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
Wikipedia decided to dance with the devil when certain editors were given complementary accounts to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect. Ars Technica is reporting that the company is donating 45 accounts to top editors at the online encyclopedia. This doesn’t sit well with some open source advocates like Michael Eisen. He’s shocked that people who use the encyclopedia will click on links that will only lead to an abstract and an option to buy. Of course, that’s not quite true for us in academics, at least for us employed at an institution with a subscription.
The debate pits those who believe in open access only against those who believe that links to pay walled articles share useful information in understanding a topic. Count me in the latter group, not because I can get to the “download PDF” link, but because there is a world of useful information that exists beyond open source. Libraries and not just those from universities are a big help in getting this kind of information into the hands of researchers or the general public. Hey, we bought the subscription so none of you had to.
In another report concerning information freedom, it looks as if the Department of Homeland Security has taken a dim view to the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire becoming a node on the Tor network. DHS sent a stern email to the Lebanon Police Department who then contacted the Library. The net effect (no pub intended) was to temporarily halt the project until the Library could gather community input. Pro Publica has the story.
In other news, the Library of Congress is acquiring a large archive of material documenting the career of comedian Jerry Lewis. Lewis is donating some of the material while other parts of the collection will be purchased. The archive will document some 70 years of Lewis’ career and include rare recordings that do not exist anywhere else. The Fort Wayne New-Sentinel has the story. Speaking of Fort Wayne, the city will host the 2015 meeting of the Ohio Regional Association of Law Libraries (ORALL) on October 21-23. Details are available from AALL and the organization’s web site. Early registration discounts end on September 15. The registration form is here. The Program looks pretty good in my opinion.
Another frigid day with spotty train service means another day browsing the legal news and commentary. There are several stories worth reading. The first is the National Law Journal’s report about the AALS panel discussion on the ABA’s proposed standards. Naturally, the standard eliminating tenure as a requirement for accreditation got significant discussion. Faculty members on the panel as well as those in the audience were overwhelmingly against the proposal. Their argument was that removing tenure would weaken academic freedom, among other negative outcomes. This position is reflected in the published comments (scroll down to Terms and Conditions of Employment) to the draft of Standard 405 at the ABA web site.
The proposal was explained by Saint Louis University Professor Jeffry Lewis and ABA committee chair revising the accreditation standards. He noted the text contains several options for job security and protection of academic freedom that can replace tenure. The proposed ABA standards would require schools to have job restrictions in place that would attract competent faculty by having effective rules that provide provide job security and protect academic freedom. The draft options and interpretations of the proposed standards are here.
I wonder just how far schools will go in defining the faculty relationship if this is approved. It will be pretty interesting to see what the employment contract’s terms sans tenure will be for new professors. Will they be largely standardized or will they be negotiated individually? How will publication reflect advancement? Really, it could be the world turned upside down if this is approved.
Publishers Weekly has a review of the top 10 library stories of 2013. The items include the decision in the Google book scanning case, somewhat more liberal terms for libraries to lend e-books, and the emergence of the Digital Public Library of America. The story nicely sums up the legal and technological issues affecting libraries in the last year.
Wandering over to the New Yorker finds two stories of interest. One details the dismemberment of antiquarian books to sell parts to collectors through various exchanges, including eBay. Everything is for sale these days. Historical objects are obviously no exception. The other story concerns the fight Apple is having with the court appointed compliance monitor over his rate (Apple is footing the bill, and it is large) and the level of access to executives and board members. Apple filed objections in Court over the issues. The story details the background to this particular aspect of the case.
Getting back to the tenure issue for a moment, I was reminded of the Pretenders’ song Brass In Pocket. Or should the musical moment be Back On The Chain Gang?