AALL Advocacy / 2021 Year In Review
Law libraries continued to face many challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues in 2021. AALL’s advocacy efforts focused on legislation and regulations that support members and help law librarians and legal information professionals meet the changing needs of their organizations and their communities. With the help of our members and partners, AALL’s advocacy efforts led to new collaborations with federal agencies to increase access to official legal information; new funding opportunities for public law libraries; and new ways for law libraries to provide access to copyrighted works, including for people with disabilities. Below are a few highlights of AALL’s advocacy efforts in 2021:
FUNDING TO SUPPORT THE LEGAL INFORMATION PROFESSION
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, enacted in March 2021, provided funding for new grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to help museums and libraries, including eligible law libraries, address community needs created or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The San Diego County Public Law Library received funding through this grant program to implement a program that will provide public library patrons with legal research help and referrals to legal services.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted in November 2021, provided $65 billion for broadband infrastructure. The law also established a new digital equity competitive grant program to support libraries—including public law libraries—and other organizations to improve internet access and provide technical support and digital skills training. AALL will advocate for the needs of law libraries as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) implements this program.
To help the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) ensure that its services impact a broader community, including law libraries, AALL provided comments about the development of the IMLS’ next strategic plan. The comments provided ideas about how IMLS can support law libraries through its grant programs and by providing research and data that would be helpful for law librarians and legal information professionals.
AALL’s upcoming webinar, Grant Funding for Law Libraries, on Tuesday, February 15 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CST, will provide tools and tips for how to identify, apply, and win grants to support your organization. You will hear inspiring success stories from law librarians and legal information professionals who have received grant funding, and learn about grants from IMLS and other opportunities at the federal, state, and local levels.
EQUITABLE ACCESS TO OFFICIAL LEGAL INFORMATION
AALL advocated for the funding requests of the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), the Library of Congress, the Law Library of Congress, and the National Archives and Records Administration to provide free access to legal information and to preserve legal materials. AALL was pleased the GPO selected AALL’s nominee, Allen R. Moye along with fellow AALL member Richard A. Leiter, to serve on the Depository Library Council (DLC) to advise the GPO on issues related to the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). In addition, GPO accepted AALL’s nominee, Scott Matheson, to represent the Association on a new GPO task force to study the feasibility of an all-digital FDLP.
AALL collaborated with the Law Library of Congress to co-sponsor a webinar, The Jane Sánchez Memorial Lecture on the Future of Law Libraries and Law Librarianship in honor of Jane Sánchez, the former Law Librarian of Congress who passed away in March. The discussion was moderated by Law Librarian of Congress Aslihan A. Bulut. Panelists included Emily R. Florio, AALL immediate past president, and several AALL members.
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee favorably reported the Open Courts Act of 2021 (S. 2614) to modernize the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system and provide free access to court records on PACER. The bill reported by the Committee incorporated several amendments, including authorizing Congressional appropriations to support the new system. The federal Judiciary has expressed concerns about the bill, including the impact of increased filing fees on access to justice. AALL will continue to advocate for changes to the PACER system that promote access to records at reasonable or no fees while balancing the needs for access to justice.
BALANCED COPYRIGHT LAWS
AALL shared comments with the U.S. Copyright Office (Copyright Office) on the development of regulations affecting law libraries in the implementation of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act. Under the CASE Act, qualifying law libraries will be eligible to preemptively opt out of proceedings before the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), which was established to evaluate copyright infringement matters for small claims. The CCB is expected to be operational by summer 2022. AALL will share more information about the CCB process for law libraries once the Copyright Office finalizes this information.
The Copyright Office and the Library of Congress also announced the latest round of temporary exemptions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that allow law libraries to provide greater access to certain copyrighted works. Among several new exemptions, the Copyright Office accepted a recommendation made by AALL and several other organizations to permit researchers to circumvent the technological protections on e-books to allow greater access for people with disabilities.
The AALL Copyright Committee created a new video on fair use that is part of AALL’s microlearning video series. The video, created by Stephen Wolfson, University of Georgia Alexander Campbell King Law Library, helps members learn about the fair use legal doctrine and how to conduct a fair use analysis.
AALL ADVOCACY RESOURCES UPDATED
The AALL Government Relations Committee updated the AALL Advocacy Toolkit to assist members in advocating for the legislative issues that have an impact on law libraries and the legal information profession. The Advocacy Toolkit includes a link to the AALL Legislative Priorities for the 117th Congress (2021-2022), developed by the Copyright Committee and the Government Relations Committee, and other resources on legislative and advocacy issues. The Advocacy Toolkit also includes new sections to help members build their advocacy skills and answer frequently asked questions.
AALL held several advocacy trainings in 2021, including the Government Law Library Funding: Advocacy Training For Law Libraries in February and the 2021 AALL Virtual Legislative Advocacy Training in September featuring Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-4). In addition, Emily R. Florio, AALL immediate past president and Barbara A. Bintliff, AALL past president, presented at a Uniform Law Commission webinar in May about AALL’s support for the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) and access to justice.
AALL Advocacy in 2022
One of the first priorities for the U.S. Congress is to address Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 funding for the federal government. The current short-term funding bill expires on February 18. The good news is that the U.S. House of Representatives has already passed funding bills for FY 2022 that include the priorities AALL had advocated for, including full funding for the GPO to expand its partnerships with law libraries and funding for the Law Library of Congress to digitize more of its collections. The U.S. Senate has not yet voted on any of its funding bills for FY 2022.
AALL will continue to advocate for legislation and regulations that support law librarians and legal information professionals, promote greater access to legal information, protect the privacy of law library users, and improve access to justice. AALL’s current priorities include changes to PACER that provide greater access to records while balancing the needs for access to justice; additional investments in federal programs that help law libraries address ongoing issues related to COVID-19; and updates to copyright laws that enable law libraries to lend, digitize, and preserve copyrighted materials.
AALL will also continue to work with AALL chapters to advocate for UELMA at the state level. UELMA has been enacted in 21 states, as well as in Washington, DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. UELMA has been introduced this year in Indiana and Massachusetts.
2022 AALL Chapter Advocacy Training / January 27
Many AALL chapters are faced with local issues that are important to their members. Chapters are well-positioned to advocate for law libraries and the legal information profession, including to support government law library funding and the enactment of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act. Join us on Thursday, January 27 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. (CST) to learn a variety of advocacy strategies and resources that chapters can employ to ensure greater access to legal information and to promote continuous improvement in access to justice. Whether you are interested in starting a new advocacy program in your chapter or growing an existing program, you will come away with practical guidance and tools to support your chapter’s advocacy efforts.
Cost: Free and open to AALL members and nonmembers