Saturday, August 27, 2005

gag me?

Good timing!

Michael Gorman said recently that nobody had challenged the portion of the PATRIOT Act that applies to libraries (Section 215). Well - now they have.

According to a story in Wired, a library in Connecticut (with the ACLU) has filed suit against Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, claiming the actions of the FBI are unconstitutional and asking that the built-in gag order be lifted so that we can talk about what is involved. Given the push to reauthorize this section before the sun sets on it in December, this suit may bring some attention to the issue at a critical moment. Interestingly, the court papers show what's involved - the Department of Justice insisted in redacting much of the documentation.

By the way, if you're on campus on September 12th, we're having the first event of several for our part of The September Project. At 7pm on the first floor of the library several faculty members will discuss the implications of the government's response to 9/11 from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. And there's more to come throughout the fall. I'll post a link to what's up on campus soon.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Empty? Deserted? uh, no, actually ...

The Christian Science Monitor has a piece on the University of Texas's decision to move 90,000 books from their Undergraduate Library and replace them with computers. It sounds like a terrible move, but the fact is the UGLI, as it was known when I was in their MLIS program long ago, was a very small collection, hand-picked for providing somewhat canned materials for a required composition course assignment. A lot of students preferred to use the main library, which is still there with its millions of volumes.

There is always a Sophie's Choice tone to these pieces - what's it gonna be, books or computers? Scott Carlson's famous "Deserted Libraries" story sparked a lot of controversy when it was first published in 2001, but it's the headline that sets off the alarms. In reality, the piece presents a range of issues and talks about libraries that are anything but deserted.

Both stories are about a changing persception of the library as place. Scott Bennett's report on libraries as learning commons shifts the focus from either/or to both and from information to learning. And that makes a lot of sense.


challenging issues

There are signs that book challenges are on the rise, part of a cultural shift to the right (or at least, to some segments of the right feeling their oats). Focus on the Family is one organization pushing for more activism by parents in the books that are assigned in schools. There will no doubt be more press coverage and debate when Banned Books Week rolls around, September 24th - October 1st.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Yes, I'm still here...

Hi, everyone. I'm still alive. :) I started my first professional position in an academic library last week, and I'm having a great time. When I have some more time, I'll try to summarize the events and my impressions of the past several days.

Friday, August 19, 2005

interested in the public interest?

Here's another piece on librarians' activism in legal and political matters. One important role librarians have is ensuring that the public interest is protected in areas of privacy, freedom to read, and culture, and that sometimes means going up against tough opponents. For some reason, it often surprises people that we can be a bit pushy about things that matter to us.