Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Discussion on Libraries & War

In class on 3/23, we will be giving you some time for small group discussions on one or both of the following questions. We would like you to start thinking about these issues, but please do NOT post anything about it here to the weblog until after class.

Question 1: How does the ALA response to censorship, loyalty investigations and other privacy issues from 1930-1950 as discussed in this week’s readings compare and contrast to what you know of the ALA’s response to the current Iraq war and specifically the Patriot Act?

Question 2: The weblog discussion of our last reading (Pawley’s book) raised the question of how future historians can do research on patrons’ reading habits given the lack of current library records that link an item to a patron’s record. How do you think we can balance patrons’ privacy concerns in the 21st century (particularly in the current climate with the Patriot Act laws) and the desire of future library and print culture historians to study reading trends for our time?


Hannah Gray said...

Well, from what I know the
ALA has pretty vehemently opposed the efforts of the government in implementing the Patriot Act. I think what surprised me most when reading about the ALA's stance through the years is how inconsistent they have been. I think that many Americans might believe that the ALA and its librarians have always been pretty staunchly opposed to invading the patron's privacy. However, the ALA appeared to waffle on many issues during the Cold War. I am not necessarily defending the ALA's inaction in not always taking a strong stand on loyalty oaths or in defending those librarians who chose not to sign them, but I think the political climate of the Cold War was even scarier than the political climate now.

megan bacon said...

I can't help but wonder what really is the purpose of the ALA and for that matter what is the reason for the patriot act? I can't help but wonder what kind of incrimintating information do we really think we can get from library statistics? For that matter I question how much to library statistics really help us know besides maybe a graph or stastical chart that goes into a budget or grant that most likley will be looked at once and then disragarded. In regards to the idea of war and what role does the library play, I think right now as well as many organizations no one is willing to step up to the plate and voice there opinions and be ok with that. Although I sit in library school hearing a lot of talk about librarians and the power to change culture and soceity I don't really see it happening. I really wonder what will it take to get librarians and all of soceity to really take an interest in the advancement of soceity?????????

SarahStumpf said...

Our group discussed the possibility of an opt-in system in class, but we did not have time to throw it open to everyone. Me personally, I don't care if someone sees my library reccords, medical reccords, driving reccords, etc. I don't feel the need for all the privacy about my life.

We were thinking about something where when you sign up for a library card, you can check a box or something to allow the library all access to your reccord for research. That way, you can have it both ways.

Would this be practical? Would it appease both sides or no one? Am I the only one who thinks it could work?

Kristin said...

An opt-in system could be a good idea to get some more personal details, but it's only as good as the number of willing volunteers. I think an opt-in system would work best in conjunction with anonymous user statistics, which link things like gender and age to the circulation records. These, however, have limitations. Like many have mentioned before, there is no way to know if the patron read the books s/he checked out. In class, someone mentioned doing surveys, which ask patrons about books they have read. Those seem to be a good way to get at the question of what people are reading.