Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Week 11: Ethics in Practice

Watching the David Goodman video this week re-lit my inner spark for why I want to join the library profession. I am in awe that a group of librarians could be handed an FBI court order to hand over checkout information, refuse, be declared security risks and not allowed into their own trial, and still win the case. I wish the speaker and the articles we read for today had gone more into depth about how the librarians fought the case, but it was still encouraging to learn about. Thinking about how would I have reacted to FBI agents standing on my doorway, waving a gag order in my face for confidential information, is tough to think about. I would have been completely intimidated.

But these librarians weren't, and they make me proud to be in a profession that believes that what a person reads should be their business only...well, until the renewal of the Patriot Act swept that away. The Bowers article, "Privacy and Library Records", clearly stated that "Since a library served with a 215 order is under gag restrictions...  the patron will not have the opportunity to challenge such order. While the library may be able to challenge the Section 215 order, the patron will not be notified and, consequently, will not be able to challenge it and protect their individual rights." (Bowers Privacy). How terrifying to know that your research on Islam, child predators, or heavy weapons could make you a security threat. And even if you are a wannabe terrorist, the government shouldn't sit and point fingers about what you're reading. When the Columbine and other school shootings happened, I remember fingers being pointed at the music they listened to or the video games they played being blamed for their actions. This was in 1999, so the Patriot Act wasn't around yet. I wonder if their library records were pulled and examined for "evil" books.

When I worked at UW-Eau Claire's campus library, our system was set up so that once we checked in a book, the book was only linked to the last person who checked it out, and that was it. There was no kept reading list or full record of everything the patron had previously checked out. At the public library, there was an online feature where it easily keep track of everything you checked out, which I found more worrisome. Sometimes at the campus library, patrons would complain that they wanted an item they had previously checked out and couldn't remember the name of. But once we explained a bit about why we didn't keep track of their reading history, it made more sense to them.

1 comment:

  1. Crystal, glad to hear that you found the video and its story inspiring, and that it reinforced your decision to go into this work. As aingalls reports in the post right after you, it's not inconceivable that your work will have you confronting how to react when asked for information from law enforcement at some point in the future. It may simply come down to you needing to follow your workplace's established policy in these matters, although it was interesting to hear that such policies were essentially out the window in the case of the CT librarians.