We’ve all seen the recent announcement from the AALL Executive Board of plans to discontinue funding for many of our representatives to external library organizations. These include the ALA Subject Analysis Committee, CC:DA (Committee on Cataloging: Description and Access) and the MARC Advisory Committee (MAC), among others. As technical services law librarians, we understand and appreciate the vital importance of our involvement with these committees. Our representatives bring the concerns and interests of the law library community to these organizations, and bring the concerns of national and international policy-making bodies back to our organization. One example of our representatives’ significant accomplishments is the development and implementation of a law-focused form/genre term vocabulary to enhance discoverability of legal resources. This positioned the law library community at the forefront of the Library of Congress’ ongoing effort to establish form/genre vocabularies across disciplines.
Identification by our CC:DA representative of an unworkable instruction in RDA (Resource Description and Access) concerning treaties led to a revision of the RDA instructions in that area. Without this change, we would have been faced with the absurd prospect of dozens of multilateral treaties being cataloged under Albania. Additionally, this change brings consistency to the treatment of treaties, facilitating discoverability by our users. More recently, our current CC:DA representative successfully put forth an RDA revision proposal to eliminate the conventional collective title “Laws, etc.” which most law catalogers felt had long outlived its usefulness. The impact of this work extends well beyond law libraries to any library collecting treaties or laws and cataloging them in accordance with RDA.
MAC and its predecessor, MARBI (Machine-Readable Bibliographic Information Committee), have been responsible for creating dozens of new MARC fields and subfields to accommodate RDA-related content designation, allowing for greater metadata granularity with an eye toward eventual deployment as linked data.
The movement of bibliographic data to a linked data environment seems inevitable. Elimination of our presence on the national and international policy-making bodies that are steering the larger library world forward will place law libraries at a severe disadvantage. We cannot afford to isolate ourselves during this time of rapid transition when what is called for is full participation and involvement in the organizations making decisions that will affect our libraries far into the future.
The Executive Board’s regrettable decision undermines the Association’s mission to be “the recognized authority in all aspects of legal information.” At a time when many technical services law librarians already feel marginalized and underserved by AALL, the Executive Board is unfortunately sending a message that further validates those concerns.