November 14, 1995
Chair, Strategic Planning Committee
American Association of Law Libraries
53 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 940
Chicago, IL 60604
We are very pleased to have this opportunity to respond to the questionnaire regarding the AALL Strategic Challenge 1994-98. Before directly addressing your questions, we would like to briefly comment on the broader "Public Policy Environment" section (p. 5) in terms of offering an update. Regrettably, since the change in Congressional leadership following the November 1994 elections, Congress has shifted back to the earlier Reagan/Bush philosophy of downsizing, privatizing and otherwise reducing the public's access to government information.
Current legislative initiatives of the 104th Congress threaten to drastically reduce the amount of information currently being collected, maintained and disseminated by federal agencies. These policy changes, while taking place perhaps in a more subtle fashion than during the Reagan/Bush years, are no less serious. At the same time, Congress is advocating a swift shift to electronic dissemination in order to reduce the government's costs. We believe that much information may simply disappear or not be made available in the most usable format. The rapid shift to a cybergovernment will affect how and at what cost government information will be disseminated through the depository library program. If Congress mandates an all-electronic depository system, law libraries will need to reconsider whether or not to continue to participate in the program.
In addition, reform of the telecommunications industry is currently in conference committee and many provisions which would guarantee the development of the Clinton/Gore vision of a National Information Infrastructure (NII) noted in the Strategic Challenge are in jeopardy. These include universal service, privacy and intellectual property--all issues which are critical to the development of the NII and were recently endorsed by the Executive Board in the AALL Resolution on Telecommunications and the NII.
We offer these political considerations for your informational purposes, and to provide a context for the following highlights of Washington Office activities during the past year which support the AALL Strategic Challenge.
2. Are there any of the strategic initiatives that in your view require higher priority?
The Washington Office believes that stronger coalitions within the legal communities and among diverse groups are absolutely critical to the future of electronic information and the development of the NII. We will be pursuing broader participation and coalition building as we face Congressional action that may well be contrary to AALL policy.
3. Have you or the group you represent undertaken any activities this year (1995-96)
that support the strategic plan?
Strategic Direction I, Initiative 5: Strengthen relationships between AALL and its chapters.
* We met with the New Chapter Presidents at the Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh to propose ways to encourage closer communication and support between the Washington Office and the chapters.
* We followed-up on the Pittsburgh meeting by sending a letter with specific requests to Karen Schuh, Chair of the Council of Chapter Presidents. This information was forwarded to the chapter presidents and we have received a moderate number of responses.
* We have used chapter listservs to seek support on local issues. The recent collaboration with SCALL chapter president Hal Brown on a statement for a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing is a good example of our growing interaction with the chapters.
* As an ongoing activity, we are collecting names of AALL volunteers willing to become key contacts with their legislators. The new AALL dues renewal form will include spaces for members to include their Congressional district and whether they would be willing to join these efforts.
* During the past year we have often called upon members for grassroots support on key issues before Congress. The most recent example occurred when we needed phone calls regarding conference committee action on the telecommunications reform bill. Law library directors from many key states graciously assisted our efforts on this very critical issue.
Strategic Direction II, Initiative 1: Promote and support national, state and local initiatives to advance
electronic dissemination of legal and other relevant information.
* This initiative is the mission of the Washington Office. Currently one of our top priorities is assisting with the GPO Study which was mandated by Congress to draft plans for a transition to a more electronic depository program. We were successful in having a Judicial Branch representative named to the Working Group and we are closely monitoring these efforts.
* We recently participated in a focus group on the PACER system and brought up several questions/concerns on behalf of our members. We will continue to closely monitor federal policy discussions particularly as they impact access to legal materials.
* In several instances during the past year, we have written letters in support of state legislative initiatives, including funding for law libraries and proposals to disseminate government information on the Internet. We have been involved in state issues arising in Texas, Illinois, California, Nevada and New Jersey, and we will be expanding these efforts. Law librarians clearly have been very pleased to have the support of the association behind their local or state efforts. In addition, the importance of local/state dissemination of government information to the development of the NII cannot be overemphasized.
Initiative 3: Expand strategic alliances with other associations and groups to promote the public policy agenda of the Association.
* Collaboration with ALA, ARL, SLA and MLA has been strengthened during the past year. In addition, AALL has taken the lead on many issues, drafting letters to which the other principal library associations have signed-on.
* The Washington Office initiated the spring meetings at Georgetown Law Library for a group of librarians representing the major professional associations. The work of this Coalition of Many Associations (COMA) resulted in the document, Enhanced Library Access and Dissemination of Federal Government Information: A Framework for Future Discussion which has been endorsed by AALL and the other associations. This was a significant achievement in terms of preparing for the close Congressional scrutiny being given to information policy issues regarding the Federal Depository Library Program, and the shift to a cybergovernment. We also strengthened ties with the Government Documents SIS by inviting the SIS chair and several of its members to the COMA group discussions.
* We have also collaborated on telecommunications and intellectual property rights issues with a growing number of diverse coalitions. These relationships are critically important, particularly in the current political climate, in order for AALL to achieve its goals.
4. Are you or the group you represent planning any activities for next year (1996-97)
that support the strategic plan?
In addition to these activities which the Washington Office will continue to develop and strengthen over the next year, we propose the following new activities:
* The Washington Office has contributed regularly to Aaallnet through the Government Relations Committee with our letters, resolutions and Annual Meeting presentations. The AALL Newsletter monthly column by the Assistant Washington Affairs Representative will soon be regularly posted to Aaallnet at the same time that it is submitted to the editor. Thus our members will have more timely access to current information about our activities.
In addition, the Washington Office seeks support in developing its own home page, to be linked to the new Aaallnet home page, through which we can better and more regularly communicate with our members, and share information. We will be seeking very limited resources to help in the design of the home page and will collaborate with Mark Folmsbee on this initiative.
* AALL will continue its leadership role with coalitions on intellectual property rights. Additional financial support for these efforts may be necessary next spring.
We are very grateful for the opportunity to describe several key efforts by the Washington Office which respond directly to the AALL strategic plan. Though far from a comprehensive listing, it does reflect our work and hopefully will assist your committee in its efforts. Thank you very much.
Robert L. Oakley
Washington Affairs Representative
Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative