Saturday, February 11, 2006

Boston Globe editorialist concerned about librarians

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Okay, so Richard L. Cravatts is not concerned about our welfare, he's concerned about librarians "protecting terrorists." And he does so with textbook cases of logical fallacies.

Writing about the Newton, MA librarian who had the gall to require a warrent before the FBI could seize a public library computer, he quotes a conservative think-tank writer as a legal authority:
As Heather Mac Donald, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, recently observed, "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."


and then he makes the excellent point that we librarians are a bunch of Dewey-Decimal-breathing know-nothings anyway:
More to the point, why are librarians, whose professional training concentrates on mastering the use of the Dewey Decimal System, making any decisions that affect law enforcement? By whose authority and with what knowledge are they defining and granting constitutional rights to their patrons? Where have they received training in emergency response, domestic security, and thwarting terrorist threats?

Funny, I think my library science education consisted of one 3-hour class period on DDC and at least 4 or 5 times that much on patron privacy issues, security, intellecutal freedom, and dealing with problem patrons like Cravatts (tee hee).

He concludes that this was a black-and-white, librarian-wrong/FBI-right case, and that the constitutional issues at hand are unambiguous. They are not. Perhaps the head librarian should have let the FBI search the computer if an imminent danger was at hand, but perhaps that would have opened the door to even more egregious tramplings of our constitutional rights. I don't know, but I do know that this Erika Tarlin's letter to the editor in response made me feel a hell of lot better:
In any event, should [Cravatt] himself ever need to be catalogued, I've got a spot for him on the shelf at 621.945. That would be the 620s for Engineering, 621.9 for Tools and Fabricating Equipment, and, specifically, 621.945 for Boring Tools.

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