The following article appeared in the Fall 1998 edition of our newsletter:
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LAW LIBRARIES ASSOCIATION OF ALABAMA, LOOSELY BASED ON FACT
On July 22, 1991, the American Association of Law Libraries approved a resolution increasing SIS (Special Interest Section) dues from $5 to $12, the first such increase since their inception. On the same day, the Law Library Association of Alabama is approved by a vote of the membership as the 30th AALL chapter. Coincidence? Who are these new, deep-pocket interlopers, and how did they get here? What can we do about it now?
The origins of the LLAA, as they now refer to themselves, are lost in the mists of time, or perhaps alcoholic haze, but this much we do know: the President of the new organization (then called the Alabama Law Library Association) was Virginia Hare and the Vice President was Lorie Feld. The "BLLA BLLA BLLA Birmingham Law Library Association Newsletter" of Nov. 1, 1990, reveals that an account was established in the name of the Alabama group by October 1, 1990, an early indication of the financial clout the organization would have. Under the shrewd management of Linda Hand, the membership rolls, which listed thirty-five members in November, 1990, grew to forty-three by February, 1991, but still were nine short of the twenty-five AALL members needed to qualify as a chapter.
Local Birmingham law librarians had some reservations about the new organization, fearing that it would displace the old BLLA. As one librarian wrote, prophetically, "I am afraid BLLA would cease to exist and that no local purpose would be served." My favorite response to a letter voicing these fears stated, regarding a problem with intermingling of funds, "The BLLA funds were used purely for social functions and the remainder of the money was spent Christmas of 1989 in a Christmas party."
Having swept away the competition in a blaze of Yuletide excess, the new state organization got down to its Real Purpose, enhancing the profession of law librarianship in Alabama (all right, it probably is really world domination and good parties, not necessarily in that order, but I am trying to stick to verifiable facts here). By March, 1991, the ALLA was issuing a *SPECIAL ALERT* that prorated memberships to the AALL were available; by April 19, 1991, the new organization was sponsoring a seminar on computer assisted legal research with representatives from WESTLAW and LEXIS, free to ALLA members, $5 to hoi polloi.
By September 3, 1991 (the anniversary of the declaration of World War II--think about it), the new Law Library Association of Alabama (there was only one then) proclaimed the achievement of chapter status, limited only by the requirement that the President of the LLAA must be a AALL member and membership of LLAA would not be limited to the state of Alabama. In spite of the dilution of talent that could result from this, the organization prospered. The Fall Program that year already revealed some of that talent offered by the members; speakers included Pat Levine, Lorie Martin, and Tim Lewis, and future projects to facilitate cooperation between members were announced.
Finally, in June of 1992, a meeting was held outside of the Birmingham area. In Montgomery, an informative program included talks on the Alabama Legislative Reference Service by Anne Adams and on computer viruses by David Lowe (possibly the first, but definitely not the last time this resource has been used by the LLAA). In November, Virginia Hare hosted another meeting at the U.S. Court Library in Birmingham which was described as "well-attended." New officers, including Lorie Feld, President, Julie Sinclair, Vice President/President Elect, Alma Surles, Secretary, and Linda Hand, Treasurer, were elected. For brevity's sake, future mentions of officers will omit reference to Treasurer, as this office remains with Linda to the present day.
Nineteen ninety-three brought a program in March featuring Michie's Jim Shroyer demonstrating that company's Alabama Law on Disc product and Beth Laughlin speaking about various medical databases available. Steve Dante of Butterworth's provided lunch. Already, someone sufficiently paranoid could have foreseen the machinations of the publishers, as both those companies have been absorbed by the Dutch Despoilers (as opposed to the Conniving Canadian and the English-Dutch Alliteration-Defiers). In those golden days, publishers had representatives with faces, not just voices, and one had to issue more than three checks each month for book bills (all right, even now the various parties demand separate checks, but we know better). Oh, and those representatives knew their companies' product line, and could get a billing problem straightened out the first time. But, enough of this, one shouldn't be bitter.
By Fall, 1993, Julie Sinclair was President, Tim Lewis was Vice President and Lorie Feld was Newsletter Editor. With this much energy at the top, the LLAA had a banner year, beginning with a November meeting at EBSCO and then a Winter meeting in Tuscaloosa in February, featuring a seminar on the Internet coordinated by Hazel Johnson. The Spring, 1994 meeting in April was again held in Montgomery, and was described as "primarily a social gathering" (see Real Purpose, supra). Despite this amazingly candid admission, and testifying to the membership's ability to keep stuff away from their firm administrator/dean, there was a good turnout for this meeting.
Unfortunately, the momentum could not be sustained (I blame leaks), and the organization entered a dormant period, sinking so low as to elect this writer as Vice President/President Elect, which turned out to have less to do with vice than expected. In response to the firing of the library staff at Baker & McKenzie, and trying to compensate for the void in the Presidency, Herculean efforts were expended at the Supreme Court and State Law Library, where Tim and his staff hosted the October, 1995 meeting, and at Cumberland's Lucille Stewart Beeson Law Library, where Becky Clapp and her staff hosted a program presented by LEXIS's Kathy Crosslin on "Marketing Your Library Resources" (a.k.a. "Don't Get Outsourced"). Sensing an opportunity, Lawyers Cooperative (obviously an oxymoron) Publishing Company underbid the Michie Company for the right to publish the Official Code of Alabama, with all the glory that comes with that. Michie, having assumed no one was interested, decided to wait them out, and continued to publish their own version of the code, leaving us in the new position of having a choice. Naturally, we panicked. Cool heads, one with a face rather similar to Tim Lewis's, suggested that the LLAA could help sort things out by getting representatives from the two companies, as well as a representative from the State of Alabama, to explain what was happening. The forum was well-attended, and Michie's promise to meet them on price was legally accurate, if short-lived. Even though I have to step on my punch line, I do want to recall the entertaining speech given by Carol D. Billings, past president of AALL, and to mention the tremendous job Tim Coggins and his staff did hosting the meeting.
Penny Gibson ascended to the Presidency, and I stopped doing nearly so good a job of saving my LLAA Newletters, so this account becomes even less accurate, if possible. In April, 1997, Penny declared that we are the Law Libraries Association of Alabama, recognizing that we do indeed have more than one and bringing us more in line with the national organization, which proposed raising SIS dues again (sure, you think it's unrelated). Judy Hughes invited us to her beautiful new Jones School of Law Library building (in Montgomery), which remained beautiful even after we held our May, 1997 meeting there, which featured an out-of-state speaker (Nancy Johnson of Georgia State and AALL), so we had on our company manners. Despite our gratitude, we still made Judy be President for the next year, with C.J. Jones serving as V.P.
Judy presided over the October, 1997 meeting at Jacksonville State University, which included a panel discussion on "The Law Library in the Year 2000" with Lori Martin, Laura Covington, Robert Marshall, and Virginia Hare and ended, I'm sure just coincidentally, with a presentation by Terry Psarras on "How to Build a Home Page." It is possible that the last sentence will not appear in its entirety in the final, edited version of this piece, since Terry is the editor. A meeting held at the Birmingham Museum of Art, chock full of interesting computer-related stuff, somehow does not appear in any of my newsletters, but it was informative and a great effort to expand our horizons to new venues, foreshadowing our next big effort. First, however, we held a meeting at the Federal Courthouse in Birmingham, with programs on the Internet (David Lowe and Peggy Kain) and "Change Management," and to install C.J. as President.
So, on to Gulf Shores we go. Joining with the Special Libraries Association, the LLAA plans to have even better meetings with "meatier" programs, beginning with this one conducted by Kendall F. Svengalis, the guru on library economics (or, "How to Beat the Dark Tower at Its Own Game") and the author, really, of the Legal Information Buyer's Guide. This should be a no-brainer for firm administrators to approve attendance, so there may even be attendees from Baker & McKenzie. Don't miss it.