Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Like some others this week, what stood out to me most was the fact that privacy is, in fact, not a right granted in the U.S. constitution but is rather only interpreted as such through case law on certain amendments. That really took me by surprise because in all the discussions on privacy that I've had in school, I guess it has never been explicitly said, "Privacy is not a constitutional right." With that being said, suddenly I feel a much heavier weight of obligation in my future role as a champion of democracy and advocate for patron privacy rights in accessing information.
It just blows my mind that the act of learning and acquiring education is something that is subject to surveillance, and for what? A shadow of a doubt that it is in true scholarly pursuit? I loved Bowers' quote, "If individuals do not feel that they can read information regarding controversial or non-controversial topics, their ability to learn and expand their knowledge is infringed and impeded." So true! And it is exactly to which John Stuart Mill would respond, "I told you so!" Just as he advocated for the free circulation of ideas, points, and counterpoints, so should a free and democratic society fight for their right to learn and access information without fear of judgment or punishment.
Going back to last week with Jacobs and Yeo (2005), they too argued that democracy requires an informed citizenry where citizens must have full, FREE, easy access to information, whether it be about government, Islamic faith practices, and firearms, as well as fashion trends, home design tips, and alternative health remedies. On an individual level, we should be ensuring that our library policies reflect our own passion for protecting patron privacy and - more importantly - that our staffs are informed about what the policy means in an age where government acts override these overarching ethical ideals in librarianship. Given the context of a world motivated by fear, we and our staffs need to be well-versed in the reasons behind our iron-clad grip on patrons' right to privacy and informed about what outside forces we find ourselves up against, whether it be a National Security Letter, a subpoena, or an FBI agent waving a badge and unauthorized requests for information about patrons and circulation.