The Association has no purpose. The Association is being sneaky. What has the Association done for me? Why should I be a member in the Association? There’s a litany of woe (is me) posts/emails burning up the internet regarding AALL.
With the AALL Annual Meeting close at hand (and the Antitrust Policy floating around), I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to catch our collective breath and think some deep thoughts. First, in with the good air, out with the bad. Repeat. Now, isn’t that better?
Now, what is an association? No, I’m not being silly. Most of the communication I have seen indicates that people seem to have lost sight of this basic concept. Simply put, associations provide an opportunity for like-minded people to meet, share ideas, advocate their principles in the halls of government and provide a face to the world at large to explain just who they are. What value do these functions have? Well, let’s focus on AALL.
In the 10+ years that I have been a member, AALL has been an unrelenting advocate for open government. The potential closing of the EPA libraries and making federal filings available to county law libraries are just a couple of examples of the fine work our Association has done in this area. I can’t think of a law librarian who wouldn’t need to access a government document at some point in their career. These documents and resources remain accessible due to the hard work of the association and its members.
The connections I have made have been worth the price of membership. Need a document from a court in Cook County? I just called a Librarian I met in St Louis and got it in minutes. Looking to start a support group for librarians doing CI? Spoke to a friend who introduced me to the PLL Chair who set it up with Headquarters. We had the CI group up and running in no time. Did I mention my co-founders were from Minneapolis and St Louis, not to mention the members of our Caucus are from all over the US? How else would I have made these connections if it weren’t for the association?
Vendor relations have never been the responsibility of the Association other than to pair vendors with customers. Vendor sponsorships just allow the vendors to sell their products to the Association’s members. There is no obligation, duty or any other requirement for the Association to do more than that. In fact, there are good legal reasons for the Association or members not to collude to affect prices. Just as it would be harmful to consumers for Wolters Kluwer, BNA, ThomsonReuters and Lexis to share information about our contracts with each other, the members of the Association as well as the Association as a whole are precluded from sharing that same information. References to the Association as a sweetheart who has done you wrong by not standing up for you miss this crucial point.
It is the responsibility of every librarian to do what’s best for their organization (i.e., Firm, Company, School or Government Library) when it comes to vendor relations. If you don’t like something the vendor does, tell them. If they don’t do anything about it, take your business elsewhere. It is up to the librarian to make sure their organization is aware of the negotiations and their options going in. Let’s face it, this is why they hire us. It's up to us as individuals to create and maintain a beneficial partnership/relationship with our vendors. The Association cannot act as a substitute for us or a surrogate in our dealings with our vendors.
So let’s take a deep breath and consider the value the Association provides and not focus on “What has it done for me lately?” Take it, Ms. Jackson…