You are on page 1of 4

Consumer Advocacy Caucus Responses To Caucus Survey of AALL Executive Board Special Committee on Caucus Formation Policy February

8, 2012 1) As a caucus leader, where did you obtain information about forming and governing a caucus? I obtained this information from a 2010 version of the AALL website. Please also note that the Consumer Advocacy Caucus has approved my statements. I use “we” to reflect the consensus of Caucus members.

2) As we develop policies for caucus formation and governance, what three policies or areas need to be covered? • Eligibility for formation information featured prominently on AALLnet • Formation and registration process checklist featured prominently on AALLnet • Governance process checklist featured prominently on AALLnet

3) What questions regarding governance issues has your caucus confronted over the past three years? I requested guidance on the need for caucus formation and governance policies (“caucus policies”). For her assistance, I want to thank Jean Wenger, Chair of the Caucus Formation Policy Executive Board Special Committee (“the Committee”). Jean helpfully posted a document at the Committee's website. The document is Tab 18 of the Board Book for the Board's July 2011 Business Meeting. Under Tab 18, former President Joyce Janto recommended adoption of a "Caucus Formation Policy" proposed in September 2007. The prospect of a Vegan Caucus registration prompted the September 2007 proposal. Joyce states that "[w]e have once again been approached by members to form a caucus that may or may not be in AALL's best interests." As a result of this development, she asked the Board to reconsider the 2007 proposal. She did not explain why the proposal was needed to guarantee that proposed caucuses meet AALL’s best interests. In fact, AALL’s President and the Board already have undisputed authority to recognize or not recognize caucuses and to ensure their compliance with AALL policies. Otherwise, the President and the Board would be unable to fulfill their duty to protect the Association's best interests; Board governance would then become effectively impossible. An AALL President recently helped a proposed caucus comply with AALL’s administrative and legal requirements. Moreover, at the November 2011 Board meeting, Board member Ron Wheeler confirmed that the Board retains full authority to address a proposed or recognized caucus that would "go rogue" or does "go rogue." Of course, caucus policies may clarify future use of the Board’s authority. The Committee has not identified other purposes for caucus policies than those in the 2007 proposal, so our comments here reflect just the concerns raised in that proposal. Accordingly, we ask the

Committee to consider the importance of a risk whose contours neither the Committee nor the Board may foresee. This is the risk that such policies would discourage AALL members from grassroots engagement through AALL caucuses. Two simple balancing tests should apply. First, exactly how, under such new policies, would the Board's responsibility to the Association justify any risk to harming such grassroots participation by AALL members, whether or not the Board can foresee the risk? Second, would the policies represent a proportionate response by the Board to the perceived risk of Associational harm by proposed or recognized caucuses? An example will illustrate the difficulty of satisfying these balancing tests. Under the 2007 proposal, proposal authors Steve Anderson and Catherine Lemann speculate on a "hopefully improbable" scenario involving a caucus: "Because of Caucus’ use of AALL resources and amount on influence with the membership, it is possible—but hopefully improbable—that a Caucus might bring some type of disrepute or liability on the Association. For example, one might envision awkward speeches at Caucus business meetings or inappropriate website postings. These unfortunate circumstances likely would be minimized somewhat if the purpose for the formation of a Caucus closely mirrored the objectives of the Association itself." But under the balancing tests, does the Board need caucus policies to cover "hopefully improbable" scenarios like this one? The weight of available evidence suggests that it does not. AALL has since adopted a “Speaking For AALL” Policy that applies to any AALL entity whose participants might be wrongly thought to speak for the Association. Does the Board need new policies targeting just caucuses for comparable “scenarios” of concern, no matter how “improbable”? Do caucuses raise concerns for the Board about “disrepute” or “liability” that no other AALL entity does? Would the policies represent a commensurate response to such concerns? These questions should be considered in light of the facts. AALL members have significant constraints on their time and resources. As a result, AALL receives few requests to recognize caucuses, and caucuses have rather limited time and means to pursue their shared interests within the Association. So it is rather unlikely that caucuses will implicate the Association in expressions or actions harmful to its interests. In addition, caucus members do not need new policies to clarify an understanding that they already have - that, as AALL members, they must comply with AALL’s requirements. The recent experience of the Consumer Advocacy Caucus confirms this understanding. The “informality” of caucuses does not mean that caucus members are somehow more likely than members of other AALL entities to incur disrepute or liability for AALL; indeed, given their practical constraints, caucus members are less likely to do so. As a result, caucus policies would appear to represent a disproportionate response to a problem that has little or no chance of happening. At the same time, unless carefully crafted, these policies would incur the greater risk of deterring AALL members from forming caucuses or from pursuing caucus interests even in ways AALL would approve. It remains unclear how the Committee can craft policies with sufficient care to avoid this greater risk. To demonstrate the difficulty, consider Anderson's and Lemann's suggestion that "the Board may consider whether the proposed number of initial members would be sufficient to carry out the Caucus’s objectives." Can the Committee now recommend the threshold for member interest in a caucus? The new Environmental Libraries Caucus

appears to have started with fewer than 10 members when it sought recognition. But the Environmental Libraries Caucus, like any other, has the potential to grow in ways the Board can not foresee. Caucuses represent a unique, grassroots forum for AALL members to participate in their Association. The Board should thus anticipate the unintended consequences of caucus policies, especially where they involve fixed thresholds or inflexible rules. Otherwise, the Board may inadvertently foreclose opportunities AALL members would want for their proposed or existing caucuses. Caucus policies must not in any way burden member expression or action that does not violate AALL’s requirements. These considerations have prompted us to share our Survey answers with other caucuses and AALL members. (See our post at 08/caucus-replies-to-the-aall-caucus-formation-policy-survey/) We expect that the Committee will identify new purposes for caucus policies. Even if the Committee does not identify new purposes, we would also like to comment on the Committee's proposed policies, with sufficient time for the Board to review our comment before the next Business Meeting.

4) While in your caucus leadership role, was there an individual or group that assisted you in answering questions? AALL Presidents Joyce Janto and Darcy Kirk helped us answer our questions.

5) Would it be beneficial to your caucus to have a liaison to the executive board or headquarters? If so, why? A liaison may aid communication between caucuses and the Board. But it is not clear that we need a liaison for this purpose. We understand that we can directly contact any AALL Board member or the entire Board with our questions and interests. And any Board member may directly contact caucuses. 6) Describe how you see your caucus' role in AALL.

A. Our statement of purpose is: “The AALL Caucus on Consumer Advocacy will recommend to AALL that it petition appropriate governmental bodies for specific remedies to anticompetitive and unfair business practices by legal information sellers.”

B. We provide additional information in our letter to Margie Maes: From: Elizabeth McKenzie <> Subject: Re: Vendor Liaison Communique from the Consumer Caucus To: "Margaret Maes" <> Cc:

Date: Tuesday, February 7, 2012, 12:06 AM AALL Consumer Caucus To Margie Maes, AALL Vendor Liaison On Priorities & Plans Dear Margie, The AALL Consumer Caucus was delighted to see your goals for 2012. We applaud your plans and hope to support your efforts. We were very glad to be asked for input about directions for AALL’s efforts in the coming year, and have been working on a response. We want to particularly applaud the choice of Carol Nicholson as the new editor for the Price Index. We would like to recommend that the Price Index committee consider including as broad a spectrum of true supplementation costs as possible for ALL vendors. This information is available from a reliable source, the Legal Information Buyers Guide, from New England Law Press, winner of AALL’s 1998 Joseph Andrews Bibliographical Award, and the 1999 Connie E. Bolden Significant Publications Award. The Consumer Caucus plans to invite the broader membership of AALL to engage in a conversation about which issues should become a top priority this year. We hope to use the AALL Daily Digest as a forum. We hope that if we begin a conversation with one or two fairly wide-spread issues that affect many libraries, we can get a good chat moving. It is possible that we may also mount a Facebook presence for this effort and work to engage AALL members through this forum as well. We hope then to actually survey members on which issues they think are most important. We would like, ideally, to generate a strong consensus around one short-term goal and perhaps one long-term goal for a consumer-oriented issue. We would certainly share the results of these conversations with you. Sincerely, Betsy McKenzie On behalf of AALL Consumer Caucus

7) Tell us something we didn't think of. [blank]