[WEB4LIB] RE: FBI to monitor libraries

Jacques d'Emal jdemal at stcc.cc.tx.us
Mon Jun 3 17:52:20 EDT 2002

We really do need to be careful how we frame this argument.

For example:

When was the last time you had sex? With whom?
Did you enjoy it? Did your partner?
Please share your answers with the entire list.
Surely you are not uncomfortable with publicly responding to these questions
as "you have nothing to hide".

Whether or not an individual has "something to hide" is irrelevant. All
personal relationships are built on trust. The greater the level of trust,
the more individuals are likely to share. I do not share the same personal
information with family as I do with friends, as I do with co-workers, as I
do with salesmen. It is not a matter of what I have to hide, but of what I
choose to share.

A more appropriate line of argument may be something like:

What level, type, and amount of information regarding patron behavior should
a library be legally and ethically required to collect and maintain? and
why? Under what circumstances should the library share this information?

> library, or even in the entire city. Last week someone wrote to this list
> suggesting that if a patron asks for a map and directions to the local
> supply any good librarian should just provide the information, no
> asked. Would you do so if the patrons were three Middle Eastern guys? Or
> would you just keep quiet about it and start drinking bottled water from
> on?
> Mark F. Wright
> Andover, Mass.

And if the "three Middle Eastern guys" happen to be fourth generation US
citizens of Armenian Christian decent?
Surely you don't mean "three Middle Eastern guys" who look like Orthodox
Would you be suspicious of the polite young redneck asking about fertilizers
in a rural public library (Timothy McVeigh)? Or maybe the eccentric
professor looking for the mailing addresses of old colleagues (Uni-Bomber)?

This is a very serious professional question that warrants continual
examination and discussion. Just what is the librarians professional
obligation to answer a question? When can a librarian ethically refuse to
answer a question?

Jacques d'Emal
Edinburg, TX

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