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AALL Roundup: Law Library Advocacy and the Value of a Public Law Library

Posted by Joan Bellistri on July 27, 2010

My conference experience began even before the opening event Saturday evening with the Legislative Advocacy Training 2010: Raising the Bar in Your State on Saturday morning.  AALL’s Government Relations Office organized the training.  Participants came away with a good summary of AALL’s advocacy goals and efforts, the progress of the draft model NCCUSL law, Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act and were provided an opportunity to participate in one of two breakout sessions: Proving the Value of Public Law Libraries during the Recession and Beyond for an overview of the status of court libraries around the country and to brainstorm on the creation of tools needed  or AALL State Working Groups to discuss the activities of the working groups and the building of the national inventory of legal primary material.

Mary Alice Baish, Director of the GRO, reiterated AALL’s Strategic Directions 2010-2013 regarding advocacy: to promote the value of public law libraries, to ensure the authentication and preservation of official digital legal resources and that government information be in the public domain and that information on government websites be permanently available at no charge.  Mary Alice informed the group of the many tools available on the GRO website.  The AALL Advocacy Toolkit and Issue Briefs are great resources for members.  The toolkit now contains materials from the training session in addition to a host of material for Chapter Government Relations Committees including case studies and chapter letters used in advocacy campaigns.

In addition, members can keep informed about the issues important to AALL and law libraries through the Advocacy Listserv, the Washington Blawg and the monthly Washington E-Bulletin available on the webpage.

Keith Ann Stiverson provided an update on the NCCUSL draft uniform law, Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.  Keith Ann as the AALL Observer to the Drafting Committee related how the committee adheres to strict standards in drafting uniform laws.  If all progresses as expected we might see a uniform law ready for states to adopt within the next year or two.  Having this uniform law to present to state lawmakers will be a welcome tool in our goal of ensuring the authentication and preservation of state legal materials.

The first breakout session, Proving the Value of Public Law Libraries during the Recession and Beyond, began with panelists from 4 different libraries reporting on issues and accomplishments in their states.

Laura Orr of the Washington County Law Library in Hillsboro, Oregon has been involved in dealing with numerous bills in the Oregon legislature that threatened Oregon county law library funding.  Laura offered some tips such as be ready with a 1,000 ways to educate,  create relationships with other organizations such as bar and library associations, know the opposition and stay ahead of the issue.  Laura has made her handouts for the session available on her website.  The handouts include examples of fact sheets and a list of what is not online used to distribute to legislators,  a list of sample reference questions and sample letters.  Larry Meyer, Director of the Law Library for San Bernardino County , related how California county law libraries blocked legislation that would have allowed the AOC to “sweep” law library funding.  (The whole story can be found in the Advocacy Toolkit case studies.)  Larry’s lessons for the group were to be on top of the issue and be ready to respond, have constant contact with legislators which the California Council of Law Libraries is able to do so with a lobbyist, and to make annual legislative visits  in order to have contacts at the ready when issues arise.  Jonathan Stock, retired Connecticut law librarian, worked with SNELLA this year to save four of six Connecticut law libraries that were to close due to budget problems.  This story can also be found in the Advocacy Toolkit case studies section.  Jonathan stressed the importance of building relationships and alliances.  Grace Holloway of the Gwinnett County Law Library reported how Georgia law libraries were able to have favorable legislation related to law library funding passed.

There was much discussion and sharing of information and strategies for law library advocacy during these presentations.  Ideas included exhibiting at the meetings of other professional associations, active public relations campaigns and providing CLE programs.  There were five topics that, as moderator, I hoped to cover in the discussions: the updating of the SCCLL publication, “The Value of a Public Law Library,” collecting data, online testimonials, building lasting alliances and sharing of grant opportunities and grant writing skills with the goal of developing new advocacy tools for public law libraries.  The Value of a Public Law Library, though written in 2004, still covers issues of significance. However, it might be worthwhile to update with some authors who are now active professionally as many of the contributors have retired.  It was suggested that testimonials be collected online or in person using a form.  Alliances can be built with bar and library associations.  Relationships with legislators should be developed.  Information on grant opportunities and how law libraries can take advantage of grant resources was suggested as a possible addition to the SCCLL website.  Although we may not have followed our outline, the session provided participants with a forum in which to discuss and share their advocacy stories and strategies.

The second breakout session, AALL State Working Groups, consisted of a panel discussion on the activities of some of the state working groups already formed.  Janet Camillo described the Maryland  group’s recent efforts to stop the Maryland Register to discontinue print and to publish it only as a non-sharable pdf  to be sent via email.  Emily Janoski-Haehlen reported on the work of the Kentucky Working Group.  The bulk of the session was devoted to the building of the national inventory of United States primary law materials.  A review of the State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources found on the AALL Authentication in the Digital Age page was recommended before beginning the state inventory work.  Other suggestions were to start small, recruit, prioritize and assign the work.  The target for completion of the inventory is the end of October.  Those that attended the inventory session came back enthused and ready to start work on this exciting national project.

All of the  legislative advocacy trainings offered at the AALL Annual meeting that I have attended over the years have always provided me with a wealth of information.  This year’s program was no exception.

2 Responses to “AALL Roundup: Law Library Advocacy and the Value of a Public Law Library”

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