Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bowers and Library History

I really enjoyed reading the Bowers article – especially how he put privacy of information into a historical perspective. I never knew about Regan and the pressure he put on libraries to give up information in an attempt to prove themselves as “anti-communistic”. It is extremely frightening…but interesting all the same.

I disagree with the Patriot Act and what it potentially means for libraries. But the thing that really bugs me about it is that the Act promotes an “us vs. them” mindset/hysteria. In a world which libraries are fighting so hard to protect patron rights and information (for very good reasons) this law makes us out to be the bad guys. How can an establishment whose foundation is partially the result of Thomas Jefferson and later Andrew Carnegie – two American Icons –be considered anything BUT supportive of American rights and freedoms? Among these include the freedom to private information.


  1. The public library, in particular, has often been seen as an integral institution - for better or for worse - in the process of citizenship initiatives and acculturation of new arrivals to the U.S., particularly in the first half of the 20th century (although this holds true in some cases today). I think you're right to point out the irony of that fact in light of the PATRIOT Act. Interesting point!

  2. One other comment on this: if you're interested in learning more in the ways libraries have been politically engaged and implicated throughout history, you might want to read Professor Louise Robbins' engaging work on librarian Ruth Brown, fired under spurious claims of "communism" but really disguised retaliation for her work on civil rights issues. Library access and library materials became key points in the controversy and were used against Brown. Many of you may know Professor Robbins from SLIS, where she preceded Christine Pawley as director for many many years and currently still serves as professor.