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.