For immediate release | July 11, 2013

ALA president on NSA leak: 'Our country needs to find the right balance'

ALA Launches Privacy Tools for Libraries

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Coming off the heels of Independence Day, the American Library Association (ALA) launched “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.

The launch of ALA Liberty comes as a response to revelations that the U.S. government obtained vast amounts of big data on the activities of millions of innocent 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.

“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,” said ALA President Barbara Stripling in an open letter to American Library Association members. “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,” Stripling added. “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.”

ALA Liberty website contains guides and tip sheets for libraries interested in informing members of the public about their civil liberties. The tools provide an overview of the deliberative process and outlines ways that the public can demand government oversight and transparency from legislators. Additionally, the ALA Liberty website contains tools from Choose Privacy Week, a campaign that provides libraries with tools to educate and engage users and gives citizens the resources to think critically and make more informed choices about their privacy.

The website launch is a continuation of ALA’s unwavering support for the fundamental principles necessary for a free and democratic society. ALA passed a resolution earlier this month at its annual conference calling for reforms in the intelligence community that support privacy. The resolution asks Congress, President Obama and the Courts to reform the nation's climate of secrecy, overclassification and secret law regarding national security and surveillance.

To view the privacy toolkit, visit All questions about the privacy toolkit should be sent to Jazzy Wright, press officer of the ALA Washington Office, at

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government, and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

Related Links

ALA Liberty

Open Letter


Jazzy Wright

Press Officer

American Library Association

Washington Office