We’re planning to join in The September Project this year. The idea is for libraries of all kinds to be places where people can get together to discuss the state of the world post-9/11 with events, displays, or whatever. Libraries are a natural place to do this since they are civic spaces open to all and open to a wide spectrum of different viewpoints. It happens to coincide with a new mandate for colleges and universities to provide programming on the US Constitution, which seems an opportunity for synergy. If you have ideas for September, let me know.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of interesting studies recently released about libraries. One reports on how many libraries have been approached for information about their patrons since the PATRIOT Act went into effect. Pollsters couldn’t ask whether these requests and subpoenas were actually made under Section 215 of that law, because that could land respondents in the slammer – it’s illegal to say if you’ve been served under this law. That provision, and the fact probable cause is not required for such searches has bothered bookstore owners and librarians since it was enacted. The House of Representatives isn’t too happy about it, either.
The other study reports that Internet access is now availible through over 98% of public libraries in the US – though don’t think the digital divide is closed just yet. The Seattle PI points out many libraries have to limit use because there aren’t enough computers to go around.
Finally – the contract Google signed with the University of Michigan library to digitize their collections has made it onto the Internet. Though the contract does say neither party will, er, break the law, publishers remain unconvinced Google’s plan constitutes fair use.