Final Version of A Petition For An AALL Caucus On Consumer Advocacy, With Signatures Collected Between September 12 - November 1, 2011 November 1st Addendum: Petition Response and PLL-SIS Endorsement When we began circulating our petition on September 10th, we promised confidentialilty to signatories. We promised them confidentiality because some would otherwise withhold support from concern that disclosure could harm business relations between their employers and one or more sellers of legal information. On October 4th, Darcy Kirk told us that a majority of Board members could not accept a petition with a confidentiality restriction. She suggested alternatives for us to provide evidence of AALL member support and still accommodate our promise of confidentiality. We have followed one of her suggestions by identifying endorsements and total numbers of individual AALL members who approve the petition. We therefore ask Board to recognize that (a) 57 AALL members signed the petition; (b) 70% of 198 PLL-SIS members approved it in a survey; and (c) the PLL-SIS Board unanimously endorsed it on October 11th. Of the 57 signatories, 19 are law firm librarians; 30 are academic law librarians; 6 are county and government law librarians; and 2 are other law librarians. The PLL-SIS endorsement follows as a separate attachment to this document. (Attachment 1) As part of this Addendum, we also ask the Board to recognize comments below from signatories and respondents to a Caucus survey. (Attachment 2) Request To Support A Petition For An AALL Consumer Advocacy Caucus We are a group of over 50 AALL members who need your support in a crisis affecting all types of law libraries. Our libraries cannot indefinitely sustain the escalating costs of unfair and anticompetitive business practices by some sellers of legal information. AALL has unique promise to champion the interests of legal information consumers. We have matched its promise with an opportunity. In April, we registered to become an AALL Caucus on Consumer Advocacy. AALL members have achieved earlier successes at consumer advocacy. Based on their examples, we proposed several consumer advocacy initiatives as our goals. AALL's leadership initially raised concerns about our goals. We were told that our Caucus would violate antitrust law and make policies on AALL's behalf. To answer these objections, we changed our statement of purpose. Former AALL President Joyce Janto subsequently approved our revised statement for an Executive Board vote. AALL President Darcy Kirk recently rejected it and offered a substitute that compromises our effectiveness. We need your support as we petition the Board to reverse Ms. Kirk’s decision and approve our revised statement of purpose. We ask that you endorse the following petition to the Executive Board. We will instruct the Executive Board to keep signatory names strictly confidential. A Petition Of Undersigned AALL Members To AALL’s Executive Board As AALL members, we petition AALL’s Executive Board to approve this statement of purpose for the creation of the AALL Caucus on Consumer Advocacy:
"The AALL Caucus on Consumer Advocacy will recommend to AALL that it petition appropriate governmental bodies for specific remedies to anticompetitive and unfair business practices by legal information sellers." We do not consent to any disclosure of our names as signatories. Disclosure could allow legal information sellers to retaliate against us by singling out our employers for less favorable business relations. Reasons For The Petition 1. The Caucus has a strong factual basis for its proposed purpose. 2. Although AALL has three venues on “vendor relations,” none can effectively address unfair and anticompetitive business practices in the legal information industry. First, the Vendor Colloquium did not discuss consumer advocacy, and the membership had no opportunity for digital participation in any of its sessions. Caucus members asked a Vendor Colloquium task force to consider our proposal of a robust consumer advocacy equal to AALL’s promise. The task force did not respond, closing an opportunity for their participation. Second, CRIV does admirable work to help individual institutions resolve complaints against legal information sellers. But CRIV can not use information from these complaints to advocate for a change in AALL policy. Third, despite significant anti-consumer practices in the industry, AALL’s Vendor Liaison has reduced related membership concerns to a problem in public relations. In March 2011, Vendor Liaison Margie Maes reported that unidentified “vendors” were “frustrated with the airing of public complaints,” but hoped that a “vendor relations program” would “stem the flow of that negative communication.” (March 25-26, 2011 AALL Executive Board Meeting Board Book, Tab 17) 3. We need a new approach. Caucus members seek the opportunity to independently influence AALL policymaking in a matter of high importance to the membership. An AALL Caucus would provide AALL members a forum to fully exchange their views on consumer advocacy, and a transparent venue to reach consensus on a policy recommendation to the Executive Board. The Caucus would not decide policy for AALL or act on its behalf. Caucus members seek only to have their voices heard; to open a new outlet for member participation in AALL; and to collaborate with AALL’s leadership in developing an effective consumer advocacy. 4. Over 50 AALL members have twice requested AALL’s recognition of the Caucus. Valuing AALL as their best ally, they have worked with its leadership to develop an acceptable statement of purpose. Former AALL President Joyce Janto provisionally approved their latest submission, but her successor, Ms. Kirk, has rejected it. Ms. Kirk suggests that the Caucus accept yet another statement of purpose: "The purpose of the Caucus on Consumer Advocacy is to provide a forum for AALL members to exchange ideas and information regarding the legal information industry and to represent its members’ interest and concerns within AALL."
5. Ms. Kirk objected to the "negative tone" of the Caucus’ latest purpose and faulted the Caucus for suggesting "actions regarding policy." She says that her substitute purpose “does not prevent [the Caucus] from from making recommendations to AALL regarding petitions.” But it would prevent the Caucus from candidly declaring its real purpose - to recommend a consumer advocacy petition.. 6. AALL’s leadership could apply similar objections to any activity our Caucus might otherwise pursue, especially given the recent history of changing positions by AALL Presidents. 7. Ms Kirk's rejection of the Caucus' proposed purpose would harm AALL in the following ways: a. It would violate the implied right of members to engage AALL in matters they find fundamentally related to its mission; b. It would violate AALL’s principle of transparency and openness; c. It would create a chilling effect on Association speech, as members will not be allowed to discuss consumer advocacy issues, must less pursue them, for fear that AALL will not approve of candid discussion; d. It would create the appearance that AALL is afraid of candor in matters that affect sellers of legal information; e. It would deprive members the indispensable status and perceived “protection” that AALL recognition confers on an activity that some legal information sellers can be expected to disapprove; and f. It would deter members from otherwise acting together to pursue their vision of a robust consumer advocacy. 8. These harmful consequences prevent Caucus members from accepting Ms Kirk's substitute purpose. So unless the Board reverses Ms. Kirk's decision, the Board will deny over 50 AALL members an opportunity they eagerly want to participate in their Association; will deprive other AALLL members the benefits of allowing the Caucus to organize; and will undermine member trust and interest in the Association. Signatories From AALL Members See our reason for omission of signatory names under our Addendum. Attachments (1) PLL-SIS endorsement (2) Comments from petition signatories and Caucus survey respondents
Private Law Libraries Special Interest Section (PLL-SIS) Endorsement of a Petition To Form an AALL Consumer Advocacy Caucus October 11, 2011 Between September 29th and October 7th, the PLL-SIS Board surveyed PLL-SIS members on whether the Board should support the Caucus petition. Of 198 members who responded, 70% approyed endorsement of the petition. Recognizing the importance members attach to the Caucus, the PLL-SIS Board unanimously endorses the petition and asks the AALL Executive Board to recognize the Caucus under its stated petition. Background A group of AALL members petitioned their Association to become the AALL Consumer Advocacy Caucus. They regard their Association as their best ally during a time of unprecedented challenges to the long-term sustainability of law libraries. For decades law libraries have straggled with anti-competitive and unfair business practices in the legal information industry. The cumulative impact of anti-consumer practices has been devastating to law libraries, both individually and collectively. The ongoing economic crisis has only accelerated the fallout, with layoffs and substantial reductions in law library collections and services. Under these circumstances, Caucus organizers find that AALL has untapped promise to champion consumer advocacy for the benefit of law library users.
Petition signed on behalf of the PLL-SIS Board by Steven A. Lastres, PLL Chair 20112012.
Attachment 2 Addendum Comments From Signatories and Caucus Survey Respondents (1) From: Susan G. Fowler To: [email protected] Sent: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 8:20 AM Subject: Caucus on Consumer Advocacy petition
Please add me to your list of petition signers. Our tiny library is being squeezed by ThomsonReuters and I fear we'll have to cut back in material purchases to the point that our attorneys will not have access to the most accurate legal information. Just because we serve a small population should not mean we have to offer substandard service. Our citizens deserve better. Thanks! Susan G. Fowler Lyon County Law Library 620-341-3472 [email protected] www.lyoncounty.org/LawLibrary.html (2) From a government law librarian: I find it hard to believe that asking the authorities to look into whether law book/database vendors are violating any antitrust acts constitutes a boycott. (3) Constant updating of materials with little added value - charging for new pocket part with only a handful of additional cases, for example. Charging more for updates in a year than the cost of purchasing the item new. Adding titles to existing titles - Keyrules is a good example. Suddenly West is sending out Keyrules whether you want them or not. They often announce such things in a letter, with a phone number to call to opt out, and I have never once called that opt out number and reached a person who had the slightest idea what I'm talking about. Bundling of things. Perhaps I want to update the set but not purchase an index every year. Some titles allow this, some make me have to send back the index each year when it comes. (4) I feel like some of vendors now disregard any of my comments about their pricing and the concerns I have about the quality of their products. In turn, attorneys in our office do not seem to understand the amount of backend work I have to do on a daily basis to ensure the library's figures stay within reasonable budget estimates. My feeling is that the vendors' own "pricing"
controls (resulting in the need to sign multi-year contracts for print and online resources) do not do anything that help me articulate the actual prices for the resources when I have to justify the budget. In fact, when we changed from one primary online vendor to another, in a follow-up meeting with my supervisor and the original online vendor rep - the vendor rep waved in front of us a "report" stating how wonderful their new platform was and did I realize the other vendor did not have as much material in their content? In other words, the vendor rep did his best to embarrass me in front of a senior manager and I have heard from other sources that this particular vendor now encourages these kinds of aggressive sales techniques. We made clear part of our change to a different vendor was due to savings for the firm, and we had advised them for months previously that we were seriously looking at the main competitor. Vendors also have resorted again to cold calls to attorneys and CLE "lunches" presenting their new products - one of which resulted in an associate questioning the litigation department as to why we were using another vendor when the CLE luncheon vendor had such a superior product. They're using CLEs as bribes to sell a product. At least, this is how I see it. A truly objective CLE learning experience would present multiple vendor products and their uses. (5) We have not had budget increases in nearly 10 years. The high rate of inflation of legal publications has forced us not only to severely limit purchases, but to cancel many subscriptions. On the advice of our accountant, we have signed up for packages of subscriptions which have been forced on us particulary by Thomson, and lately by Walters Kluwer. This is an obscene attempt to keep us from stopping the bleeding. Online products have done nothing to alleviate costs. Before the packages, we cancelled many looseleaf and other subscriptions, first looking for duplicate sets, then duplicate coverage, and then areas that we don't teach in our curriculum. If someone complained or if requests were high, we considered reinstatements, but then had to cut something else. To free up funds, we have cut most foreign and third-tier journals. Law school publications are inexpensive, but they add up. All in all, we have devolved from a first rate law library into something much different. In that we have company, even amoung Ivy League schools. This could have been prevented if the monopolies created by the big 2 had been stopped by antitrust regulation, but our warnings about what would happen were ignored. AALL has done nothing but talk about doing something. We had hoped the ABA would take some action, but [it did] not. (6) Our costs have gone up, and yet our budgets have shrunk. We've had to cut many titles, which is an ongoing project. It's difficult to justify a huge percentage increase to our firm partners, and it is getting to the point that we're having to make hard decisions about titles that are actually needed. (7) I work at an academic library and the number of graduates struggling to find work, has been made worse by the high cost of database access and the shrinking of free and low cost tools available to them. The employment prospects for recent graduates has fallen in part due to anticompetitive and unfair business practices