Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Where to start? Librarians versus the Patriot Act, not surprisingly, has come up in some of my other LIS classes, and each time I simply don’t know what to make of it. My first reaction is frustration, both for the librarians that were put in that situation and because the climate of fear that exists in this country has created this situation. I wonder about all those involved. Obviously it was terrifying for the librarians, unable to talk about it with anyone, but I wonder about the FBI agents involved and how we will likely never hear their feelings about it and about all the other librarians that I am sure got the NSL and are not allowed to talk about it. In the end, it is just sad that it has come to this; with a constant flow of information on all fronts we are not allowed to speak to one another. It always makes me feel very 1984-y. The government can so effectively enforce secrecy but it can’t or it won’t (at least in all cases) protect privacy. Perhaps the most frustrating thing about it was that the court case lasted as long as it did because they were stalling until after the act was reinstated to avoid bad press.

I was surprised to read in Bowers the fact that privacy is not a constitutional right, even though I probably shouldn’t have been. As someone said, it has been a long time since my high school government class. I was more surprised that there are no federal laws protecting library records. It seems so odd that video rentals would be protected but not library records. Maybe if a prominent political figures library records became public then they would draft a law, in fact, I am cynical enough to believe that, if that were to happen, legislation would be drafted almost immediately. People protect themselves when they sense they are vulnerable, politicians even more so. In the end I think that Bowers reminder that the best way to keep records private is to not have them at all. Keep those that are necessary to run the library; everything else has a very short shelf life.

Changing gears a bit, I enjoyed Britz’s article, although I did find it a bit redundant. I think that is raises a lot of important issues in dealing with the equitable distribution of information across the globe. It was odd to read his third principle of justice though; “…unequal treatment is justifiable in those cases where differentiation between people is based on publicly accepted criteria representing all. Inequality must, however, be based on certain norms and may not be at the expense of the equal value of all people.” All people are of equal value, but not equal in ability or standing. I don’t disagree, but it feels odd in this time when words are twisted and people are often afraid to say anything that might offend to read it written so bluntly in a paper calling for justice. It made me appreciate the article all the more. It made it feel less idealistic and more realistic than a lot of similar things I have read.

1 comment:

  1. It is a truly good point to note that, for the very few cases we know of in which NSLs were issued, there is the potential for there to have been hundreds more (some have estimated even more) about which we'll never know. That lack of transparency makes it nigh on impossible for the public to truly evaluate, beyond simple blind faith in government, whether or not such a program had merit.