Ready, Set, Advocate! It’s AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day

March 27, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, nearly two dozen of your law librarian colleagues will meet with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill to discuss the most pressing issues affecting your profession. Help to magnify their influence and make a difference for law libraries by contacting your members of Congress today!

Our Legislative Action Center is ready to send customizable emails to your members of Congress on our top Lobby Day issues with just the click of a button. Prefer to advocate over the phone?  You can find lobby day talking points on all of our legislative priorities on AALLNET, along with our best tips for contacting legislators.

This year, Lobby Day participants are targeting members of Congress with specific asks based on their interests and committee assignments. If you registered in advance to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day, you will have already received the materials you need to take action on targeted issues. If not, never fear! Enter your home address in our Legislative Action Center to get all the information you’ll need about your members of Congress.  For instance, you can consider your members’ committee assignments to determine what issues they’re most likely to support. If your Congressman sits on the House Judiciary committee, pitch him on ECPA reform. If he sits on House Oversight, consider asking him to co-sponsor FASTR. If he voted “yea” on the Amash amendment to defund the NSA, you may have luck in asking him to co-sponsor the USA FREEDOM Act. On the Senate side, Rules Committee members can be approached about supporting the Government Publishing Act of 2014 to change the name of GPO. Senate Judiciary Committee members are good targets for ECPA reform or the USA FREEDOM Act. Are your members of Congress on the Appropriations Committees? Contact them in support of GPO and LC. The Action Center profiles will also show if your legislators are co-sponsors of AALL’s target legislation—if they’re not, you can ask them to co-sponsor.

Participating in the Virtual Lobby Day is really that painless. By making a call or sending an email today, you’ll give AALL a strong showing on Capitol Hill and help to advance a policy agenda that makes a difference for law libraries.

Thanks for all that you do!

Guest Post: Participating in Virtual Lobby Day Can be Virtually Painless

March 25, 2014

By David McFadden, Senior Reference Librarian at Southwester Law School and member of  AALL’s Government Relations Committee

So, you’re interested in law librarian advocacy. Participating in a legislative lobby day is a great stepping stone for building relationships and staying in contact with your legislators and/or their staff. Even when you don’t have a lot to discuss, the connections you create and maintain during a meeting with your legislators can prove helpful for later, bigger “asks” on important campaigns. And, it is really rewarding when you meet or contact a legislator and they actually know who you are!

But what if you can’t pack up and fly all the way to D.C. for the upcoming 2014 Local Advocate Lobby Day?  Don’t fear. You can still participate. The AALL Government Relations Office is also sponsoring a Virtual Lobby Day this Thursday, March 27.

The nice thing about the Virtual Lobby Day is that it doesn’t take up a lot of your time or money. By signing up to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day, you will commit to making a simple phone call or sending an email message to your members of Congress. In doing so, you will help make a difference for law libraries.

One common concern  of new advocates is that you don’t know what to say to legislators. In past campaigns, I’ve always tried to make it easier to get librarians to help out by providing materials and samples. The Government Relations Office staff does the same thing. If you sign up, they will send directions, tips, background information on legislation, talking points, and sample messages to your inbox on our day of action. Depending on your member of Congress’ background and committee assignments, the Government Relations Office staff will even help you to determine to which pieces of legislation your members of Congress will be most receptive.

Legislative advocacy often consists of many small little steps. Virtual Lobby Day is one of those. Help out in a small and relatively painless way to further the legislative efforts of law librarians.

Celebrating Sunshine Week with Webcasts, TGA, and More

March 14, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Sunshine Week officially kicks off Sunday, but we’ve already got much to celebrate.

Yesterday, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) introduced the Transparency in Government Act of 2014 (H.R. 4245). The bill includes a number of important transparency provisions that would bring improved public access and openness to the work of all three branches of government.  Highlights include:

  • Requiring all congressional committees to post public hearings and markup schedules, related bill language, witness testimony, and audio and video recordings online.
  • Making Members’ recorded votes more accessible by requiring the Clerk of the House to publish vote records online in an easily searchable, structured data format, and for Members to include their individual vote record on congressional websites.
  • Requiring the Government Accountability Office to audit the current budget, costs associated with and effectiveness of PACER and make recommendations to Congress, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and other appropriate offices on improvements
  • Increasing public access to Supreme Court proceedings by requiring by law the audio recording of oral arguments and live-streaming of the recordings on the Supreme Court’s website.
  • Making Congressional Research Service reports available to the public.
  • Strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by requiring agencies to put all completed FOIA requests online in a format that is searchable, sortable and downloadable. Also ensures that all agencies utilize the website FOIA Online to log, track and publish the status of requests.
  • Improving access to White House and agency visitor logs.

Though the bill likely won’t progress as a complete package, we’re thankful to Congressman Quigley for starting off Sunshine Week with such a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to government transparency.

This morning, we’re joining (OTG) and the Newseum’s First Amendment Center for their National Freedom of Information Day Conference and co-sponsoring the annual webcast so you can join too. This year’s event will feature several panels, including one which promises to bring together reporters and policy-makers to “talk about the 1971 break-in to the Media, PA FBI Field Office and the current leaks of information about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, the effects on society in these cases, and resulting reforms in intelligence policy and practice.”  Tune in between 8:30 am and 2:00 pm EST.

When Sunshine Week kicks off in earnest next week, you can expect lots of events and news from open government organizations in Washington and beyond. Here are some highlights: On Monday March 17, the Department of Justice will host its annual program to describe the current state of FOIA administration and mark the fifth anniversary of the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines. On Tuesday, March 18, the Collaboration on Government Secrecy (CGS) will sponsor its Seventh Annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration. View a PDF of the agenda, and find more details on the CGS website. On Wednesday March 19, the House Advisory Committee on Transparency will discuss “The Future of FOIA.” The committee educates policymakers on transparency-related issues, problems, and solutions and shares ideas with members of the Congressional Transparency Caucus. Several of these events will be recorded and posted online, and we’ll let you know when they’re available.

Happy Sunshine Week!

FIRST Act is Setback for Public Access

March 13, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Today, the Subcommittee on Research and Technology of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology reported H.R.4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act. AALL strongly opposes the bill as written. Introduced this week by Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) (the chairmen of the full committee and subcommittee, respectively), the FIRST Act would impose significant barriers to the public’s ability to access the results of taxpayer-funded research.

The FIRST Act flies in the face of the White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and seeks instead to significantly limit public access to government-sponsored scientific research in several ways: Section 303 of the bill would restrict public access to articles reporting on federally funded research for up to three years after initial publication, a length of the time that would surely slow the pace of scientific discovery.  The bill would also allow federal agencies to link to final copies of articles, rather than archive full text copies for public use and long-term accessibility. The bill further fails to support provisions that allow for shorter embargo periods to publicly funded research results.

The FIRST Act clearly aims to reverse the President’s strong mandate for expanded public access, which was recently affirmed in the FY 2014 omnibus. It is not the open access reform we need.

Tell your lawmakers you oppose the FIRST Act and urge them to instead co-sponsor FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (S. 350H.R. 708), which would strengthen the language in the omnibus bill by requiring that taxpayer funded articles be made available through a central database no later than six months after publication.

Happy Birthday, World Wide Web! Make a Wish for ECPA Reform

March 12, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

On March 12th, 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee put forth a proposal to make information sharing possible over computers. That proposal in turn would eventually became the World Wide Web, and today we celebrate its 25th birthday.

It’s a gross understatement to say a lot has changed in technology and the Internet since 1989, from the first website and search engines of the early ‘90s to the more recent rise and growth of cloud computing, However, there has been one constant over time:  the law that protects the privacy of your online communications from government intrusion, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), has not been updated since it was authored in 1986.

Yes, the rules governing your online privacy are older than the Web itself. While technology has advanced at a rapid pace, electronic privacy law has remained at a standstill. Without reform, the kind of electronic communications and records that are common today— think any email, Facebook posts, search history, cloud computing documents, cell phone location information, or text messages older than 180 days— can be freely seized without a warrant.

While two reform bills have been introduced, Congress remains slow to act. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the ECPA Amendments Act of 2013 (S. 607) in April 2013. It awaits consideration by the full Senate. The House proposal, the Email Privacy Act (HR. 1852) has a not-insignificant 184 co-sponsors, but has not yet been heard in committee. These reforms would establish a search warrant requirement for the government to obtain the content of Americans’ emails when those communications are stored with a third-party service provider. The bills eliminate the outdated “180-day” rule that calls for different legal standards for the government to obtain email content depending upon the age of an email and would also require the government to notify any individual whose electronic communications have been disclosed within 10 days of obtaining a search warrant.

As we celebrate the advances of the Web over the last 25 years, it’s long past time due to reform ECPA and bring electronic privacy law up to speed.

Sign up to Take Part in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27

March 7, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Help give law librarians a strong showing on Capitol Hill by participating in AALL’s Virtual Lobby Day on March 27!

At the end of the month, nearly two dozen AALL members will travel to Washington, D.C., where they will meet with their members of Congress to discuss AALL’s top priority issues as part of our 2014 Local Advocate Lobby Day. Their conversations will cover a range of important topics facing law librarianship, from proposed surveillance and privacy reforms, transparency and open government legislation, and funding for the Government Printing Office, Library of Congress, and related agencies.

From the comfort of your desk, you can help to magnify the impact of these meetings and expand AALL’s influence in Congress.  Sign up to participate in our Virtual Lobby Day and you will receive directions and tips about contacting your member of Congress on March 27 using our Legislative Action Center. The AALL Government Relations Office will provide background information on legislation, talking points, sample messages, and suggested tips to help maximize your influence.  Email me at with any questions.

Register for the Virtual Lobby Day by March 25 to receive in your inbox all the information you’ll need to make a difference for law libraries. Thanks for all that you do to raise the profile of AALL and law librarians everywhere.

March Washington E-Bulletin

March 3, 2014

The March issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is now available on AALLNET.


Vol. 2014, Issue 03





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