Why have a AALL Consumer Advocacy Caucus? There seems to a lot posted lately in Law Librarian circles about this and I've been struggling to figure out this question for quite some time. Today's LLB post about the petition to create this group provides a succinct summary of the arguments of the advocates. However, these arguments failed to persuade me on the following points:
Only AALL can deal with Vendors
I have been a law librarian for over 25 years. I began using Lexis on an Ubiq terminal and Westlaw on a Westmate terminal. In the course of my career, when given the responsiblity of solely representing my organization (for both law firms and a Fortune 500 company) to the vendor, I have met that resposibility. It was my job to do so. Asking AALL to do your job because you don't like your choices is, in my mind, shirking your responsibility to your firm and not meeting a requirement of your job. Because my approach is to treat vendors as a partner instead of adversary, I have been able to cutomize the results to meet the needs of my organization. I find it to be as true today as it was 25+ years ago. When one vendor tried to use their market power to coerce our firm into an unproductive arrangement, we made contingency plans and walked away. That vendor is now attempting to get our business back. We did not need AALL to advocate for the best interests of our organization. To be blunt, that's why I was hired.
Pricing is out of control
Librarians have been complaining about this for as long as they have had to purchase materials from publishers. To reiterate, if you can't be an advocate for your organization, you shouldn't be the one negotiating.
It's part of the mission of AALL to support this caucus How? Special Interest Sections and Caucuses exist to bring librarians with common interests together and help meet their unique professional development needs. I can only think of one caucus or SIS that exists to be a go-between with the rank-and-file and another entity: The Government Relations group. Granted, that is a special case where, as librarians, we have a vested interest in the outcome of specific legislation. The CRIV committee facilitates our contacts with the vendors when individual issues arise, but the disposition is left to the two parties to work out. "My way or the highway" Attitude Lastly, I have a real problem with the tone of discourse on this subject. If you don't agree with the proponents, it is you who must be wrong. The longer the discussion goes on, the more strident their tone gets. Not only have I seen this in the various posts (here, here and here) on the subject, but I have heard it first-hand. I am happy to have a discussion of this or any other topic on the merits, but do not appreciate being denigrated personally for having a different viewpoint. It is unfortunate that in our collegial body the rhetoric from some members is beginning reflect the state of politcal discourse in our society as a whole.