Category Archives: legal information

Voting “No” on the Proposed AALL Name Change

As you might know, the executive board of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has proposed changing the organization’s name to the Association for Legal Information. This proposal was announced in an organization-wide “E-briefing” on November 12, 2015.  The membership will begin voting on the proposed change on January 12, 2016 and voting will continue until sometime before February 11, 2016, when the results will be announced. The proposal’s FAQ, in concert with the E-briefing, contains most of the pertinent information. There is a central location for all things re-branding, as well.

After thinking over this question for a month and watching the online discussion in both the AALL My Communities forum and on social media, I’ve come to a decision about how I will vote. Instead of keeping this decision to myself, I’d like to share it publicly given that the tenor of this process does seem to have changed from “proposal” or “discussion” to that of a campaign. And beyond another virtual “town hall” meeting on the topic on December 18, 2015, it does not seem this issue will be otherwise publicized before the vote. So before the holiday season descends in earnest, I want to share my thoughts.

I will vote against the executive board’s proposal to change the organization’s name. I will vote “no.”

I am voting “no” for one reason alone, though there are many other reasons, singly or in combination, that have contributed to my thinking. I will mention those reasons later.

The reason I am voting “no” is that I do not want the organization’s initialism to be ALI, which is the initialism used for the American Law Institute, a prominent and well-respected organization of judges, lawyers, and legal scholars that produces many important works, almost all of which reside on our library’s shelves and on the shelves of other academic, public, and law-firm libraries. Imagining a scenario during which I mention to a member of the faculty of my institution or to a practitioner in any professional setting that I am a member of the “ALI” is patently ridiculous. Confusion about my professional standing, which would be reflected by my membership in some ersatz ALI, is all but certain.

There will be no option to propose alternate names during the January 12 – February 11 vote. Of course, I understand why this is the case — managing or stewarding a large professional organization like AALL is difficult, and consensus-like decision-making isn’t possible. This is how things work: the board proposes, the membership votes. So, while I am not per se opposed to a name change, I am absolutely opposed to this name change. And since this name change is the only name change proposed to be voted on, I oppose it.

I think that a discussion of whether the organization’s name should or should not be changed at all is warranted — in the future (or perhaps, in retrospect, was warranted in the past).  Does a change’s benefits outweigh its costs? Can re-branding be accomplished without a name change? I support asking this questions, but I must again note — they are simply not relevant to the vote at issue here. The vote is on the lone issue of whether the American Association of Law Libraries should change its name to the Association for Legal Information. For the reason outlined above, it should not. And so I am voting “no.” I urge you to do the same.

Rule 18.2.1(b)(ii)

for purposes such as criticism, comment, … scholarship, or research (17 U.S.C. 107)

Earlier today, I began a semi-serious live tweet of my reading of the new rules concerning digital sources in 20th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation®. (Our copies at UNC Law Library arrived this afternoon.) And while the editors are still claiming copyright protection for their work, my little show got some attention, and serious law librarians really do want to know what has changed. So here, I present a particular new rule, 18.2.1(b)(ii) for criticism, comment, scholarship, and research purposes. Perhaps we can puzzle out the Bluebook’s transformation on the way it privileges print. Ah, and for an excellent working list of “diffs” between the 20th edition and the 19th, see Janelle Beitz’s Google Doc, which expands upon the new edition’s preface (tip o’ the hat to my friends at Duke Law Library for the heads up.)

Here is the new rule, which I think shows some much-needed sense on medium neutrality:

(ii) Online sources with print characteristics. If an online source shares the characteristics of a print source such that it could be fully cited according to another rule in The Bluebook, the citation should be made as if to the print source and the URL appended directly to the end of the citation, even if it is unknown whether the cited information is available in print. (Latter emphasis mine.)

Examples of this follow. Then, we get a definition of what it means to “share the characteristics of a print source.”

an online source must be a version permanently divided into pages with permanent page numbers, as in a PDF, and have the elements that characterize a given print source, such as a volume number (for law review articles and the like) or publication date (for magazine articles and the like).

And finally, the editors then write that

for purposes of citation style it does not matter whether [the] source has in fact been published in print

In all, this seems to be an extension of what I always felt the spirit of the old 18.2.1 was, except that now it doesn’t seem to require an extensive search to find the print volume of a material if it is available online in permanently paginated form. Whether this is truly a “print characteristic” is a matter of debate, of course, but some movement on the topic is better than none.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to return to my careful reading of The Bluebook!


Yellow Flag Fever Sweeps the Tiny Part of the Nation That Cares About These Things

Here is some exciting news:

My master’s paper and an article-length derivation from it have been getting a lot of attention from folks in academe.

First, and most recently, the paper has won the AALL/LexisNexis Call For Papers Award in the Student Division. My new employers at the Katherine R. Everett Law Library released the news yesterday.

Second, a few weeks ago, the paper won the Dean’s Achievement Award from the School of Information and Library Science at UNC. The award “is presented annually to one information science student and one library science student who produce the highest quality masters’ papers each year.”

Here is an abstract:

This paper analyzes the accuracy with which descriptions of subsequent negative treatment are applied by an online citator system that employs a hierarchical controlled vocabulary—Shepard’s Citations—as opposed to one that does not—KeyCite. After a contextual review of the citator’s history, a framework for assessment is proposed and employed to test the hypothesis that a citator employing a hierarchical controlled vocabulary would produce more accurate descriptions. The study’s results suggest that a system making use of a hierarchical controlled vocabulary does apply descriptions of subsequent negative treatment in a marginally more accurate way. A discussion of the citator’s place in legal research follows, including the suggestion that legal research instructors and researchers themselves, namely lawyers, should reconceptualize the role citators occupy in the legal research process.