Watching What We Read: Implications of Law Enforcement Activity in Libraries since 9/11

Watching What We Read: Implications of Law Enforcement Activity in Libraries since 9/11

Abby A. Goodrum (School of Journalism at Ryerson University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 37
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-594-8.ch005
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Abstract

Libraries in the U.S. have long been places of interest to government law enforcement agencies, and academic and public librarians have long sought to balance their commitment to the protection of privacy and intellectual freedom, with their desire to support legitimate requests for assistance from the government (Foerstel, 1991; Starr, 2004). In some instances, librarians have even gone to jail to protect the privacy of their patron’s records (Horn, 1994). To better understand the nature of this contact and its impact on the public’s privacy and access to information, the American Library Association’s Office of Information Technology Policy (ALA OITP) funded a study which included a nationwide survey of public and academic libraries and structured interviews with librarians and library leaders. The study confirms that federal, state, and local law enforcement have been visiting libraries as part of their investigations and that law enforcement activity has precipitated change in the policies and practices of public and academic libraries. Finally, the data from this study suggest that overall, the Patriot Act and similar legislation passed as a result of the September 11 terrorists attacks have had limited or very limited direct impact on academic and public library activities. Most libraries have not changed policies related to the retention of patron information, use of library materials including government information, or removed material from the library, nor has there been any significant change in library material usage. In those instances when changes did occur, reasons appear to be due to budget and financial matters rather than concern over requirements of the Patriot Act or other similar legislation. Another issue central to this discussion has been the degree to which the ALA should engage in significant lobbying efforts to change or modify the Patriot Act and related terrorist laws. The general sense that one receives is that the Patriot Act is “awful” from an abstract perspective, but “it doesn’t really affect my library or patrons as directly as budget cuts and other day to day concerns.” Librarians can’t afford to lose local support, so they do not become politicized over legal issues that may be quite abstract in the minds of their patrons or staff.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Acknowledgment
Todd Loendorf
Chapter 1
G. David Garson
Bush administration information policy raises fundamental questions about the survival of democratic values in what is increasingly a surveillance... Sample PDF
Bush Administration Information Policy and Democratic Values
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Chapter 2
Harry Hammitt
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, there has been a tightening of public access. In response to perceived security threats... Sample PDF
Less Safe: The Dismantling of Public Information Systems after September 11
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Chapter 3
Charles N. Davis
Access to government information in a post-September 11 often involves the resolution of conflicts between privacy rights and the public interest... Sample PDF
Expanding Privacy Rationales under the Federal Freedom of Information Act: Stigmatization as Tailsman
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Chapter 4
Lauren Teffeau, Megan Mustafoff, Leigh Estabrook
This chapter discusses two studies performed by the Library Research Center at the University of Illinois concerning the impact the terrorist... Sample PDF
Access to Information and the Freedom to Access: The Intersection of Public Libraries and the USA PATRIOT Act
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Chapter 5
Abby A. Goodrum
Libraries in the U.S. have long been places of interest to government law enforcement agencies, and academic and public librarians have long sought... Sample PDF
Watching What We Read: Implications of Law Enforcement Activity in Libraries since 9/11
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Chapter 6
Brian S. Krueger
While more is probably known about the causes of political participation than any other political behavior, the research program suffers in that it... Sample PDF
Resisting Government Internet Surveillance by Participating in Politics Online and Offline
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Chapter 7
Jeffrey Roy
In an era of digital government, citizen-centric governance is a central aim, one that is often predicated on more efficient and responsive service... Sample PDF
Security, Sovereignty, and Continental Interoperability: Canada's Elusive Balance
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Chapter 8
Akhlaque Haque
The Patriot Act of 2001 has introduced significant legislative changes impacting how public managers collect, disseminate, and evaluate information... Sample PDF
Information Technology and Surveillance: Implications for Public Administration in a New Word Order
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Chapter 9
David C. Wyld
This chapter provides an overview of RFID (radio frequency identification) and the emerging use of the technology in the governmental sector. It... Sample PDF
The Little Chip that Could: The Public Sector and RFID
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Chapter 10
Todd Loendorf
The tragic events of September 11, 2001, created an environment that was conducive to the expansion of surveillance operations. Furthermore, the... Sample PDF
Out of Control? The Real ID Act of 2005
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About the Contributors