ALA begins PATRIOT study to measure law enforcement activity in libraries

Contact: Bernadette Murphy

ALA Washington Office

For Immediate Release

January 5, 2005

ALA begins PATRIOT study to measure law enforcement activity in libraries

(WASHINGTON, DC) The American Library Association (ALA) has initiated a set of surveys to assess the impact of the USA PATRIOT act on America’s libraries and library patrons. Working with several teams of academic researchers, ALA seeks to quantify and examine contacts by federal law enforcement agencies in public and academic libraries. The planning phase of this project was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Knight Foundation is helping to finance these studies, with additional support anticipated from other foundations.

As homeland security tops the 109
th Congress’s list of priorities and parts of the PATRIOT Act are scheduled to sunset in December, 2005, ALA seeks to ensure that library patron privacy is preserved. The results of these surveys will provide much-needed information to inform the debate about law enforcement’s role in libraries and the effect that the law enforcement activity is having on library users. Preliminary results will be made available to members of Congress as they debate the status and necessity of the sunset provisions.

The Web-based surveys, titled
Impact and Analysis of Federal Law Enforcement Activity in Academic and Public Libraries, are directed at academic and public library administrators. The survey questions will examine the contacts being made by law enforcement in libraries, how library policies have changed since the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, and any resulting changes in library patron behavior. The survey instrument has been carefully reviewed by counsel for the American Library Association to ensure that respondents do not violate the gag order imposed by the USA PATRIOT Act, and the U.S. Department of Justice has acknowledged its interest in the results of the project.

The team of researchers working in tandem with ALA have selected a diverse sample of United States public and academic libraries reflecting geographic, population, and size differences. Administrators of the libraries selected for the study will be notified by mail. Libraries selected for the survey are strongly encouraged to respond.

The results of the studies will be presented as a report at the American Library Association’s 2005 Annual meeting in Chicago.
The results may be used to create an educational resource for practitioners on dealing with federal law enforcement.