VALL, The Virginia Association of Law Libraries
by Jane Harrison, with Gail Warren and Jill Burr
"Knowledge is not simply another commodity. On the contrary. Knowledge is never used up. It increases by diffusion and grows by dispersion."
-Daniel J. Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, 1986
Librarians' effectiveness comes from many resources, and chief among them is membership in professional societies. The Virginia Association of Law Libraries (VALL) is one such organization with a rich history, a wealth of activities, and ongoing personal contact with our colleagues.
The Virginia Association of Law Libraries (VALL) initially was organized as the Richmond Area Law Libraries Association (RALLA) in 1981. As the name suggested, the organization was formed to provide opportunities for the exchange of ideas and solutions to common problems for law library professionals and paraprofessionals in the Richmond metropolitan area. During the next two years, RALLA's membership slowly grew beyond the Richmond area, attracting members from Williamsburg and Northern Virginia. In response to increasing numbers of members, RALLA adopted its first formal constitution and bylaws in October of 1983 and elected the first slate of officers in 1984. Between 1983 and 1986, RALLA's membership grew dramatically, drawing members from all corners of the state. By 1986, the organization clearly reflected a statewide organization of law libraries (57 members) rather than an organization limited to the Richmond metropolitan area. Recognizing the shift from a local membership to a statewide organization and hoping to avoid confusion with the recently formed Richmond Association of Legal Assistants (RALA), RALLA was renamed the Virginia Association of Law Libraries in 1986.
As more Virginia law library professionals and paraprofessionals learned about the existence of a statewide organization in their field, VALL's membership increased and diversified. By late 1987, membership had grown to over sixty members, and work towards establishing formal ties between VALL and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) was a means of increasing VALL's contact with law libraries nationwide. VALL formally requested permission from the AALL to establish itself as a Chapter of the national organization in April 1988. Following AALL Executive Board consideration, the request was presented to the general membership of AALL at the 1988 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, where VALL was unanimously approved as the 28th Chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.
What is the mission of the Virginia Association of Law Libraries? "The Association is established to develop and increase the usefulness and efficiency of law libraries." The organization promotes its mission with quarterly meetings, the VALL Newsletter, a listserv, and participating and contributing to the education of those interested in expanding their knowledge of legal research and resources.
Since 1989, members have supported an annual meeting, opening with a reception on a Friday evening, followed by a full Saturday of programming. These annual meetings have covered a variety of topics:
1989 "The Law Library in Transition: Planning and Implementing a Library Move"
1990 "Ask a Star-Ask a Librarian: Marketing Law Library Services and Those Who Provide Them"
1991 "When We Get Behind Closed Doors: Technical Services in the Small Library"
1992 "Bridging the Information Gap"
1993 "Access to Government Information: Federal and State"
1994 "Current Issues in Law Libraries: Complying With ADA and Researching International, Trade and European Union Law"
1995 "Connected to the Past, Connections to the Present, Connecting to the Future" (Joint VALL/SEAALL meeting)
1996 "In Our Own Backyard: Accessing Virginia State and Local Information"
1997 "Covering the Riverfront"
1998 "A Visit to the Past-While Looking into the Future"
1999 "CyberCrossroads: Information Policy, Law and Politics"
2000 "Taking the Lead in Legal Information: Law Librarianship in the New Century"
2001 "VALL 2001: An Information Odyssey"
VALL and VLA will partner for the first time in 2003 on a Joint VLA/VALL Annual Conference at The Homestead.
In addition to its annual meeting, VALL holds quarterly educational meetings. These are usually spread geographically around Virginia, just as VLA's continuing education programs are. Topics are often legal in nature, but as the above list of annual meetings indicates they cover a wide variety of research areas-the law, politics, technology, international organizations, Virginia law and government, management, technical services, ADA, and much more.
VALL members continue to be at the forefront of providing up-to-date legal information-to each other in continuing education workshops, to VLA members as presenters at the VLA Annual Conference, and to the larger legal community via regular features in Virginia Lawyer, the magazine of the Virginia State Bar. Of particular interest are the February 2000 and October 2001 (and upcoming December 2002) issues which showcase the knowledge and expertise of VALL members. Virginia legislative history research, administrative law research, a brief history of Virginia's Code, researching Virginia companies, public law library computer workstations have all been topics of Virginia Lawyerarticles. These articles and others written by VALL members can be found online at http://www.vsb.org/publications/valawyer/.
VALL has taken a leadership role in ensuring access to legal information for the citizens of Virginia. In 1991, an ad hoc committee began a cooperative effort with the members of the Administrative Law Section of the Virginia State Bar and the Registrar and Deputy Registrar of Regulations that resulted in publication of the Virginia Administrative Code in 1996.
VALL's commitment to information access is recognized at the national level as well. In July 2000, VALL was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation noting "its leadership in strengthening the role of law librarians in the legal community through its relationship with the Virginia State Bar" by then--President of the American Association of Law Librarians Margie Axtmann.
Who may become a member of the Virginia Association of Law Libraries? Per Article III of the VALL Constitution-"Any person or institution interested in law libraries, may become a member of the Association…." An interest in law libraries is the sole, and perhaps most important, qualification. While members may have undergraduate and advanced degrees, many do not. In most law libraries, a J.D. is not a requirement though it might be desirable for those in academic law libraries in administrative and reference positions.
Where do Virginia Association of Law Libraries members work? In libraries throughout the Commonwealth: county law libraries, the Virginia State Law Library, law school libraries, and private and firm law libraries, as well as those involved in the production and dissemination of legal information.
Why would I join the Virginia Association of Law Libraries? Simply stated, to enhance my personal and professional networking and educational opportunities. We do all we can to aid our constituencies and one another. If you want to know where to locate legal information, contact a fellow member.
One benefit of VALL membership is a subscription to the VALL Newsletter. Issued quarterly, standard features are the President's Message and In and Around VALL. Other typical articles which appear concern preservation, committee information, VALL meeting minutes, professional meetings, and, training opportunities. VALL members with e-mail addresses are privy to time-sensitive information in many areas, including reference, professional development, and legislative awareness via our chapter listserv.
At present, there are more than 150 individual and 65 institutional members in the areas of county and municipal law libraries, law firms, law school libraries, and state agencies and courts. VALL's website at http://www.law.richmond.edu/vall provides additional information on the organization, its history and member -libraries.
If you have questions or would like additional information about becoming a member of the Virginia Association of Law Libraries, please contact a member of the Recruitment Committee. Current members are Jeanne Ullian (email: firstname.lastname@example.org), Tisha Zelner (email: email@example.com), and Leanne Battle (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
How can you become a member of VALL? Simply visit VALL's web site at http://www.law.richmond.edu/vall, complete the membership form, and submit it. Your dues of $15.00 can be mailed in separately. You'll be glad