April 24, 2002
The Honorable Patricia Wiggins
Chair, Local Government Committee
California State Assembly
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento CA 94249-0001
RE: Opposition to AB 2648
Dear Assembly Member Wiggins:
On behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries, I write to you today to urge you to oppose AB 2648, a bill that threatens the future of California's county law libraries, when it comes before the Assembly Local Government Committee for a hearing on May 8, 2002. The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is a nonprofit educational organization with over 5000 members nationwide. Our mission is to support and serve our members, to promote and enhance the value of law libraries, to foster law librarianship and to provide leadership and advocacy in the field of legal information and information policy. AALL members work in nearly 1900 libraries serving government officials, the bench, the bar, legal scholars and the public.
AB 2648, as amended, would end the obligation of county governments to provide for the housing, maintenance, phones and janitorial service for California's county law libraries, even though this partnership has worked effectively for the past 111 years. During the past decade, county law libraries in California have experienced severe budget shortfalls because of a significant decline in paid civil court filing fees. As a result of this decline, county law libraries have in fact had to absorb a 40% loss in purchasing power since 1992.
AALL is in the process of completing an important study on the pricing of legal materials that will conclude that the cost of legal materials has increased exponentially over the past decade, with many titles doubling in price. The increased costs of legal materials is in itself a significant burden on county law libraries who are generally dependent on court filing fees rather than taxes for their funding. While all states, not just California, are undergoing budget crises at this moment in time, it would be very shortsighted to enact legislation that would further reduce the ability of your state's county law libraries to fulfill effectively their important mission of building their legal collections and providing access to necessary legal resources. Further, as public libraries, they serve the critically important mission of providing access to legal information and services to all county residents, including attorneys, judges, self-represented litigants, members of the business community, students and the general public.
AALL believes that AB 2648 poses a serious threat to the ability of California residents to access legal information within their communities because it will leave county law libraries unable to absorb the new costs that would be transferred to them. We join members of the Council of California County Law Librarians and all law librarians in California in urging you to oppose AB 2648. Thank you very much for your consideration in this very important matter.
Robert L. Oakley
Washington Affairs Representative
American Association of Law Libraries