Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Regulatory Capture and Professional Associations

I do not mean to hurt the feelings of long-time friends and colleagues, with whom I disagree on this point about the bylaws change by that last OOTJ post. I apologize, though I will not remove my earlier post.

But I do want people to stop and think deeply about what would the future face of AALL look like, what would its activities be, if we truly changed the bylaws, in the way being proposed?

Maybe folks who say they are too busy to have anybody spend much time doing AALL business because they are a profit-making organization, are telling the honest truth. But they would also say that if they wanted to take control of an organization that has haunted them...

Does the phrase ‘regulatory capture’ mean anything to you?

We ain’t actually doing much regulatory function, to tell the truth, here in AALL, and we should be ashamed of that fact.

We hold ourselves out to the world as so called professionals.

And one of the things we as professional law librarians are supposed to be good at, is understanding the markets for legal information.

We are supposed to be the folks who speak up when the GPO is under-funded.. And we do that OK, mostly, thanks to our wonderful Washington office, and the many librarians who will respond to the alerts that go out and contact their senators and representatives about this issue.

We are supposed to be the folks who speak up when there are laws proposed that affect the rights of all information users to access the Internet or government information, or other information issues. And again, thanks to our AALL Washington office, and members, we do pretty well, along with the members of ALA and SLA on these issues. We reacted to a number of issues lately, such as SOPA and PIPA, and ACTA, for instance.

But, we have been falling down in a major way in speaking up for consumer rights. ALA has been a leader in this area, lately, and I have been admiring them, a great deal. AALL, meanwhile, is mired in silly arguments over antitrust that seems more and more specious as we watch ALA and other library organizations of various sizes move ahead where we should be as well.

And I can’t help but feel that this change in the bylaws is one of the major nails in the coffin for this association that has been getting weaker and weaker as I’ve been a member.

I think I would be less suspicious of the change in definition of “active members” if the change had not been discussed in such a non-transparent way. I am sorry, but it’s darned hard for me to envision way that Board Books are a handy and open way to notify the general membership of ANYTHING that the Executive Board is discussing. I had never heard of Board Books until very recently... And I find them difficult to locate on the AALLNet website. I think it’s difficult to locate any topic in the Board Books. Please understand that discussion of a single agenda topic may cover more than a hundred pages. So, if you are trying to locate a particular discussion, it is not easy, and it’s not a good way to make board action transparent.

Are we on the verge of giving our association away to the profit-seeking corporations whom we are supposed to be balancing on behalf of our employers? If we do not speak up on behalf of legal information consumers, who else is left? I suspect that calculation may already have been done in some minds. Let us keep it in our own minds and stay true to our duties as legal information professionals.

1 comment:

Marie S. Newman said...

Well said. Transparency is important and process matters.