Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Time for Change at AALL?

In reading all the late controversy about AALL's programming issues, it seems to me that the obvious cause of the complaints can be traced to the peculiar nature of the membership structure of the association itself.

Several years ago, I proposed in Spectrum a fundamental change in the way AALL was structured. It required all members to select a section when they joined the association or as part of their membership renewal. There would be four sections: academic, private firms, courts and independent. Publishers and consortia could be granted their own sections. Officers and programming for each section would be solely the responsibility of the membership of that section. This would mean that ALL-SIS, for example, would represent issues of interest to all academics, not simply the ones that decided to join Academic Law Libraries as a "special interest." It seems weird that SIS's like ALL, PLL and SCCL would be "special interests" on the same level as TS, OBS or LISP, etc.

The present section structure defines members by their desires and does little to help develop programming based on professional needs of various types of law library practice. For example, the TS or RIPS sections have members that are not also members of either ALL or PLL! As a consequence, neither section accurately represents either Academic or Private law librarians. The fact is, both PLL and ALL should have TS or public services sections.

This new structure would allow each section to have blocks of programming during annual meetings. AALL would have responsibility for its own blocks of programming that spans section interests. I urge you and your readers to consider this proposal. Last time the idea was floated, the Board was afraid of how to dismantle the existing power structure of SIS's. I think that the fears were misguided.

In the end, the Association would be stronger and do a better job of representing it's membership. For what it's worth.