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FCIL Newsletter, October 1998
v. 13, no. 1

FCIL SIS Statement Regarding Annual Conference Programming and Scheduling

To: Jim Heller, President, AALL
Subject: FCIL Programming and Scheduling at the Annual Conference: Concerns for 1999 and Beyond
Date: July 17, 1998

Cc.: AALL Executive Board; Tim Coggins, Chair, Annual Meeting Program Selection Committee; Bob Oakley, FCIL Liaison, 1999 Annual Meeting Advisory Task Force; Roger Parent, Executive Director, AALL; SIS Chairs

Scheduling Changes Appreciated

The FCIL SIS strongly supports the three proposed changes to the Tentative Schedule for the 1999 Annual Meeting that were proposed in the SIS Council Meeting in Anaheim and endorsed by you at the special meeting of the FCIL SIS which you attended. The revised schedule will permit our Working Groups to meet on Sunday, our Business Meeting to be held on Monday, and SIS-chosen programming to be presented on Tuesday and Wednesday. The back-to-back scheduling of our Working Group block is particularly important for the professional development of our members.

Concerns About Scheduling and Programming Long-Term

We are concerned that such scheduling commitments be long-term, not just for Washington, and that consistent program criteria as well as clear, predictable feedback on programs accepted or rejected become the norm for the future. In this regard, we wish to acknowledge that the Program Planners Handbooks prepared for the 1998 and 1999 annual meetings are a step in the right direction in providing clearer guidelines as to what types of programs are most likely to be selected by the Annual Meeting Program Selection Committee. After discussions with you and others, we feel much more positive at this point about the 1999 Washington Conference. Nevertheless, as the concerns of our SIS are of a long-term nature, reaching beyond that meeting, we have determined to appoint a Strategic Planning Committee for our SIS and to convey to you in this communication what we see now as the ongoing needs of our SIS as well as our unique contributions to the Association.

A "Minority" SIS

The FCIL SIS is a relatively small group within the Association. However, our meetings and programs benefit all of AALL out of proportion to our size. We have taken as one of our chief purposes to put on programs, workshops, and institutes on foreign and international law which serve non-specialists within the Association as well as our own newer, "specialist" members. These basic (or "broad-based") programs and institutes have generally been acclaimed by a broad range of "cross-over" members from other SISs and are not difficult to have accepted by the Annual Meeting Program Selection Committee.

Unfortunately, as a small group within a large Association, our needs are not promoted when programs are selected based on criteria gleaned from surveys of what Association members want. When the majority rules, we lose. We are concerned that the need for narrowly-focused FCIL programs is not appreciated by the Association and that such programs are not likely to be approved by the AMPSC. Although slots are being proposed for the Washington conference for SIS-selected programs (as well as a foreign and international programming "track"), there is concern in our SIS that in order to do the type of programming we need to do long-range (especially, for example, successive programs on multiple foreign jurisdictions) that we need both the assurance that this FCIL track will be continued and that we can have more control in the future over what programs we can put on in such designated slots.

It has been suggested that in the future, SISs could present programs aimed at a narrower audience during Working Group meetings or in guaranteed SIS program slots, submitting to the AMPSC only programs of broad potential interest. While this might work very well for our SIS and others, we are concerned that opting to produce "programs" by whatever name outside the slots controlled by the AMPSC could mean a loss of the Association's support for speakers, rooms, and publicity. Fostering a dialog on these issues would be extremely helpful. We would see written guidelines similar to those in the Program Planners Handbooks as an extremely positive natural outgrowth of this process.

The Importance of the Foreign and International Law Specialty

Foreign and international law teaching and practice have grown exponentially in recent years in most of our schools and firms. We feel it necessary to point out that highly specialized, esoteric programs (which may attract 25 or fewer attendees) can and do benefit all AALL members, not just the specialists. Whether it is a Working Group on Asian law or a program on the acquisition of foreign official gazettes, when the specialists can educate themselves in these areas, firm and law school librarians without special collections or expertise have someone to call when their attorneys, faculty or students need documents or answers to foreign or international questions. Before we can serve you, we must have the meeting slots and education programs to educate ourselves in these complex issues at what has been the only chance during the year for most FCIL librarians to gather professionally. Regrettably, some of our members have become so frustrated about programming and scheduling problems in our SIS that they are talking about or have already chosen to affiliate themselves with other groups such as the International Association of Law Libraries or the American Society of International Law, dropping their AALL memberships. We are doing our best to address these issues within our SIS through intensive discussions and through the Strategic Planning process. It is our sincere desire that the Association will take our concerns seriously as well.

Our Best Wishes

We will look forward to continuing to discuss these issues with you and with others in the Association. Please accept our best wishes for a successful and productive tenure as the new President of our Association.

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