August 24, 2015

SIU to host Library Freedom Project on Sept. 8

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Library Freedom Project, an event at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Morris Library on Sept. 8, will focus on privacy and the role libraries play regarding freedom of information and keeping patron information safe. 

The event begins with a cheese and wine reception at 6 p.m. in the library’s First Floor Rotunda followed by the presentation “Privacy, Intellectual Freedom and Libraries” by Alison Macrina, founder of the Library Freedom Project. She will discuss the role libraries play in privacy issues, today and in years past, at 7 p.m. in the John C. Guyon Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. 

The Library Freedom Project works with librarians, technologists, attorneys and privacy advocates, providing information and training with the goal of assuring intellectual freedom in libraries. The issue of privacy and libraries isn’t new, but has become perhaps more apparent in recent years after the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act was put in place. Section 215 of the act, commonly referred to as the “library records provision,” required librarians to provide records of what patrons read or view on library computers when formally requested by law enforcement. If the request was accompanied by a gag order, librarians weren’t allowed to alert anyone. Section 215 expired in June but there are still mechanisms in place that allow information to be acquired by law enforcement. 

In 2005, four Connecticut librarians sued to avoid providing such data to the FBI and were threatened with prosecution. Likewise, Internet companies regularly publish warrant canaries, which are essentially statements that they have not received a legal request that they would be prohibited from disclosing. Then, they remove the statement if served with a legal process, thus giving a sort of silent warning. These situations and the American Library Association’s policies on keeping patron data safe will be among the topics explored at the Library Freedom Project.  

In addition, the following day there will be special training regarding libraries and privacy for personnel from SIU and community libraries. 

For more information about Macrina’s presentation, contact Sarah Prindle at Sponsors include the Friends of Morris Library and the College of Library Affairs at SIU.