Washington Brief - September, 2006

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August 3, 2006

Bryan Stevens Joins the Washington Office
Many of you had the pleasure of meeting Bryan Stevens, AALL’s new Advocacy and Communications Assistant, during our annual meeting in St. Louis. Bryan hails from Pittsburgh and recently received his M.A. in social sciences from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He joined the Washington Office on June 19th. Bryan will work on strengthening communications with our members and chapters through our grassroots program to help AALL become an even more effective voice in influencing information policy.

If you’re not already a subscriber to the AALL Advocacy listerv, now is the time to join it through our web site. Bryan has already used the listserv to post informational items of interest to the AALL community and, most recently, an important action alert on net neutrality. He’ll be inaugurating a new online newsletter in the near future to keep you abreast of our issues and activities. Please join me in welcoming Bryan to the Washington Office!

Advocacy Training in St. Louis a Huge Success
The level of participation this year in the two Legislative Advocacy Leadership Training sessions sponsored by the Government Relations Committee (GRC) was overwhelming, and we thank all our speakers and participants. We are especially grateful to the Executive Board for funding a special afternoon session for our “newer” law librarians and a luncheon for all the participants. Both sessions included a welcome and introduction by GRC Chair Timothy Coggins, Associate Dean for Library & Information Services and Professor of Law at the University of Richmond School of Law Library, plus my usual update on our legislative agenda.

Each session also included a special panel discussion. In the morning, GRC member Marcus L. Hochstetler, Law Librarian and Director at the King County Law Library, moderated an important panel discussion on public law library funding with GRC member Judy Meadows and Angela Baldree. Judy Meadows, Director of the State Law Library of Montana, advised that you can’t afford to wait for a crisis to develop and she offered helpful suggestions on how to work proactively with court and legislative officials to get their support. She stressed that even one person—“the value of one”—can make a difference. Angela Baldree, Director of the Lake County Law Library in Ohio, described the dire crisis there in dealing with the impact of funding cuts in a provision of HB 66, the 2005 biennial state budget bill, which removed the responsibility of all 88 counties in Ohio from funding their local law libraries. The “good” news is that three law librarians are on the special task force set up by the legislature to work through how the cuts will be absorbed. In addition, the 88 county law librarians are creating a consortium web site as a place to communicate and get information, share resources through a formal ILL program and a pocket part exchange, investigate the possibility of creating statewide contracts with vendors to reduce costs, and show members of the task force that the law libraries are willing to work together and with them to resolve this situation.

The afternoon panel focused on how newer members of AALL can become involved in our policy work. It included James Duggan, Associate Director and Professor at Southern Illinois University Law Library; Keith Ann Stiverson, 2006-2007 GRC Chair and Director of the Chicago-Kent College of Law Library; and Leah Sandwell-Weiss, Reference Librarian and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Legal Research at the University of Arizona College of Law Library. James Duggan talked about the benefits of working closely with a state library association, and how his work with the Illinois Library Association’s policy committee helped get legislation enacted that raised filing fees for the state’s county law libraries. Keith Stiverson suggested some very effective, proactive strategies for chapters to follow to help their members develop closer ties to legislators and their staff. Last year, the Chicago Association of Law Libraries (CALL) honored Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) with a “Legislator of the Year” award for his commitment to defending civil liberties during the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. Leah Sandwell-Weiss described some of her activities as a member of the GRC, including writing two award-wining articles for Spectrum, talking with pod casting managers, and making numerous presentations about the USA Patriot Act and other policy issues.

Participants at the newer law librarians’ session were clearly energized by this discussion, as well as by comments by Kate Wilko, Reference Librarian and Lecturer in Law at the Stanford Law Library. Kate Wilko is a “newer” law librarian and member of the GRC. She talked about how she balances her daily work with her professional service. She also stressed that both responsibilities dovetail nicely together, and that her policy interests enrich her work life. Kate concluded by saying that, as a newer law librarian, networking is one of the many benefits she receives from serving on an AALL committee.

Our guest speaker at the morning session and again during the luncheon was Ms. Kennie Gill, Democratic Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. She spoke about the importance of “Turning Challenges into Opportunities.” In fact, Ms. Gill described a challenge as “an opportunity-in-waiting.” She urged participants to get their names on the rolodex of their representatives’ staff because, as she said, law librarians are smarter than most elected officials (!). She encouraged the audience to invest in the time and effort needed to develop long term relationships with their representatives’ staff so that they become trusted and credible sources of information. In praising the strength of AALL’s grassroots advocacy program, she reminded us all to be “defenders of democracy.”

Both sessions included a choice of a breakout group for which specific scenarios were assigned. These dealt with four timely and important issues: public law library funding; changes to the Federal Depository Library Program; the AALL Resolution on Public Access to Court Electronic Records; and the FY 2007 budget cuts to Environmental Protection Agency libraries that have forced many to close. It was energizing to hear the participants develop creative strategies for responding to these issues, and we took careful notes so that we can follow through, using their excellent suggestions in our advocacy work.

I’d like to thank everyone who attended this year’s sessions—it’s especially gratifying that so many of you return each year for an update. I’d also like to thank Claire Germain and Sally Holterhoff for making time in their busy schedules to join us for lunch and speak briefly about the importance of AALL’s advocacy efforts. Last but far from least, I am especially grateful to GRC Chair Tim Coggins and all the members of the 2005-2006 committee for their hard work throughout the past year and their leadership in our policy work. Thank you!

Summary of St. Louis Town Meeting with Public Printer Bruce James and U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein
GRC Chair Tim Coggins moderated the program and began by thanking Public Printer Bruce James for participating for a third time in an AALL “Town Meeting.” He also welcomed U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein to his first AALL conference. Coggins noted that AALL President Claire Germain had sent a letter to Dr. Weinstein in March thanking him for his decision to suspend NARA’s secret reclassification of previously declassified documents and he reiterated our deep appreciation of Dr. Weinstein’s commitment to open government.

Mr. James noted that GPO has made great progress during his three and a half year tenure as Public Printer in moving from a print on paper to an electronic world. The public appreciates the ease of access to digital information and a million people download from GPO Access each day. He admitted that permanence has changed and we don’t know how long today’s publishing on ink-jet printers will survive, suggesting that because printing processes are moving towards digital processing, we can expect to have greater permanence from digital than print. He mentioned that three years ago he had recognized the need to ensure authentication, version control and preservation, crucial functions that will be addressed in the Future Digital System (FDsys). The first release of FDsys will be in mid-2007. Mr. James mentioned that he had recently met with leaders in five countries to talk about how they authenticate their official journals. He concluded by recognizing that GPO has a responsibility for informing citizens and keeping information available to the public into perpetuity. He hopes the work GPO is doing with the FDsys will last for thousands of years. He concluded by expressing his deep appreciation to AALL for our support of his efforts.

Dr. Weinstein began by congratulating us on our centennial and thanking Claire Germain for speaking at the 70th Anniversary of the Federal Register in March. He mentioned that the main archives building, which was visited by a million people last year, would reopen on July 14th following a devastating flooding. He also mentioned a letter recently sent him by AALL and other library associations raising concern about the legal custody of records of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that are being digitized by Google. Agreeing with us, he acknowledged that their ownership must remain with NARA. He also announced that they had recently posted on their web site a draft strategic plan for public comment and that, among its priories, are public access to records “as soon as legally possible,” civic literacy, and the preservation and authentication of the government’s digital records through the Electronic Records Archive (ERA).

Dr. Weinstein noted that NARA’s electronic holdings have grown a hundred times their paper holdings during the past decade—and these are all at risk unless NARA can preserve them. NARA awarded the contract for the ERA to Lockheed Martin and is working with other partners, including the San Diego Supercomputing Center, to preserve, authentic and make available information regardless of hardware and software. The ERA will wrap the digital content and seal it with its own metadata so it will be as reliable as the day it was created and not be corrupted. The goal is to ensure that the digital versions of the government’s records and publications will be admissible in a court of law. The first increment of the ERA will roll out in 2007 with four agency partners and it should be fully operational government wide by 2011.

A lively question and answer session made this program a real “Town Meeting” as attendees asked important questions, many of which were addressed to Dr. Weinstein as this was, after all, his first appearance with us. They ranged from whether NARA is working to reduce long holding periods, such as the 50-year rule for the House of Representatives (Answer: yes) to whether NARA is involved in restoring the Presidential Records Act in light of the Bush Executive Order (Answer: we can’t change the EO overnight but we are doing our best). Another question was about the importance of NARA’s preserving at-risk civil court records from 1970-2000 for empirical legal research. Dr. Weinstein responded that he needed more information but acknowledged a significant backlog in processing records as well as a budgetary situation which hampers their operations. He was asked how one could find information about veterans’ records that had been destroyed during a fire at a NARA facility in St. Louis so that families can collect benefits. He replied that access to veterans’ records is very important and anybody needing help could either call or email him (at which point he gave out his phone number and email address).

Bruce James was asked whether GPO planned to digitize the Serial Set to ensure that an electronic version would be in the public domain. Superintendent of Documents Judy Russell responded that GPO does plan to do it as part of their legacy digitization project, which has begun on a small scale but awaits further authorization from the Joint Committee on Printing. Bruce was asked to elaborate on which European countries he visited—the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France—and what he learned. He said that Europe is moving toward the electronic distribution of official journals but that Belgium had tried it and backed off. He said that it’s too early to do away with print because the government has yet to prove that they can ensure authentication and preservation. He added that GPO is moving to different technologies to produce limited numbers of print copies and that technology would make it available at some point to customize, for example, the Congressional Record for specific members of Congress.

Both speakers were very gracious in recognizing how long their agencies have worked closely together with AALL on information policy issues and how important the support of the library community is to their work. As Mr. James noted, one of the things he’s learned is that Congress really does listen to librarians. Both he and Dr. Weinstein expressed their deep appreciation for AALL’s efforts on their behalf.

New on Washington Office Online
In addition to signing up to join the AALL Advocacy listserv, you can also keep abreast of our activities by visiting the Washington Office web site. Recent additions reflect the broad scope of our policy work during the month of July, and include the:

  • AALL Action Alert urging Senators to support network neutrality.
  • AALL letter to U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein commenting on NARA’s 2007-2017 Draft Strategic Plan.
  • Joint library association letter to Dr. Weinstein raising concerns about the role of Google in digitizing NARA records.
  • Joint library association letter to the Honorable Susan M. Collins, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, urging support for the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006.
  • Joint Amicus Brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the Defendant, Appellee in Perfect 10, Inc. v. Google, Inc.
  • AALL letter to Ms. Judith C. Russell, Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, commenting on the May 2006 document, "Proposed Revision of the Essential Titles List."

Check out these resources and much more at www.ll.georgetown.edu/aallwash/.

Mary Alice Baish
Associate Washington Affairs Representative
Edward B. WIlliams Law Library
111 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-1417
202/662-9200 * FAX:202/662-9202
email:baish@law.georgetown.edu

 


copyright © 2006, American Association of Law Libraries