Privacy Tool Kit

Legislative Advocacy for Privacy and Civil Liberties

Make Yourself Heard

Today, many legislative actions and court decisions undermine patron privacy and chill the use of libraries and information resources. Such measures have profound implications for libraries, user policies, and privacy:

Learn More about the Issues

Visit the ALA's Washington Office Web

  • Information about pending legislation and its impact on libraries
  • ALA resolutions that support or oppose legislative actions
  • Bill status

Link to Office for Intellectual Freedom

  • ALA resolutions reaffirming the principles of intellectual freedom and confidentiality of library records
  • Privacy Tool Kit

Link to Freedom to Read Foundation

  • Information from the Freedom to Read Foundation, which is particularly interested in protecting patron privacy and curtailing expanded government surveillance powers in libraries and bookstores

Do More

  1. Keep informed and up to date.
  2. Educate library boards and staff, communities, the media and local governments.
    • Write newspaper articles, guest editorials and letters to the editor
    • Make presentations to local and civic organizations
    • Keep government officials up to date
  3. Gather information about impact on local communities by compiling binders or Web site links concerning effects of laws and governmental actions that infringe on civil liberties and privacy.
  4. Organize a publicity campaign.
    • Prepare brochures and handouts to explain local and national impacts
    • Take out ads in your association's newsletters and journals and the local newspapers
  5. Organize town meetings and public forums.
  6. Cooperate with other interested organizations like the ACLU, AAUW, League of Women Voters, Common Cause, religious and civic groups, and local bar associations in discussions about how to counter the sections of the laws that infringe on civil liberties
  7. Make information available to those, such as library boards and organizations, local governmental bodies and others, who want to pass resolutions opposing these laws (or parts of them) and related matters
  8. Contact legislators at the federal, state and local levels to persuade lawmakers to amend and change laws that infringe on civil liberties.
    • Attend National Library Legislative Day sponsored by ALA and DCLA
    • Attend your state legislative day
    • Establish a personal relationship with your federal, state and local legislators and staff.
    • Write letters and include resolutions passed by your professional organization
  9. Require accountability from law enforcement agencies
    • Ask local law enforcement officials to speak to local organizations, town meetings and participate in programs at your library
    • Keep abreast of local law enforcement activities concerning civil liberties and privacy.
  10. Encourage libraries to join court challenges.
    • Investigate appropriateness of joining other groups' initiated court challenges
    • Keep informed about court cases such as the denial of Freedom of Information Act requests for information about surveillance of library users
  11. Make your community a Civil Liberties Safe Zone. For guidance, see the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

See also:

American Library Association, Washington Office. "What to Do About Laws and Government Actions That Infringe on Civil Liberties and Privacy." (Washington, DC: ALA Washington Office, January 2003).

American Library Association, Office for Intellectual Freedom. "Contact elected officials about issues/legislation related to intellectual freedom." (Chicago, IL: ALA OIF, last accessed, March 16, 2007)

Legislative Advocacy for Privacy and Civil Liberties, April 13, 2005