Access to Information and the Freedom to Access: The Intersection of Public Libraries and the USA PATRIOT Act
Lauren Teffeau (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA), Megan Mustafoff (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) and Leigh Estabrook (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
Copyright: © 2008
This chapter discusses two studies performed by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois concerning the impact the terrorist attacks and the USA PATRIOT Act has had on the librarians and the patrons they serve. Results are compared with findings from a Pew Internet and American Life survey to analyze differences between library directors and the public at large. Together, these studies illustrate the chilling effect’s impact on libraries and their patrons, as well as question the fundamental freedom to read all ideas. Libraries in the North Atlantic region of the United States were far more likely to report changes in staff attitudes, collection development, and security and policy changes that were influenced by September 11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act as compared to the rest of the country. This tendency could be reflective of many issues, but the libraries’ proximity to the terrorist attacks does seem to stand out. In addition to region, library size was also prognostic. The two surveys presented in this chapter clearly highlight the regional effects of the attacks over time and point to additional avenues of investigation. Continued research on library changes in response to the USA PATRIOT Act and terrorism needs to continue in order to understand better how American information habits are being both protected and compromised in today’s public libraries.