Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Developments about Vendor Relations

Posted on behalf of Gail Daly, from her e-mail to the LawLibDir listserve:

Discussions on this listserv over the past few weeks have revealed a significant degree of concern and frustration over the absence of any organized group -- along the lines of the vocal and visible Legal Writing and Clinical faculty groups within AALS -- to represent our viewpoints and lobby for our interests. The nine Texas academic law library directors met on Thursday, November 15th, 2007, and after serious debate and discussion unanimously agreed that the creation of such a group is critical to the future of our profession. Consequently, we have established the Texas Chapter of the American Academic Law Librarians Society (AALLS) to offer a forum for the discussion of common interests and to address our concerns within the academy. We invite all interested colleagues to join us in founding this association and to attend our formative meeting at the Fordham Law School's Leo T. Kissam Memorial Library during the AALS Annual Meeting in January (date, time, and room to be announced shortly).

There are a number of precedents for this type of association and some models for its organization, some more formal than others. The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) is an example of one model. SALT is, as you know, an independent organization that takes positions (often controversial) on behalf of its members. A more informal model would be the group of "runaway" law school deans that issued certain position papers with respect to tenure of clinical faculty and librarians. Our objective is to create an organization that has some clout and recognition, and we welcome your input. Affiliation with AALS would obviously bring certain advantages; whether or not it is in our group's best interests to do so may depend upon the rules and restrictions that AALS imposes. We are currently investigating AALS by-laws and other policies to determine our options.

We hope that all of you will join us in this exciting opportunity to create a vibrant and effective organization to speak to the challenges that face academic law libraries, and we look forward to seeing you in New York.

David G. Cowan, South Texas College of Law The Fred Parks Law Library
Gail M. Daly, Southern Methodist University Underwood Law Library
Robert H. Hu, St. Mary's University Sarita Kenedy East Law Library
Roy M. Mersky, University of Texas Jamail Center for Legal Research
Susan T. Phillips, Texas Wesleyan University Dee J. Kelly Law Library
Brandon D. Quarles, Baylor Law Library
Spencer L. Simons, University of Houston O'Quinn Law Library
DeCarlous Spearman, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law Library
Arturo Torres, Texas Tech University School of Law Library

Besides this new organization that may be formed at AALS in January, members of AALL received today a post from Ann Fessenden, AALL president about the results of the recent Board meeting. I very much appreciate her and the board's response to recent questions and comments, and reproduce a portion of her e-mailed announcement here (I presume that most OOTJ readers are also AALL members, and thus have seen or will see Ann's comments in full. The response of AALL board to members' questions is very open and makes me feel much better about the organization. What started this whole conversation was actually comments about AALL apparently censoring member notes to CRIV and presentations. Ann's response (snippets below) are very heartening.

will still be attending the meeting at AALS, though. Partly, because I think that AALL may, in fact, be too broad in its representation, and that the academics have some issues that might be best raised in a smaller forum. I will try to keep OOTJ readers informed as things develop. I am very proud of Gail for taking what seems to be a historic step with the other directors from Texas. Good for you all! Here is a snippet of Ann Fessenden's e-mail to AALL members:
At our meeting this month, the members of your Executive Board held a wide-ranging discussion about vendor relations. We agreed on the importance of communicating more directly with you about issues relating to vendors and also decided that a small group of board members would be tasked with developing some concrete new approaches within a short time period. This letter is the first step in our new communications effort. We have also developed a new Vendor Relations page on AALLNET, where vendor relations news and resources will be posted.

It is true that AALL receives many financial contributions from our vendors, not just sponsorship of some Annual Meeting events, but also support for professional development opportunities such as scholarships, grants, continuing education programs, and publications. Many vendors’ library relations staff members are active, involved members of AALL, who serve on and chair committees, present programs, and otherwise contribute their professional abilities to the AALL community. AALL leaders and staff value these contributions, but we do NOT make decisions on the basis of concern for loss of revenue provided by vendors or out of fear of any other adverse reactions from them. (snip)

The dollar levels of vendor sponsorship are announced each year at the Annual Meeting and are also available on our AALLNET Sponsor Recognition page. Also, each year potential donors are sent a brochure that outlines sponsorship opportunities for the Annual Meeting and describes how AALL acknowledges the vendors’ contributions. The 2007 brochure is currently available on AALLNET, and a similar one is under development for the 2008 meeting in Portland. In addition, information about all of our income and expenses is provided each year in the "From the Treasurer" column in the May issue of AALL Spectrum, and in the treasurer’s report that is distributed at the Annual Business Meeting.

However, in order to make sure vendor sponsorship information is clear and readily available, we have developed a new table showing vendor contributions for the last year to both the Annual Meeting and to other Association programs, such as scholarships, grants, awards, and publications. This information is now available in the Funding from Vendors section of our AALLNET Vendor Relations page.

How AALL Currently Assists Members in Dealing with Vendors
Did you know that the Committee on Relations with Information Vendors (CRIV) can help you resolve disputes and learn negotiation skills? A wide range of tools are available on its Web site. Also, at this month’s meeting, the Executive Board approved new guidelines to strengthen and reinvigorate CRIV’s vendor site visits program. And if you’re not familiar with the AALL Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers, or Principles for Licensing Electronic Resources, be sure to take a look. These are tools that we can all use in our dealings with vendors and encourage the vendors to use as well.

Next Steps
As I mentioned, a board working group is reviewing a wide range of issues relating to vendor relations and will recommend additional specific steps. Among the topics they will consider are possible changes in our Strategic Directions to address vendor relations, the gathering of information for the Price Index, possible strengthening of the Guide to Fair Business Practices, clarification of our sponsorship policies, the necessity of limiting programs or publications due to antitrust concerns, strategies to encourage and promote greater competition and enhanced customer service in the legal information industry, and ways to improve communications with vendors and with the membership. I have asked this group to report back to the board with concrete suggestions by the end of the year.

We Need Your Input
As these efforts move forward, we need to hear from you! If you would like to comment on AALL’s vendor relations policies, or have questions that are not answered by the FAQs, please send your comments to the full board, or feel free to directly contact me, Executive Director Kate Hagan, or any member of the Executive Board to express your views.

I thank you for your interest in and commitment to AALL, and I look forward to joining with you in dialogue and action to strengthen and support AALL and its members.

[Ann Fessenden signature block]

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