Friday, November 12, 2010

UW-Madison Patron Privacy?

After reading the articles for this week, I began to wonder about the privacy policies of the libraries I work for on campus. I did some searching, and some more searching, and was left feeling disappointed. I first searched as a patron looking for information about my privacy rights when giving information to the library or checking out books. I searched on both the general library page and Memorial Library's website and found zip, nada, zero information about the Patriot Act, privacy, or my rights as a library user. I then searched as a staff member and found a little link called "Response to Subpoenas" on our staff page (under Access and then the Security tab). Now, I was getting somewhere! The document clearly states that the librarian should NOT give out information unless a warrant is issued. It also clearly lays out what to do if the FBI comes to the library requesting information. UW urges the librarians to call the UW Legal Department and they will read over the written request and make a decision. Hmmm - yes, this policy ensures the librarian is not put into a potentially scary situation, but it also puts the issue into hands of lawyers -- not the librarian freedom fighters. I would hope that the legal team would pull the director of the library system in to discuss matters, but this is unclear.

On that note -- Bravi to the four librarian heroes in Connecticut who stood up for their patrons (and what's right). Here is a video (I know -- another video from yours truly) from Democracy Now! where they interview Nick Merrill, who was under a gag order from the government for 6 YEARS because of a FBI NSL. He still looks terrified to speak about things in the video...even after the gag order has been lifted (I don't blame him, he could have gone to jail for five years for speaking). Also making an appearance is one of the Connecticut librarians involved in the FBI lawsuit, George Christian:

Here is the written transcript of the interview too:

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