Sweating the Details: AALL or Association for Legal Information

As we continue to discuss the proposal to change the name of American Association of Law Libraries to Association for Legal Information, it is fair to say that the larger part of the conversation has focused on fundamentals such as the meaning of library and libraries, whether the organization can and should “expand its tent” to members who haven’t thought of themselves as law librarians, and whether some present members feel they can retain membership in an organization that does not name a class of people, such as “librarians” or “legal information professionals,” in its title. I personally believe all of these are important questions to anyone seriously thinking about the proposal.

Another part of the conversation focuses on implications of changing the name. One aspect arises out of this particular name, but others arise out of any potential name change. I call this part of the discussion “sweating the details,” and I’ll set out my reasons why I don’t think we need to do that. Again I will mention that this post represents my personal opinion and does not represent an official position of AALL or any other member of its executive board.

Confusion with the American Law Institute

Many commentators have assumed that the abbreviated name would be A.L.I., whether pronounced as an initialism or an acronym. That likely would lead to confusion with the American Law Institute, a well-known institution in the legal space (think Restatements of the Law). Commonly called ALI and pronounced A-L-I for short, that organization indeed appends the three letters to its name in its registered trademarks. But we need not assume that ALI is a mandatory abbreviation for the proposed name. We could easily include the word “for” to make it “AFLI,” or “AfLI” if you prefer.

Publication Names

The association’s scholarly publication, Law Library Journal, has a long and valued history with its mission,

which is to provide content of LLJ to include articles in all fields of interest and concern to law librarians and others who work with legal materials, and to provide a scholarly publication for association members and other authors to publish work that advances the interest of law librarians and others with an interest in legal information and the legal profession.

This mission is still entirely relevant today, and will remain as relevant if the association changes its name. The name Law Library Journal will continue to reflect the publication’s mission, and as the title is not Journal of the American Association of Law Libraries, in my opinion changing the name of the association does not by itself require a change to Law Library Journal.

On the other hand, AALL Spectrum includes the association name in its title and masthead, and that portion of the title would need to be changed following any change in the association’s name.

Chapter Names

There are thirty-one regional and local chapters of AALL; each of them is an independent entity to which the association has granted an affiliation. Most if not all of them are not-for-profit corporations. The names of only two of them include chapter status in their proper names: Southeastern Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries (SEAALL) and Western Pacific Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries (WestPac). The other chapters use the words “law libraries” or “law librarians” in their proper names. Most of these latter chapters include the phrase, “a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries” following their name in their organizational documents, i.e., constitution or bylaws. These chapters need make no change to their names as a result of AALL changing its name. Their members are free to discuss any desire to change the name whenever they choose, or never if they so choose. They should change the descriptive phrase in their bylaws or constitutions, but doing so typically carries no cost and usually can be ratified with an online election.

SEAALL and WestPac will need to change their proper names. I don’t want to make any suggestions as to alternative names they could use, as that is entirely the prerogative of each’s respective members. They will need to file Articles of Amendment to update their corporate names. The Florida Division of Corporations will charge SEAALL $35 to do so, and its Washington State counterpart will charge WestPac $20 for the same service. In this age of electronic communications, I suspect neither organization will need to replace a large quantity of stationery or other printed products.

Special Interest Section Names

These component parts of AALL are not independent entities as are chapters, but I see no immediate need for any to change their names if the association changes its own. There are still primarily librarians who make up the sections, and I’m fairly sure the members of Private Law Librarians and Information Professionals SIS (PLLIP) and Government Law Libraries SIS (GLL) are in no hurry to change their names again so soon after having done so. There is no inconsistency of any section’s name with the proposed adoption of Association for Legal Information as the new name of AALL.

I hope that I have assuaged your concerns about these details that you feared might flow from a change in AALL’s name. Let’s all continue our discussion about the fundamental issue: is the proposed name the right name to represent us going forward?


4 thoughts on “Sweating the Details: AALL or Association for Legal Information

  1. Was any thought given to something like Association for Legal Information Professionals? It’s the erasure of LIBRARIANS that bothers me more than dropping “libraries.”

    1. @Jim Miles
      The erasure of “Librarians” bothers me too. I like the addition of “Professionals” in the title. It brings the librarians back into the picture.

    2. I agree because I suggested this very thing in the Facebook/Twitter conversations. I really and truly think the name would make much more sense with Professionals at the end. Otherwise it is just an abstraction. People serve up Legal Information; it does not just float around, even in “cyberspace.” I did read Ken’s thoughtful essay and I am not opposed to a name change, just not happy with the vagueness.

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