Before voting in the U.S. election in November, members of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) will be casting votes whether to approve proposed amendments (AALLNet login required) to the association’s bylaws. Although there are several proposed changes, the only one seriously claiming attention would change the definition of “active member’ by removing the requirement that the member work in a law library or legal information center. The association’s executive board has released an FAQ document that explains its rationale for making the proposal. Discussion of the proposal’s merits was active for a short time before the association’s annual meeting, just prior to the board’s vote to submit the proposal to the membership. There were several blog posts. My own series begins here, and you can read posts by Joe Hodnicki and Betsy McKenzie, among others. The proposal was briefly discussed at the members’ open forum held following the annual business meeting, and since then the discussion largely abated, apparently awaiting the proximity of the election, to open in October, before resuming in earnest.
Earlier today the debate did resume with a thoughtful email message signed by Caroline Walters, Michelle Pearse, Stephanie Edwards, Brian Striman, and presumably by Betsy McKenzie, who posted it to the ALL-SIS Community Discussion List. Betsy also posted the message on her blog, Out of the Jungle, which is the readiest place to find it for those who are not members of the AALL communities. I wish to continue the dialog they have started, and will do so by posing a set of questions for discussion. Text in quotations is taken from that email message.
1. The message sent to the list suggests, as one alternative, “the Bylaws could be changed to make an exception for Active Members for all vendor members who work for entities that are non-profit or funded primarily by membership dues such as NELLCO, CALI, or LLMC.” Should the goal of this process be to expand membership by only that limited group?
2. “The overwhelming concern is the inherently conflicting interests and goals that arise even in the day-to-day work of the Association. While there is a conflicts policy in place for Executive Board member activities, vendor membership raises the possibility of more frequent conflicts of interest. As part of the Bylaws change proposal, The Association would benefit from a discussion of how the current conflicts policy has been applied and how it would be applied in this new context.” Would not a review of the association’s conflict of interest policies, and the adoption of any needed changes, be a more targeted way to address these concerns, rather than wholesale rejection of the proposed amendment?
3. Can the crux of the perceived issue be ameliorated by making a slight change in the definition of active member? I see the root of the issue being the statement that anyone “interested in the objectives of the association” as a weak statement. “Interest” can mean as little as curiosity or dispassionate study. Would the membership definition have a satisfactory and self-limiting effect if it read anyone “committed to or interested in advancing the objectives of the association?” I realize that at this stage of the process such a proposal cannot be made, but if the proposal does not pass, I offer this suggestion among those that undoubtedly would be considered in the future.
I look forward to our continuing discussion of this as the AALL polls open next week.