A few minutes ago, AALL President, Keith Ann Stiverson, made the announcement that the members of AALL voted down the proposed name change to Association for Legal Information:

The proposal to change the name of American Association of Law Libraries to the Association for Legal Information has failed by a vote of 1998 (80.11 percent) opposed, to 496 (19.89 percent) in favor. A record number of members voted on this proposal, with 59.51 percent casting a ballot.  

The fact that 60% of the members took the time to vote, showed that the issue was important, and the fact that 80% of those votes were a “no” to name change, drove home a point that I’ve heard from the members over the past few months. It is clear that the ALI name was not the one members wanted. It was also clear that many of the members were open to the idea of change, but that members wanted much more of a voice and the ability to comment and bounce ideas before an up or down vote is made.

While there are a very small number of members that felt that AALL as “American Association of Law Libraries” was just fine, most of the people I talked to made a comment similar to this:

I am fine with rebranding the association and even changing the name… but just not this name.

I am happy that the members made their voices heard. I am happy that the AALL Board took the initiative to put this challenge out to the members and get the conversation started. This is not the end of the conversation, by any means. This is the beginning of a longer conversation, and a chance to look at the good and bad of what’s happened over the past couple of months and how to move on in a respectful way to the next step in the process.

This is still fresh in my mind, so there are a few ideas that I’m bouncing around in my head, and would like to discuss as we move forward:

  • I think members are still receptive to a name change (AALL (alone), changing Libraries to Librarians, adding “Information Professionals” to AALL, or adding Professionals to ALI. But, I don’t think anyone has the stomach to try this right away. Let’s put a pin in this one for now, and move on.
  • Rebranding goes on. No one is standing still. Members, Board, Stakeholders, etc. We all know that the association needs to adapt to serve its members and to increase awareness of the stakeholders in what we all bring to the table within our organization, and the overall value of our profession. That discussion moves forward.
  • I think the Board “heard” the members when it came to involvement and discussion prior to voting. I, for one, as an incoming Vice President/President Elect, heard that message loud and clear.
  • I think most of the members understood what the Board was attempting to do, and even when they disagreed with the Board’s actions and ideas, did so respectfully. There was no evil intent. If you think there was, I suggest that you re-evaluate the situation and give the board the benefit of the doubt here, and move forward.
  • There will be no running to the doors. AALL is the association for those of us that call ourselves law librarians. No other organization focuses more on our profession. We can face the future together, we can argue and debate the path, but at the end of the day, we come together for the greater good of our profession.
  • That said, our profession is changing. Librarians, Lawyers, Analysts, Writers, Researchers, and other professionals within the legal field have many things that we can learn from each other. Looking to bring in non-traditional roles into the ranks of the Law Librarian association does not make us weaker, it makes us more diverse, and stronger as a whole. Law Librarianship is still the pivotal function of the association, but narrowly defining who fits that role is a disservice to all who can benefit from the association.

Although this was a record number of people that turned out to vote, there were still over 4 in 10 of us that didn’t vote. That, to me, is a red flag. As I move forward over the next couple of years and move from Vice President to President, I would like to find ways to reach out to those other 40% and find ways of motivating them back into the ranks of active and contributing members. I also want to make sure that the other 60% also remain active and seek out ways that we can help ourselves, each other, and the profession.