6. Looking for Alaska written by John Green. Reasons: challenged for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation.”
  7. Big Hard Sex Criminals written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky. Reason: challenged because it was considered sexually explicit.
  8. Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread written by Chuck Palahniuk. Reasons: challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”
  9. Little Bill (series) written by Bill Cosby and and illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood. Reason: challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author.
  10. Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell. Reason: challenged for offensive language.

Source: ALA. — Joe

AALL supports passage of the OPEN Government Data Act, S. 760

From the April 5, 2017 letter to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:

We support the OPEN Government Data Act for several reasons. First and foremost, this legislation would institutionalize the federal government’s commitment to open data and allow the United States to remain a world leader on open data. Second, adopting a policy of open by default for government data would ensure that the value of this public resource would continue to grow as the government unlocks and creates new data sets. Third, a firm commitment to providing open data as a public resource would encourage businesses, non-profits, and others to invest in innovative tools that make use of government data. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s review of the 2016 unanimously passed Senate bill, taking these steps would not have a significant impact on agency spending.

Here’s the text of S. 760. — Joe

AALL announces new product award

Congratulations to Ravel Law for winning AALL’s New Product Award for its legal analytics service. Ravel FAQ here. — Joe

Candidates for AALL Executive Board announced

And here they are:

Vice President/President-Elect

Kathleen (Katie) Brown
Associate Dean for Library Services
Charlotte School of Law

Femi Cadmus
Edward Cornell Law Librarian &
Associate Dean for Library Services
Cornell University Law Library

Secretary

Luis Acosta
Law Library of Congress
Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II

Scott D. Bailey
Global Director of Research Services
Squire Patton Boggs LLP

Board Members (pick two)
 
Beth Adelman
Director of the Law Library &
Vice Dean for Legal Information Services
The University at Buffalo
State University of New York

Katherine M. Lowry, JD
Director of Practice Services
Baker Hostetler LLP

Catherine M. Monte
Chief Knowledge Officer
Fox Rothschild LLP

Jean P. O’Grady
Director of Research & Knowledge Services
DLA Piper

The election will be held September 30 to October 31, and successful candidates will begin their terms of office in July 2017. — Joe

We’re worth it, really we are!

In an earlier post I asked “since AALL is not changing its name, why does our association need to rebrand?” Perhaps I should have asked “since AALL’s The Economic Value of Law Libraries report failed to quantify in economic terms the ROI of law libraries, why does our association need to rebrand?” The latter question is more to the point than the former because the 2015 report is one of the drivers behind the rebranding initiative. Since the naming debacle, it’s best to view AALL’s rebranding project from that vantage point. You read that report, right? See Jean O’Grady’s review, AALL Releases “The Economic Value of Law Libraries” Report– Long on Rubrics– Short on ROI. She writes:

The bottom line is that AALL and HBR have produced a report that says ‘we couldn’t figure out how to measure your value – we hope you have better luck on your own.’ […] Of course we will all continue to try to hone our own metrics but we expected a report that reached well beyond what we are able to do as individuals. We expected AALL and HBR to do some heavy lifting and instead they have passed the problem back to the members.

With the value problem back in members’ laps, rebranding AALL is moving forward because it is “member driven” according to the February 23rd virtual town hall meeting conducted by AALL’s three presidents, past, present and future. Members, apparently, have asked our association to help us communicate our worth to our employers even though we don’t know how to calculate our economic value in these dollars and cents times. We are not going to preserve our budgets simply by saying “we’re worth it, really we are”. Yet that’s the sort of marketing pablum we are going to get from the rebranding project.

Perhaps we need to redo our homework. By that I mean, redo the ROI report. Why? Because it is doable! Because we are way behind the curve on this one. Our law librarian colleagues down under quantified Australian special libraries’ ROI in 2014. They found that “special libraries have been found to return $5.43 for every $1 invested — and that’s a conservative estimate of their real contribution.” Quoting from Putting a Value on ‘Priceless’ at 3. I’m reluctant to say just use the Aussies’ average benefit cost ratio because their survey covered all sorts of special libraries, not just law libraries.

We’re left with this: for $185,000 AALL will get “messaging” (read marketing pablum), a branding manual, a website refresh, a new logo and a tag line. I’m thinking the tag line should be “We’re worth it, really we are!” – Joe

End Note: Putting a Value on ‘Priceless’ (2014) (h/t to Jean O’Grady) and the Financial Times-SLA report, The Evolving Value of Information Management (2013) are far more informative reads than AALL’s The Economic Value of Law Libraries (2015).

Some suggestions for improving transparency and accountability in the Executive Board’s conduct of association business

The recent renaming debacle got me thinking about ways and means to raise rank-and-file member participation for the purpose of improving our association’s transparency and accountability in the conduct of association business by the Executive Board. Some easily doable reforms for increasing association transparency by encouraging direct member involvement could be:

  • Allowing rank-and-file members to participate in Executive Board meetings by asking questions and offering comments;
  • Scheduling the summer Executive Board meeting during the annual conference, not days before it, so rank-and-file members can attend in person;
  • Broadcasting all board meetings with a feedback loop so that members in the audience can ask questions and offer comments and a moderator can contribute selected questions and comments to the Board’s discussion; and
  • Conducting pre-election virtual town hall meetings for nominated candidates standing for election to the Board so that members can solicit answers to questions they have submitted.

Some structural reforms requiring bylaw changes to provide for enhanced association accountability by increasing member participation could be:

  • Restructuring the Executive Board to automatically include the elected chairs of the academic, government and private law libraries SISs as voting members;
  • Replacing the Nominations Committee with a Nominations Caucus open to all interested AALL members; and
  • Including “none of the above” in the ballot for the election of VP-President Elect, Secretary, Treasurer and at-large board members.

Increasing the opportunities for rank-and-file member involvement through a more bottom-up approach to conducting association business as outlined in the above suggestions may motivate more AALL members to become active contributors to our association’s affairs. AALL’s official business would become more relevant, more transparent, and more accountable, if members were more directly engaged in the selection of candidates to national office and in the Executive Board’s conduct of association business. —  Joe

Since AALL is not changing its name why does our association need to rebrand?

Odd isn’t it that there were no dissenting votes on renaming AALL at the Executive Board level. Considering how the vote turned out, one would think there might be some representation of rank-and-file interests on the Executive Board (read some opposition to the proposal). My hunch is that some officers were not initially in favor of the name change but were persuaded by something – the merits of the case, peer pressure, etc. – to vote for the renaming. So the question remains — Whose interests does the Board represent?

AALL remains “top-down,” not “bottom-up” in the handling of association affairs. Sometimes that can’t be helped. Sometimes it can. In the case of the renaming proposition, I think the Board heard loud and clear that members wanted more direct participation before the Board takes any action whatsoever. Will that lesson be institutionalized in the Board-Membership relationship?

What about the rebranding initiative (with its $185,000 price tag)? It sounds like rebranding is moving forward but is rebranding needed now that AALL is not changing its name? I, for one, think rebranding was only necessary if AALL’s name changed; it doesn’t seem necessary after the renaming debacle.

To the best of my knowledge, the rank and file will not vote on whether or not rebranding should proceed. But there is an opportunity for members to express their opinion about rebranding, including the desirability of moving forward. AALL has scheduled a virtual town hall for Tuesday, February 23, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. (CST) “to provide time for further discussion and to answer any questions you may have.” First question: Since our association is not changing its name, why does AALL need to rebrand? — Joe

AALL is not ready for ALI: Membership rejects association name change proposal by a very wide margin

AALL’s rank-and-file turned out to vote down the Executive Board’s unanimously recommended rebranding of AALL as the Association for Legal Information (ALI). The “I am a law librarian and I work in a law library” argument opposing the initiative apparently resonated with many voters. The vote wasn’t even close:  80% opposed to 20% in favor. By AALL standards, voter turnout was extremely high at almost 60% of the membership, indicative I think of the collective nerve the Executive Board struck with its proposal. Rare indeed it is for the rank-and-file to stand up to be counted in opposition to the Executive Board. This aging and decrepit law librarian cannot remember the last time the membership so forcefully slapped around the Executive Board.

I voted for the name change. It offered the admittedly long-shot chance at presenting additional opportunities for reforming AALL so I wanted to see this recommendation pass. I just wish the Executive Board had brought this issue to the attention of the rank-and-file in a more direct way.

While the Executive Board and HQ staff did a good communications job — emails, enewsletters, videos of Executive Board members, AALL communities, etc., I would have preferred to see the issue also debated at our annual meeting’s members open forum before the Executive Board took any action whatsoever. Had the Executive Board heard the hue and cry calling for adding the word “professionals” to the proposed name, the Association of Legal Information Professionals (ALIP) might have persuaded many of the “I am a law librarian and I work in a law library” voters to accept changing AALL’s name.

I, however,  would have voted against renaming AALL ALIP because this matter should be about what we work with — legal information — and who we work for — private, government and academic sector employers — not about our professional self-identification be that as law librarians or legal information professionals. While I will keep paying my membership dues to Ye Olde AALL, I also would pay membership dues to an Association for Legal Information, if some of the 496 rank-and-file members and Executive Board members who voted for the name change were to take it upon themselves to establish ALI. That, however, seems highly unlikely; I think the carpe diem moment may have passed.  – Joe

NB: AALL has scheduled a virtual town hall for Tuesday, February 23, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. (CST) “to provide time for further discussion and to answer any questions you may have.”