« The Current State and Likely Future of the Commercial Legal Publishing Industry: The Effect of Open Access Innovation on the Industry's Core Market | Main | How the Events of 9/11 Have Affected the Legal Landscape in New York State: Pace Law Review Issues a Call for Proposals »
August 12, 2010
AALL Vendor Liaison: The Hazelton Report
As you may know I am opposed to the vendor liaison position. But I try to be receptive to different ideas and so when AALL published Penny Hazelton's report I read it with great interest. [Access on AALL website here.] The first thing that struck me when reading the report and the accompanying materials was that AALL did not ask Ms. Hazelton to determine what specific actions would she recommend AALL taking regarding vendor relations. Instead they asked Ms. Hazelton to make recommendations regarding "the potential usefulness to the Association of having a "point person" for vendor issues...." (Appendix A to the Hazelton Report: AALL Consultant: Project Description). That says to me that the AALL Executive Board (or at least some of them on it) had already determined that this was what they wanted.
Now this may surprise some of you but I found the Hazelton Report to be very thoughtfully written. And I think Ms. Hazelton had a good understanding of some of the issues that would arise in the future with regard to the creation of this position. And the result of that understanding lead her to make certain recommendations. The problem is that the AALL Executive Board did not follow those recommendations. And I think, at least in part, that is what lead to the fiasco of the Vendor Relations position. Had AALL followed those recommendations and communicated with its members I don't know that I would have resigned from the CRIV Committee or been as opposed to the vendor relations position. I, for one, might have been more willing to give it some time and see what developed. Unfortunately, that was not the case. This is not to say that I am now in favor of the vendor relations position. Given what occurred over the last year I don't see that AALL is going to change anything.
Okay, so what recommendations did Ms. Hazelton make? Well, of course she recommended that AALL create a Library-Vendor Relations Advocate who would look at the relationships between libraries and vendors as they relate to information policy issues. (See Conclusion to Hazelton Report). Her rationale was that nearly 40% of the membership does not feel that AALL effectively represents their views to vendors and that there is "the perception that AALL is reticent to question vendors or represent law librarians concerns because of fear of loosing vendor sponsorship of AALL activities." and that "AALL's relationship with its own members related to vendor issues is not strong." (See Hazelton Report Rationale Section). Actually it was more like 37% percent of the 465 AALL members that answered the AALL Information Policy Survey. What I would have liked to know was what were the answers to the two questions in the survey that asked the responders to explain why or why not AALL was effective in representing and communicating member issues in the information policy realm and what specific actions the responders would recommend AALL take regarding vendor relations. Those answers have not been provided to the membership. I suspect CRIV got favorable reviews but without seeing the answers cannot say for sure.
So what were the recommendations that AALL didn't listen to? (Below taken from Hazelton Report: Structure of Vendor Relations Representative Position, Relationships within AALL and Position Announcement Sections)
1. Appoint an Advisory Committee to keep the new position fully informed of issues. In the first year the Advisory Committee should include the Executive Director, AALL President, Vice President, Past President, CRIV Chair, Board Liaison to CRIV, and Chairs of ALL-SIS, SCC-SIS and PLL-SIS. As far as I have been able to determine there was no such Advisory Committee. The then chair of PLL was not on any such committee and the chair of CRIV (at the time I was on it) never mentioned being on any such Committee. In fact, in the Report of the Vendor Liaison submitted to the AALL Executive Board on June 15, 2010 it is stated that Executive Director and AALL President " ...serve as a team with the Vendor Liaison to continue establishing the practices and procedures for this evolving position."
2. The position should be in close communication with CRIV, Executive Director, Executive Board and AALL President. The only thing I can say here is that the position was in no way in close communication with CRIV. While there evidently were some phone calls between the Vendor Liaison and the CRIV Chair those communications were not shared with the CRIV Committee. The first call involving the CRIV Committee as a whole and the Vendor Liaison didn't take place until April 2010, about 11 months after the Vendor Liaison was appointed.
3. Ms. Hazelton stated "I don't recommend that this new position be a gate-keeper."(emphasis added). She went on to say "In other words, AALL has already created entities that have vendor relations responsibilities. These activities need to continue." Later she further says "I don't see a significant change in the duties of CRIV if this position is created" and specifically mentions the web page, vendor visits and educational programming as continuing to be done by CRIV." I can't emphasize enough that AALL totally ignored this and I had a front row seat as a member of CRIV, I won't speak for anyone else on the CRIV Committee. Everything I suggested doing (including writing an article to tell the members some details on WestlawNext) was met with a response of that is the vendor liaison's purview. Site visits by CRIV? Not possible since AALL took away the budget for those. While Ms. Hazelton mentions the CRIV web page, the former CRIV Chair suggested a CRIV blog. Now thats become a blog to be edited by the Vendor Liaison. If this is not a gate-keeper position then I don't know what is.
4. Ms. Hazelton recommended that in the first year the new representative would create a plan of accomplishments which would include learning about current vendor relations issues and entities and visits to all the five major legal vendors. In fact, she envisioned annual visits. While it appears she talked with four of the five legal vendors, most of it appeared to have been specific issue oriented and most of it by phone. I, for one, think if AALL wants to have a go to policy person on vendor relations then the person should visit each and every vendor and learn more about their operations and meet their executives. And if you look at the job description it doesn't state there will be travel to visit the vendors. It mentions travel to the Annual meeting, chapter and other meetings. I think if AALL was planning on the Vendor Liaison making site visits it would have said so.
5. Finally, in her conclusion Ms. Hazelton said "I strongly urge the Board to find additional ways to communicate to the membership about the perception of conflict of interest created by taking sponsorship funding while treating vendors with kid gloves." While she said the survey didn't reflect this as a majority view she felt the minority view was strongly held. She went on to say "...I fear that failure to take this head on will continue to undermine the best efforts of the Association on many fronts." Looks like they ignored that recommendation as well.
While there is more information I would have liked and I think it was clear that AALL Executive Board wanted to create this position, I applaud Ms. Hazelton's considerable efforts and thoughtful recommendations. Now if we could just get AALL to listen to the advice of the consultant they hired!
Thanks for the post Karen. I would also like to see the "full report" including the answers to those two questions. All this secrecy is puzzling. BTW, it would be Professor Hazelton, or Dean Hazelton.
--- Ah, Vicki, no one outside the legal academy really gives a damn about titles, particularly in a blog post. Folks tend to focus more on results or lack thereof... Ya know I care about your opinion regardless of the position you hold today or tomorrow. ; ) -- Joe
Posted by: Vicki Szymczak | Aug 12, 2010 7:42:57 PM
Thanks Caren for this additional information.
I, for one, am not convinced that one person can speak for the entire Association, as the Vendor Liaison position implies. There are bound to be conflicts of interest with some AALL members, as the vendors change their own policies.
I still believe that CRIV is the best way to conduct business with vendors. They have a proven
(Speaking only for myself)
Posted by: Phoebe Ruiz-Valera | Aug 12, 2010 7:37:57 AM
The Hazelton report can be found out:
Posted by: Caren Biberman | Aug 12, 2010 6:52:22 AM
Do you have a link to the report?
Posted by: Jennifer Frazier | Aug 12, 2010 6:34:58 AM