I have been a member of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) since 1975 when I graduated from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School. That school was dissolved in the 1980’s. Now it looks like my profession of law librarianship may be disappearing as well.
AALL is in the midst of a major rebranding project. I am not averse to change and I empathize with those librarians who need to call themselves information professionals or specialists in order to gain respect in their organizations. But I had hoped that AALL would take the approach of organizations that have updated their name but kept their acronym, such as the GPO changing from Government Printing Office to Government Publishing Office and GAO changing from Government Accounting Office to Government Accountability Office. I would have liked to see AALL become the American Association of Law Librarians in order to show that it puts the emphasis on supporting individual members instead of institutions.
But the result of this rebranding initiative is to recommend that AALL be renamed as the Association for Legal Information. The debates on this are mostly within the members only portion of the AALL website, but it seems to me that they include much legitimate criticism of this new name. For example they point out that the acronym ALI is already used by the American Law Institute, which is glossed over in the FAQ’s below. More importantly there is criticism that the name is too amorphous and vague and does not clearly state what members do.
One popular suggestion was to add Professionals to the name (Association of Legal Information Professionals) to differentiate it from other legal information groups (vendors, etc.) and add an emphasis on members. This was also addressed in the FAQ’s listed below. Another not entirely facetious suggestion was to rename it as the Society of Legal Information Professionals (SLIP).
My friend and colleague, Lyonette Louis-Jacques, has compiled a list of the names of many international law library associations, most of which do include “law libraries”, “law librarians”, “bibliotheques de droit” or an equivalent phrase in their names:
American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)
Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Juristisches Bibliotheks- und Dokumentationswesen (AJBD, Germany)
Asociación Civil de Bibliotecarios Jurídicos (ACBJ, Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Association pour le Développement de l’Informatique Juridique, association interprofessionnelle du droit des technologies et des technologies au service du droit (ADIJ, France)
Australian Law Librarians’ Association (ALLA)
Bibliotecas Jurired (Red de Bibliotecas de Derecho y Ciencias Juridicas, Argentina)
British & Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL)
Canadian Association of Law Libraries / L’Association canadienne des bibliothèques de droit (CALL/ACBD)
International Association of Law Libraries (IALL)
Juriconnexion (Association d’utilisateurs de ressources d”information juridique électronique)
Organisation of South African Law Libraries (OSALL)
New Zealand Law Librarians’ Association (NZLLA)
Scottish Law Librarians Group (SLLG)
Special Libraries Association – Legal Division (SLA Legal)
The FAQs on the AALL website on this subject include the following explanations for the change:
Why doesn’t the name use “professionals”?
Professionals was considered, and the consensus was it is so commonly used it is a generic term. In addition, the proposed name is stronger, indicating that when it comes to legal information, our members are the experts in the field of legal information.
Also, the acronym would be ALIP, “A Lip,” which could be perceived negatively.
What about brand confusion with the acronym ALI and The American Law Institute?
This was identified and considered by the Brand Working Group, which concluded that the acronym could be pronounced as “ally,” not A-L-I, or to use all the words in the name, in which case the entire acronym would be AFLI.
Can you provide examples of other Associations or organizations that have changed their names?
- National Law Firm Marketing Association to Legal Marketing Association
- LawNet to International Legal Technology Association
- Government Printing Office to Government Publishing Office
- Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science to Pratt Institute School of Information
Others who no longer use “library” in their names:
- School of Information, University of Michigan
- Lawton Chiles Legal Information Center, University of Florida
- Mabee Legal Information Center, University of Tulsa
- Legal Information Center, Widener University
- Duquesne Center for Legal Information, Duquesne University
- Squire Patton Boggs Global Research Services
Why does the proposed name no longer include American as part of the name?
The Board agreed we are no longer just an American association. We have members in other countries, members interact with their offices throughout the world, and the business and practice of law is becoming increasingly global.
I do not find these explanations compelling enough to make me vote for the change, but I will continue to monitor the conversations and report on the results of the members’ up or down vote on January 12, 2016.