Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

My Experience in Participating in the AALL Programming Process or AALL Educational Programming Needs to go Back to School


The recent discussion and blog postings regarding the upcoming AALL meeting piqued my interest.  For background see:

Some Thoughts on Programming at AALL – Caren Biberman

A “Modest Propsal” on Programming at AALL – Mark Gediman

Dream Big or Comments on “A “Modest Proposal on Programming at AALL” and the Report of the AALL Annual Meeting Review Special Committee – Caren Biberman

I found myself discussing this with a friend and fellow librarian, which reminded me of my experiences with  AMPEC and with CPE.  Besides the many times my programs were turned down for various reasons, I had three experiences that made me rethink my support of AALL programming (I’m not keen on SLA programming either, but that is another post).

Experience #1

First, the year after I was on the Executive Board for AALL, I was made chair of CRIV.  We proposed two programs in three time slots for the following year’s annual meeting.  One would be librarians talking about the issues they face when working with vendors in the then current economic climate and the second would be the vendors talking about the same issues but from their perspective.  They would be asked to address how their business needs were driven by the economy as well.

A third time slot was proposed for a discussion with speakers from both groups available for questions and answers.  We planned to have moderators at each of the programs to collect questions with a third moderator managing the discussion session to keep it moving in a business like manner.  Our goal was a discussion that would help to help build a better understanding of the issues facing both the librarians and the vendors which we hoped would continue after the conference.

AMPEC approved one of the programs and dismissed the other two.  We were allowed to plan a program where librarians would discuss their issues (which seemed like preaching to the choir without the rest of the programs and the focus we would get from vendors).  AMPEC said we would not be able to get vendors to participate.  That made absolutely no sense to me as I had already asked for vendor participants and did not receive any unwillingness to speak or answer questions.

We were more than disappointed and even more confused when the same vendor program was proposed in the spring by an academic library director as a hot topic and accepted by AMPEC.   It seemed strange that an individual member from academia could do what an AALL committee could not.

Experience #2

The same year, CRIV decided to focus on education which was one of the charges that we felt had not had enough focus in the past.  We applied for a continuing education grant to present two programs via web conference.  One was on Licensing, while the other was to focus on understanding and applying the Guide to Fair Business Practices.  The CPE committee approved one and not the other.  Evidently they knew better than CRIV as well.

Experience #3

The following year, I was asked by Lucy Curzi Gonzales to determine what PLL could do with education outside of the annual meeting.  I suggested that we ask for funding for three programs that would be offered as webinars.  We summited a request for those programs which were Cost Recovery: the Basics, Cost Recovery from the Trenches, and Cost Recovery: Understanding Client Needs.

The CPE committee approved two of the three programs.  Again, they said they thought that we would not get participation for the third program where we planned to ask law firm partners and general counsels to participate.  Does that even make sense?  They thought they knew better than the private librarians and the SIG leadership who planned the programs.

I have been concerned about the education offered for private librarians for several years.  This concern is what prompted me to start the NPCI webinars where I work to get speakers on various topics and present some topics myself.  My dream in starting this was to keep the costs low (enough to pay expenses and provide speakers with some type of honoriam), make it available online so those who could not attend AALL would have some education opportunities.

I have often scoffed at AALL members that said the programming was uneven with respect to library types.  I didn’t see it.  I still do not think this is necessarily true even though I did describe one example where an academic received different treatment from AMPEC.  What I do see is little thought given to how to approach member education in a more outcome based orientation with set goals and objectives.  Would the schools your children attend create programming in the same manner as AALL?  I would hope not.

CRIV had a goal that followed the mission of the committee in providing education and addressing specific issues that continue to be unresolved by the association.  It understood it’s mission and was trying to fulfull it.  PLL had a goal as well that followed along with its mission and directly met the needs of its members.  How is it that the AMPEC and CPE committees can disregard those goals and their expected outcomes?

One of my last acts as CRIV Chair was to make a proposal to the Executive board that CRIV be given time for two programs at the annual meeting and a budget to support the educational programming in between meetings that was part of the charge the board was saying we should focus on.    Does it make sense that the committee was given that charge but did not have the budget to support it?  It mystified me that I got a straight no on the proposal – to be honest it made me angry.  It was a sad way to leave the leadership ranks of AALL but I was too disgusted to remain.

Caren and Mark are both right.  There is something wrong and we need to do something about it!

I have more to say on this topic but will stop for now.  My next post on this topic has a goal of attempting a “bodacious proposal” for fixing our educational programming problems while remembering when we talk about AALL we are talking about ourselves.

To eat an egg, you must break the shell.  ~Jamaican Proverb

4 thoughts on “My Experience in Participating in the AALL Programming Process or AALL Educational Programming Needs to go Back to School

  1. Pingback: Jason the Content Librarian » A defense of AALL (sort of)

  2. Nina,

    I sympathize with you. It seems it is very difficult to get programs approved, especially when trying to put on a series of programs.

    When I was Chair of the Independent Law Librarians group, I was able to put on programs with formal approval because they were held in our group’s time slot. The problems with this were that we didn’t get as much publicity as we would have liked and the time slots allocated to these sub-groups were not the best.

    I’ve noticed in the past that most of the attendees at the conference seem to be from academia and government, while PLL has the largest membership. Is this true?

    Webinars during the year are a great idea. AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) has them almost every month. Continuing education is important and not everyone can attend the conference, nor should it be limited to one month of the year.

    This year, for only the third time since 1985, I won’t be at the conference. I am contacting all the vendors. Since I spend most of my time in the exhibit, I want to find out what I will be missing and what’s new. They have been very receptive and willing to talk to me and send information. Watch my blog for vendor spotlights and conference news. (Note to vendors: feel free to contact me to bring me up to date and provide content for my blog.)

    Well, that’s my two cents worth. I’m sorry I won’t be in Denver this year. Regards to everyone; I’ll miss you and will be thinking of you.
    Ruth Balkin
    Balkin Information Services
    Rochester, New York


  3. I’m relieved to know that I’m not the only one who has had difficulty getting programs accepted. The technology exists, let members vote on the programs they want.


  4. One idea would be to do what the highly-successful and wide-ranging SXSW conference does. People submit proposals which are then voted upon as part of the process. More details here: