August 3, 2010
On Extending the Outreach for LAW.GOV's Support: The Incubation Process Has Begun
Greg Lambert's title to his recent post says it all, If Law.Gov Remains An Exercise In Academia... It Will Die. I won't nitpick about Tim Stanley, Justia's CEO, Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly Media's CEO, and Mitchell Kapor, founding investor of UUNET, founder of Lotus Development Corp., co-founder of EFF, founding Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, advisory board member of the Sunlight Foundation, and venture capitalist, being LAW.GOV signatories. His point is well made and duly noted. However, see Carl Malamud's comment to his post.
After much blogosphere "nudging" plus NOCALL taking the bull by the horns, AALL kinda sorta supports LAW.GOV although once again it fails to lead by not being an official signatory (something Greg might be able to "push" if he gets elected to the AALL Executive Board). The ABA should sign-on. The Conference of State Court Administrators also.
More significantly, some second-tier commercial legal publishers like BNA and CCH should join LAW.GOV. First they have to realize that making federal, state and local governments better wholesale distributors of standardized electronic primary resources will reduce their production costs while offering the potential to expand their presence in the legal marketplace.
I can write the "leave it to the private sector" argument in my sleep for an AALL-like "honorarium" TR Legal may base its lobbying campaign against LAW.GOV but there is an opening here for West and Lexis, too -- compete for becoming government contractors for electronic production of bulk-distributed primary resources LAW.GOV is promoting by adherence to its standardized best practices goal. At the micro-level, individual law firms can also sign on as well. Greg, how about King & Spalding?
And then there is Google... . But first there must be a statement of principles to support.
LAW.GOV's publication of its Principles and Declaration is the basis for extending the range of support for a distributed repository of all US primary legal materials.
Law.Gov is an idea, an idea that the primary legal materials of the United States should be readily available to all, and that governmental institutions should make these materials available in bulk as distributed, authenticated, well-formatted data. To make this idea a reality, a series of workshops were held throughout the country, resulting in a consensus on 10 core principles.
The incubation process has begun. [JH]
I know that this goes against the anti-AALL sentiment that I read every time I come to this blog, but really, I don't think that the negativety with regard to AALL is at all warranted here. Yes, I realize that NOCALL took the lead in creating their state's inventory that will be useful to Law.gov, but thanks to the Government Relations Office and the Government Relations Committee of AALL, the idea of a national inventory took root. In particular, the Government Relations office was extremely thoughtful about how to take the project nationwide, including revising the template and the procedure for how to populate the nationwide inventory of legal materials so that the information could be more usefully organized at a nationwide level. For the past six months, I have heard nothing but support coming from the GRC and GRO in trying to encourage AALL members to contribute to their state's inventory of legal materials. Without this kind of support and the hardwork of AALL members populating their state's inventory, Law.gov wouldn't have this fifty state primary data to begin working from. I don't see any other organization, signatory or not, providing that kind of support.
You can read more about the AALL initiative here - http://www.aallnet.org/aallwash/stateworkinggroups.pdf, and instead of complaining about your perception of AALL's lukewarm reception, if you think this should be a priority, you could be encouraging readers to get involved with populating their state's inventory.
For a little context, you link to the revised call which was amended to support LAW.GOV and that link was posting on this blog in Feb. 2010. See
It's Time for LAW.GOV, Part II: AALL To Aid LAW.GOV Project By Way of State Working Groups
That post also provides a link for volunteers to sign-up to help out.
PS Critical analysis, Leslie, is not ipso facto "anti-AALL." If folks were truely anti-AALL, they wouldn't give a damn to write... .
Posted by: Leslie | Aug 3, 2010 10:41:42 AM
Exactly right, Joe. I made a similar point in a DC Law.gov workshop about the role that legal publishers should play in this process. http://youtu.be/bjpafDK6tNU
Law.gov should create, enable, and extend markets for legal publishers, and foster some needed innovation, too. It will also encourage state and federal governments to do a better job of curating the law they publish, which is good for everyone.
Posted by: Ed Walters | Aug 3, 2010 6:59:20 AM
I'm not sure I would want AALL to sign on to this declaration without consulting its constituency. Not that I am against this idea, but I no longer trust AALL to speak on my behalf. This organization has made it clear through its actions that is has an independant purpose that is not necessarily involved with the betterment of law librarianship. I'm not sure exactly what their purpose is, but it is not to represent the interests of law librarians. I cannot speak for private or court librarians, but from my viewpoint, they do very little to advocate for the academic librarian. Our ABA standards are being reviewed and I hear nothing - not even a call for organizing a team - to weigh in on how our roles are being changed. Vendors are extorting us and nothing is being done. We are at a point where our skill sets are being called for by the ABA and private sector - and I am unaware of anything being done by this organization to take advantage of the situation. It is all grassroots movement. Law.gov is a great idea, but asking AALL to take a stand is asking way too much. Its laughable really.
-- Vicki, I do agree that perhaps AALL should consult the membership altho that is not the E-Board's MO.
See this utterly unscientific LLB poll on law librarian support for LAW.Gov:
Posted by: Vicki | Aug 3, 2010 6:42:32 AM