AALL Program Review: Advocacy at AALL 2011

By Joan Bellistri
Anne Arundel County Public Law Library

There were a number of opportunities for learning about AALL’s Advocacy efforts at the meeting and conference held in Philadelphia this summer.  There was a half day training on Saturday, “Legislative Advocacy Training 2011: Turning Challenges into Opportunities,” two programs, “AALL Public Policy Update: Shining the Spotlight on Advocacy” and “Authentication: The Evolution Continues,” and the Chapter Leadership Roundtable on Government Relations.  I was able to attend all but the Authentication program that was scheduled during the same time slot as the program I was moderating.  (I do plan to take advantage of AALL2go for this program later.)

The advocacy and public policy programs concerned issues of significance to AALL and law librarians and provided strategies for advocating for these issues.  We were able to meet Julie Strandlie, the new Director of Government Relations, who with Emily Feldman, Advocacy Communications Assistant, began the Saturday morning advocacy training with advocacy strategies.  Emily and Julie are AALL’s lobbyists who advocate for us in Washington, D.C.  However, members are needed to aid in their advocacy efforts as the opinions of constituents are of more significance to our representatives at the state and federal levels of government.  When we personally contact our representatives, we can make more of an impression than a lobbyist.  Ways of contacting our representatives should include in-person visits, the number one way to get your message heard, individual phone calls, letters and e-mail. It is always helpful to know the staff of the representative and it was suggested that we poll our chapter members to see who might have such contacts.  It is important that it be determined who knows whom before a crisis.  It would be good to know which members reside in which legislative districts so that they can be easily called upon when needed.

The rest of the training dealt with the issues for which we are encouraged to advocate and updates on legal information policy and programs.  Legal information issues were further detailed at the Monday morning program.  Federal level issues mentioned include GPO, FDLP and the Library and Law Library of Congress funding, section 215 of the Patriot Act, Net Neutrality, copyright, and PACER.  Other issues such as the Uniform Electronic Legal Information Act  must be dealt with on the local or state level while some issues such as  citation format  and the work of the AALL Working Groups on the national inventory could be considered national issues to be tackled at both the federal and local level.  I will report on just some of the issues and topics covered at the programs I attended.  I encourage members to become acquainted with AALL’s Advocacy pages for more detailed information on these and other issues of importance to law librarians.

As a part of the advocacy training, Larry Meyer, Director of the Law Library for San Bernardino County in California, reported on the PACER pilot project in which his library is participating.  This program is designed to educate the public on the use of and access to PACER.  San Bernardino has created training guides describing PACER and providing instructions on creating a PACER account.  Leslie Street, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Law Library, talked about the creation of PACER training and resource guides  that provide information on setting up PACER accounts, performing simple searches and a description of PACER and its scope.

After our AALL Working Group worked so hard on our Inventory of Maryland Legal Materials it was good to hear what the results of this project might be.  Tim Coggins, 2010 Chair of DALIC, reported on some of the findings so far.  There has been no change in the number of authenticated legal materials since the 2009-2010 report found on the Digital Authentication page of AALL’s Advocacy pages. (I should  mention that  DALIC or the Digital Access to Legal Information Committee is the new name for ELIAC or the Electronic Legal Information Access & Citation Committee.)  More online publications have been designated as official since that 2009 report.  It was found that 25 states now have a copyright on their digital material.  There are some states that have made provisions for preservation and permanent pubic access. The inventory shows a trend to charging for access to online versions. Other trends found more states making the digital version the official version and restrictions on commercial use and use affecting privacy.  Emily Carr, the Federal Inventory Coordinator, reported on the Federal Inventory that is modeled after the state inventory.  The data collected from the inventories will be used to update AALL reports on authentication and permanent public access.  The data will be shared with the Law Library of Congress as they build law.gov.  It must be noted that the inventory is an ongoing project and volunteers will be needed to check links and update the spreadsheets periodically.

The national inventory will provide important background information as members seek to have their states pass the new Uniform Electronic Legal Information Act.  Keith Ann Stiverson, AALL Observer to the NCCUSL Drafting Committee on the UELMA, briefed the group on the status of the Act.  UELMA had been approved by the Commission as of July, 12, 2011.  This approved version will be subject to style changes and the addition of new, revised comments. The Act provides a framework for authentication, preservation and permanent public access for online legal material.  The final version is expected soon and then the NCCUSL Enactment Committee will begin to act in all states.  I will be sure to notify LLAM members when the Act is introduced in Maryland.  Links to the Act and supporting information can be found on the Digital Authentication page of AALL’s Advocacy pages.

Although it was late in the day, LLAM was well represented by President, Sara Witman, and Vice President/President Elect, Mary Jo Lazun and me at the Chapter Leadership Roundtable: Government Relations.  The Roundtable provided a venue for new chapter leadership to become acquainted with AALL policy and strategies for local advocacy and to share advocacy ideas.  Participation in the roundtable, the training and the programs should provide me with a good base on which to begin a new year as Government Relations Chair.  I look forward to LLAM’s continued support in advocating for legal information issues.