by Gail Zwirner
I retired a year ago after a 42 year career in law, first as a paralegal, then as a librarian. Last year you honored me by making me a Lifetime Member. On this anniversary, I reminisced about my career, of which VALL was a big part. Many times we are asked to do things for VALL – serve as officers or committee chairs, host meetings, staff the PR table at AALL, do presentations for Bar groups, or, as the biggest offender, ask members to write for the Virginia Lawyer column. (I haven’t been nicknamed the VALLkyrie for nothing.)
However, it occurred to me that VALL has done a lot for me and all legal professionals in Virginia in providing access to information. For newer members who may not be aware of some of VALL’s accomplishments, let me remind you of a few:
· Through its Preservation Committee, VALL worked with firm managing partners to encourage Lexis and Westlaw to create a comprehensive database of Virginia case law. Both vendors initially started with a database of 25 years and law librarians complained that limited coverage was dangerous for their patrons doing online research. They reached out to the people whom VALL thought would have the biggest influence – the law firm online users who pay the bills – and Virginia became the first state to have comprehensive coverage. Both vendors followed soon nationwide.
· Another gap in information access was a lack of an administrative code. VALL had members work with the Virginia Code Commission and encourage them to move forward with a long-overdue codification of Virginia regulations. At the time, Virginia and Mississippi were only two states not having a code. Over two General Assembly sessions, the statute was changed to allow for a code and then, based on feedback from practitioners excited about the project, they amended the statute to include the requirement for agency publication of lists of guidance documents – those pesky internal agency documents, manuals, etc. that state attorneys would bring to hearings and private practitioners would have no idea they ever existed. Even better, technology has allowed those lists to expand with links to the full document. There is rarely a need to call the agency for a copy.
· In the early days of web access, law librarians were consulted regularly about functionality of the sites. For example, the State Corporation Commission’s website has improved greatly in its functionality since its initial release. The General Assembly website has added searchable databases for the codes, maintained access to prior session content, and added full text of House and Senate documents.
· VALL continues a nearly 20-year collaboration with the Virginia State Bar by contributing a regular “Law Libraries” column to the Virginia Lawyer. The VL editor cites the VALL articles as some of the most-linked contributions in the journal.
Thanks for all the volunteers who have contributed to the ongoing success of VALL. Over the years you will realize how much VALL gives back.