In a powerful, proactive reminder of the principles for which our profession stands, yesterday ALA announced the launch of ALA Liberty,
a new website that contains tools libraries can use to host educational sessions and public forums that help Americans understand their First and Fourth Amendment rights.
ALA Liberty offers guides and tip sheets for libraries as well as tools from Choose Privacy Week, the ALA campaign that asks citizens to think critically and make more informed choices about their privacy.
The site was a response to news relating to government collection of big data on millions of Americans.
Protection of readers’ privacy and communication records is part of ALA’s long-standing principles to protect and foster First Amendment rights and the privacy of library users and others.
In her recent open letter to ALA members, President Barbara Stripling, shared her concerns as they relate to the role of libraries and librarians:
When we spoke out in 2001 against the passage of the PATRIOT Act…we were fearful that the government would come into libraries without warning and take library records of individual patrons. . . Even the most cynical among us could not have predicted that the Obama administration— an administration that campaigned on the promise of greater government transparency and openness — would allow a massive surveillance program to infringe upon the basic civil liberties of innocent, unsuspecting people.
We need to restore the balance between individual rights and terrorism prevention, and libraries are one of the few trusted American institutions that can lead true public engagement on our nation’s surveillance laws and procedures. Libraries have the tools, resources and leaders that can teach Americans about their civil liberties and help our communities discuss ways to improve the balance between First Amendment rights and government surveillance activities.
The new ALA Liberty website follows the spirit of the resolution passed at the Chicago Annual Conference that asked Congress, President Obama and the Courts to reform the nation’s climate of secrecy, overclassification and secret law regarding national security and surveillance.