For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
June 30, 2005 - Why Librarians care about the Patriot Act
By: Rochelle Logan, Associate Director of Support Services, Douglas County Libraries
Recently the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of changing some of the provisions in the Patriot Act that affect how easily federal law enforcement could search and seize library and bookstore records.
The USA Patriot Act quickly passed in Congress immediately after 9/11. As presently written, the law allows seizure of personal records without a person's knowledge. An FBI agent must first get a warrant from a special federal court (FISA Court - Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act) to gain access to information. The library or business is compelled to comply and cannot let their customer know about the seizure. The law gives the FBI a great deal of latitude to dig around in people's reading habits. Libraries consider this a violation of our patrons' civil liberties.
Our colleagues in bookstores are similarly troubled about this law as they try to protect their customers' right to privacy. When local law enforcement came to the Tattered Cover several years ago to get a list of books purchased by an Adams County resident, Joyce Meskis, owner of the Tattered Cover, refused to hand over the information. She said they were on a 'fishing expedition' and had no just cause to ask for the records. The case went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court where the Tattered Cover prevailed. Because of this decision, privacy laws in Colorado are tighter than in many other states.
It is clear that Colorado is not the only state with citizens concerned about provisions of the Patriot Act. The 238-187 vote in Congress on June 15, 2005 was a surprise to the White House since a number of conservative Republicans joined in the bipartisan vote. It was reported that the Republicans who voted for the change are worried about government intrusion while liberal Democrats are standing up for personal privacy. Under the proposed change in the law, government officials would have to obtain search warrants from a judge or subpoenas from a grand jury to seize records about a suspect's reading habits. This is in lieu of gaining a surefire warrant from the FISA court.
Why should Douglas County residents or your library be concerned about all of this? When it comes to your First Amendment rights to privacy to read, listen or watch what you want, your library staff wants to protect you. Therefore, we keep track of local, state and national issues that can ultimately interfere with our ethics as a profession and write to our lawmakers when those principles are compromised.
Librarians keep each other informed and educated on the issues. I traveled around the state speaking to other library personnel about how to prepare for law enforcement visits. Whether it is the FBI or your local sheriff, we will not turn over your records without the correct warrant or subpoena and even then, we will ask our library's attorney to review the document before taking any action.
Regardless of your opinion about the content of individual provisions of the Patriot Act, it is our duty to keep you informed of the process of compliance required in the law and about the dangers to individual privacy and the confidentiality of your library records.