I’ll pass on the Biberman AALL SIS Dues Petition, thank you.

Caren J. Biberman, who recently argued that the 50/50 split of special interest section (SIS) dues in the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) gives too big a share to the association, and that letting the board of directors raise said dues is undemocratic, has now posted a petition form for those who agree with her call that the association’s bylaws should be amended. Biberman, who appears to be grinding an axe concerning perceived short-changing of the Private Law Libraries SIS by the association, only recently realized that the split has been in place for a long time.  Her petition specifically proposes that (1) the split be changed to 80% SIS / 20% association and that it be paid quarterly and (2) requires any changes to SIS fees be approved by vote of the association membership.  Let me explain why I believe this to be a misguided proposal, and why I for one will not be signing the petition.  If by chance the petition gets enough signatures to require a membership vote on the proposals, I will be back in this space arguing for a “no” vote.

To begin with, Ms. Biberman’s rationale stems from two beliefs evidenced in several of her posts since becoming a contributing editor on Law Librarian Blog earlier this year.  One is that the Private Law Libraries SIS is the neglected stepchild of the association, so much so that it had to put on its own institute before this year’s annual meeting in Denver.  Second, that the Executive Board makes foolish decisions, as evidenced by its appointment last year of a vendor relations liaison and shutting out the Committee on Relations with Vendors, for which action she resigned from the committee.  She apparently feels that SIS members are not getting their dues money’s worth by giving half of the amount to the parent organization, despite that the association provides services such as electronic balloting, maintaining membership lists, hosting websites, assistance from headquarters staff,  and providing dedicated SIS programming slots at the annual meeting.

Gentle reader, I leave it to you do decide whether her rationale makes any sense.  As to the proposed amendments, here is my practical and philosophical analysis.  First, know that SIS dues are $15.00.  Most of the association dues are collected from renewals, following the mailing of renewal invoices.  I would argue that it is an unnecessary administrative expense to transfer the funds 3 more times per year, with little if any benefit accruing to the SIS.  The association is on an annual budget, and it makes sense that the sections continue to operate in that manner.

Why should the split be arbitrarily changed to 80/20?  What is the evidence that such a split will provide a benefit to an SIS without hurting the entire association?  And where is the need for the change?  Bylaws section X.6. already provides that “Allocations in excess of 50% shall be determined by the Executive Board and shall be based on a budget presented to the Board by each Special Interest Section.”  So any section that feels it needs additional funding can now present its case to the board.

Where is the logic in requiring section dues increases to be approved by the full association membership? The bylaws already provide that changes in dues structure or amount, outside of a defined cost of living increase, must be set by the membership (Sec. IV.3.).  What would we be gaining by making the suggested changes?  Note that the annual dues remittance form includes the cost of SIS membership in totaling dues, so the association already considers that amount dues, and as dues they are already subject to the restrictions imposed on changes in the dues structure.

In short, why should we change the bylaws to eliminate the cost-of-living increase provision and make it more expensive to distribute SIS dues?  My answer is that we should not.

2 thoughts on “I’ll pass on the Biberman AALL SIS Dues Petition, thank you.

  1. Just a suggestion, check your facts. SIS dues have been raised to $20 (a huge percentage increase) by the AALL Executive Board. I will be responding in depth to Joyce Janto’s FAQ on Law Librarian Blog at a later date. But one thing I will say now. It appears I have struck a nerve. This is a petition. One AALL members are free to sign or not. If I get sufficient signatures it will be put to a vote. Once again AALL members will be free to vote. This is a professional organization and last I checked members are free to propose by law amendments, I am just not sure what you all are afraid of. Why not put it to a vote?

    1. Caren,
      First, thank you for engaging in a discussion with me. Following my original posting, I crunched the numbers, and saw that a $5.00 increase since the last increase in 2004 exceeds the Gross Domestic Deflator, which does not compound to 33% when spread over the past six years. On the other hand, I could be wrong about my statement that the dues structure restriction applies to SIS fees, which are inconsistently called fees in the bylaws and dues in the annual invoice. I would submit that the bylaws language is controlling between those two, and will leave it to counsel or a parliamentarian whether the two provisions of the bylaws as they now read are independent.

      We are, or speaking only for myself, I am, afraid of nothing. You are indeed free to propose bylaw amendments. Likewise, those of us who are inclined to ignore the petition are free to do so, and those of us, like me, who wish to persuade others not to sign the petition, are equally free to do so. The purpose of requiring a petition is to set a threshold to gauge whether the membership is concerned enough about an issue to merit a vote. I argue that the issue that concerns you does not rise to that level. If you succeed, you will have proved me wrong. If you fail, you will have proved me right on that one point.

      One other thought: If you are looking to make the process for increasing SIS fees more democratic, you could achieve a similar yet more efficient result by requiring that the Council of SIS Chairs consent to a fee increase by majority vote.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *