Rights and Wrongs

I was preparing to write about the recent events at the “Montgomery County Public Library(Security Officers Overstep in Maryland Library Incident)”:http://www.ala.org/al_onlineTemplate.cfm?Section=alonline&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=116848 and the “Newton Free Library(Public’s help sought in terror threat)”:http://www.dailynewstribune.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=70071, when as interesting as those stories, I came across this.
bq.The would-be terrorist who threatened Brandeis University from a computer in the Newton library, far from relying on an expectation of privacy and the “right to be left alone” while sending surreptitious emails from a public building, loses those constitutional protections once he conducts his informational transactions in the public marketplace. As Heather Mac Donald, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, recently testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, “like it or not, once you’ve disclosed information to someone else, the Constitution no longer protects it. This diffuse-it-and-lose-it rule applies to library borrowing and Web surfing as well, however much librarians may claim otherwise. By publicly borrowing library books, patrons forfeit any constitutional protections they may have had in their reading habits.” The librarians, and their alarmist counterparts at the ACLU, point to what they fear will be an inevitable gutting of Fourth Amendment protections to library-goers, Internet surfers, and bookworms everywhere. But they minimize the necessity for changing responses to security threats in the post 9/11 era, and overlook the fact that publicly accessible computers in libraries do not and should not afford a cover of secrecy for terrorists. – “Richard L. Cravatts(Librarians Hard At Work Protecting the Privacy Rights of Terrorists)”:http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=5519 While it is certainly wonderful for “Dr. Cravatts(Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D.)”:http://www.suffolkmkt.org/rcravatts/ and “Ms. Mac Donald(Heather Mac Donald)”:http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/mac_donald.htm to be able to ignore nearly 220 years of legislation and case law, unfortunately, Librarians are not afforded that luxury. Instead we are bound by the procedures laid out at the Local, State and Federal level. If Congress wants to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Department of Homeland Security or any other agency the right to seize library records at any time, they certainly have the power to do so (provided that the courts agree with them on the constitutionality of said seizure). But as that time has not come, and I doubt that it ever will as many on both the right and left have concerns over unchecked federal power, we are left with doing things that are legally within our authority. In both the cases above, the librarians simply did what they were supposed to do.

Posted by Michael K Pate

Michael K. Pate tends to spend a great deal time of time around computers. He has been a Librarian since 1997. Michael was born in Avon Park, Florida in 1966. Except for a couple of brief periods in his life (once in Tampa and once in Winter Haven/Haines City), he has been a life-long resident. Originally, he planned on a career as a Computer Programmer and therefore graduate from Webber College with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems in 1988. However, unhappy with career opportunities at the time, he soon returned to school and received a BS in Social Science Education from the University of South Florida. He began his career in education at Avon Elementary and later Avon Park Middle working as a Computer Lab Coordinator. While technological challenges were interesting, he found himself more and more interested in becoming a Media Specialist. He began work on his MLS in 1995. However, a summer internship at the Sebring Public Library in 1996 soon made him reconsider just what his career should be. Upon graduation in 1997, he secured a position as a Media Specialist at Eastside Elementary in Haines City. Eventually, the position he was looking for opened up and he returned to SPL as Reference Librarian in 1999. In 2003, he became Assistant Director of the Highlands County Library System, serving in that role until the position was eliminated during a late round of budget cuts in 2010. Since then, he has been the Computer Support Specialist for the Heartland Library Cooperative. In 2011, he began serving on the Board of Directors of the Tampa Bay Library Consortium.