Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Thursday, September 25, 2003

Federal Probes of Libraries Have Long History

Check out this story for more.

I remember stories back in library school of the CIA recruiting librarians back in the 1970s, too. I don't know if that was part of the Library Awareness Programme, or just good sense. (Okay, you may think of librarians as a strange pool of spies, but intelligence is based on information, after all.) Every now and then I've played with the idea of working for the government, but I figured that I probably couldn't make the cut at, say, the FBI Academy, amongst other things.

But I found the story interesting. I think that AG Ashcroft tends to play it as if the government is not and has never been interested in the activities of library patrons--but of course it makes sense to check out libraries for possible terrorists or spies, from a security point of view. If we had no civil rights, it wouldn't be a problem.

I do think that librarians sometimes go a little far towards the 'must protect all information access' canon. I've been in several discussions about the PATRIOT Act and other ethical issues. There's always someone who's ready to become a martyr to civil liberties in the bunch. But I think most of us would agree that if we discovered a threat to life or infrastructure, we'd be calling 911, as hopefully anyone else would. So blindly following either camp can be a problem, don't you think?

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