Contact: Mark Gould
Director, PIO
312-280-5042
mgould@ala.org
For Immediate Release
February 17, 2006

American Library Association responds to Wall Street Journal editorial

(CHICAGO) American Library Association (ALA) President Michael Gorman and the ALA Public Information Office have sent the following response to the February 10 Wall Street Journal editorial "Madame Librarian":

Dear Editor:

Your editorial ("Madame Librarian," February 10) grossly misrepresented the American Library Association (ALA) on several issues.

The ALA has never claimed that the USA PATRIOT Act singles out libraries, rather that library records are different from other "business records" targeted by Section 215. In fact, every state has laws or legal opinions recognizing the confidentiality of library records because they are different. We have always maintained that Section 215, which allows government agencies to demand secret access to the records of libraries and bookstores (and medical, educational, and financial records as well), is inimical to basic constitutional rights.

It simply does not make sense that the FBI may request records without proving probable cause or individualized suspicion, or that the target of the search is prohibited from revealing it to anyone in perpetuity, preventing any true oversight of the agency's activities.

The editorial further misleads by failing to tell readers that the FBI has stated there was no imminent danger by the time the warrant was requested by the Newton Free Library director. In fact, library officials assisted law enforcement in determining which computers might have been used; then, in accordance with state law and Fourth Amendment guarantees, asked for a warrant before releasing the computers. The FBI never claimed emergency circumstances, which likely wouldn’t have withstood court scrutiny. I would have responded the same way at the door to my library - or my home.

As for allegations concerning the ALA position on dissident Cuban librarians, the policy-setting ALA Council, comprising 182 ALA members with divergent views, has consistently adopted the same position on Cuba as the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. Specifically, both organizations have urged the Cuban government "to respect, defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

There was no attempt by me or anyone else to censor "instapolls" done by our journal American Libraries and, in fact, the polls are still being run. That a national newspaper would use what amounts to office gossip to create facts to bolster a non-case is contemptible.

Most of the ALA’s 66,000-plus members are American citizens - educated, patriotic, and dedicated to the free flow of accurate information, in the United States and elsewhere. The Journal would serve its readers better by viewing the ALA in this light rather than painting it with the broad brush of stereotyping.

Michael Gorman, President

American Library Association

The February 10 editorial is available online at:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007945&mod=RSS_Opinion_Journal&ojrss=frontpage

 

(CHICAGO) American Library Association (ALA) President Michael Gorman and the ALA Public Information Office have sent the following response to the February 10 Wall Street Journal editorial “Madame Librarian”: