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Changes for the Washington Affairs Office

The Executive Board approved a name change for the AALL Washington Affairs Office, making it the AALL Government Relations Office. The name change is a result of member research indicating that the new name will more accurately reflect the broad scope of the office, which includes advocacy efforts at national, state, and local levels. Also, Mary Alice Baish was named director of the Government Relations Office. Mary Alice now serves as the chief staff person for AALL's advocacy efforts, promoting AALL's information policy agenda.

Member Advocacy Award Honors the Memory of Bob Oakley

 In 2007, the library community lost one of its most distinguished members when AALL Washington Affairs Representative and Georgetown University Law Library Director Robert L. (Bob) Oakley died unexpectedly.

The Robert L. Oakley Advocacy Award was created in Bob's honor to recognize an AALL member or group who has been an outstanding advocate and has contributed significantly to the AALL policy agenda at the federal, state, local, or international level. The award was presented at the 102nd Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., to Richard J. McKinney of Federal Reserve Board Law Library. Bob Oakley was also posthumously named as the 2008 recipient.

New York Times Article Highlights the Loss of Federal Electronic Government Information

In his front-page article, "In Digital Age, Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion," published September 13, 2008, Robert Pear of the New York Times succinctly describes the challenges of preserving online federal government information. Pear also quotes AALL Government Relations Office Director Mary Alice Baish and her concern that huge amounts of information from the past eight years would disappear when the new administration was sworn in January 2009. Read more about the article in AALL's Washington Blawg.

Legislative Success and Challenges

As the 110th Congress drew to a close, AALL's Washington Affairs Office had good and bad news to report. First the good news: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reopened five libraries to the public on September 30, 2008, in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, and the newly-combined EPA Headquarters Repository and Chemical Library in Washington, D.C. AALL first met with EPA officials in spring 2006 to express opposition to the library closures.

Unfortunately, AALL's goal to enact orphan works legislation this year was less successful. The House Judiciary Committee leadership refused to agree to certain provisions that the Association believes are necessary to create an effective solution. Key among these in the House bill (H.R. 5889) is the "dark archive" provision, because its requirements would be extremely burdensome for libraries.

AALL fared much better on the Senate side, which passed the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008 (S. 2913) without the "dark archive" provision and referred it to the House Judiciary Committee on September 27.

AALL Submits Statement to the Obama-Biden Transition Team on Public Policy Positions

In early December 2008, to fulfill President-elect Barack Obama's goal of greater public participation and transparency in government, his transition team extended an open invitation to organizations and individuals to meet with the team and submit formal comments. AALL submitted a Statement on our Public Policy Positions for the new administration and Congress on December 23.

The statement reflects AALL's strong commitment, as articulated in the Association's Government Relations Policy, to the importance of the public's right to access government information as a basic tenet of our democracy; the need to preserve the historic balance in copyright law between rights of holders and users; and the protection of the privacy of library users and all Americans. Mary Alice Baish, director of AALL's Government Relations Office, and our Government Relations Committee, Copyright Committee, and Electronic Legal Information Access and Citation Committee all contributed content to the report.

This important position paper will serve as the roadmap for the work of the Government Relations Office and policy committees during the next few years. Included among the specific policy goals are support for the following:

  • Adequate annual funding to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for no-fee public access to PACER
  • A public domain citation system for legal information
  • The enactment of "Orphan Works" legislation to allow libraries to digitize and make publicly available materials whose copyright owners cannot be found despite extensive and costly searches
  • The repeal of the USA PATRIOT Acts Section 215 (the so-called "library" provision), which is due to sunset on December 31, 2009

Support Greater Government Transparency and Accountability

The report, "Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda: Recommendations to President-elect Obama and Congress," a result of combined efforts of the AALL Government Relations Office staff, other open government advocates, and AALL members, was delivered to President-Elect Obama's transition team the day after the election. It includes more than 70 prioritized recommendations on issues relating to national security and secrecy, usability of government information, and how to create an environment for greater transparency.

Since the recommendations reflect AALL's Government Relations Policy on open government, the Association was among the first groups to sign on to the report. In addition, AALL's Government Relations Committee and Technical Services Special Interest Section, nine of our chapters (CoALL, GPLLA, LLOPS, NOCALL, SANDALL, SCALL, SFALL, SNELLA, and WestPac), and more than 75 individual law librarians have also endorsed it.

New Advocacy Toolkit for the 111th Congress

The Government Relations Office announced an exciting new resource to help AALL members and chapters become effective advocates for law libraries. The Advocacy Toolkit for the 111th Congress: 2009-2010 was designed to help members learn more about AALL's ambitious legislative agenda by: illustrating the many ways to get involved in advocacy; notifying members of the latest action alerts so you can help to promote legislative efforts; presenting a comprehensive look at the issues and legislation AALL is currently working on; and providing AALL members and chapters with the necessary tools to become effective advocates on both the federal and state levels.

Government Printing Office Releases Federal Digital System (FDsys)

In February 2009, the Government Printing Office (GPO) announced the release of the Federal Digital System (FDsys), GPO's new digital system that provides access to government information from all three branches of government. At this first launch, FDsys contained more than 154,000 documents and many convenient features, including the ability to download metadata.

AALL is pleased that the FDsys developers implemented many of the Association's suggestions, including numerous improvements to the actual design of the website and the option of searching by citation. In May 2008, Mary Alice Baish testified before the House Committee on Appropriations' Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch in support of GPO's $21.2 million request for FDsys, which was a significant portion of their Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations Request. In addition, many AALL members offered their comments in small focus groups with the FDsys team at the 2008 AALL Annual Meeting in Portland and later at the GPO's headquarters in Washington, D.C.

AALL Member Testifies at Federal Hearing

On May 6, 2009, Roger V. Skalbeck, vice chair-elect of AALL's Copyright Committee, testified during the U.S. Copyright Office's triennial rule-making hearing in Washington, D.C., on proposed exemptions to Section 1201 of the Copyright Act. Also speaking on behalf of the Medical Library Association and the Special Libraries Association, Skalbeck requested in his statement that the media faculty exemption be broadened to include faculty of law and the health sciences. Georgetown University Law Professor Rebecca Tushnet posted an excellent summary of the hearing on her blog.

Mary Alice Baish, director of the AALL Government Relations Office, testified the previous day at the public witness hearing held by the House Appropriations Committee Legislative Branch Subcommittee in support of the Government Printing Office's (GPO) FY 2010 budget request. Her statements stressed the importance of funding GPO's $8 million request for the Federal Digital System (FDsys).

AALL Members Make Their Voices Heard on Capitol Hill

On Friday, July 24, the AALL Government Relations Office and Government Relations Committee held the 2009 AALL Day on the Hill Legislative Advocacy Leadership Training in Washington, D.C. More than 75 AALL members attended the full-day training, and the event was a tremendous success. The meetings on Capitol Hill were extremely valuable in increasing AALL's visibility, as well as establishing important new relationships with members of Congress that are vital to our effective advocacy. Congratulations to all of the Day on the Hill participants for making this year's advocacy training so successful.

Marian Parker Named New AALL Vendor Liaison

At its October meeting, the AALL Executive Board approved a recommendation to create an AALL vendor relations representative position. The recommendation was made by Professor Penny A. Hazelton, professor of law and associate dean for library and computing services at the University of Washington Gallagher Law Library, who was selected to serve as a consultant to the Association to evaluate the desirability and feasibility of creating such a position.

In April 2009, AALL announced its new vendor liaison, Marian Parker, associate dean for information services, director of the professional center library, and professor of law at Wake Forest University School of Law in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Parker will be responsible for fostering knowledge and information sharing between the law library community and legal information vendors. She will also work to develop programs or initiatives for sharing expertise and creating a dialogue about library-vendor issues, and to communicate about legal information policy issues from the law librarian perspective.

Parker has experience in both legal publishing and law librarianship, having worked as both director of professional relations and acting senior director of law schools and courts at LexisNexis/Matthew Bender & Co. She started her three-year term on April 6.

LLAGNY-ELIAC Holds Authentication Program

The Law Library Association of Greater New York (LLAGNY) presented on November 6, in conjunction with AALL's Electronic Legal Information Access and Citation (ELIAC) Committee, a program at the New York County Lawyers Association in New York City regarding how findings of AALL's 2007 State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources can be adopted in the State of New York.

The program presented a panel of representatives from AALL, ELIAC, and two agencies of New York State government. Panelists discussed the Authentication Report and possible approaches, strategies, and challenges to authenticating and otherwise validating, in accordance with accepted standards, New York State primary source legal information published on the web.