The Freedom To Read Foundation (FTRF), the American Library Association’s sibling organization, along with three other groups, filed a lawsuit October 24 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to learn how many subpoenas have been issued to libraries, bookstores, and newspapers under the USA PATRIOT Act. The Justice Department had not replied to an FOIA request for the information that was filed in August by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), American Civil Liberties Union, and Electronic Privacy Information Center. Those groups, along with the FTRF, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. “Revealing how many subpoenas have been issued will not threaten national security. It will tell us how often the Justice Department is using the very broad power it received in the Patriot Act,” said ABFFE president Chris Finan.
Robert Cannon, director of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, NC, has apologized for not warning the audience at the Novello Festival of Reading about a sexually explicit passage read by author Jim Grimsley. According to the Charlotte Observer, Grimsley presented a 15-page excerpt from his novel Boulevard on October 16 shortly after a speech by a children’s author. The excerpt, according to the newspaper, included coarse language and references to homosexual sex. Some parents walked out with their kids. Noting that he didn’t recall seeing children in the audience, Grimsley was unapologetic: “This is the world their children are going to grow up in.”
To cope with a 24 percent cut in state aid over two fiscal years, some libraries in Massachusetts may charge fees. According to a survey by the Boston Globe, the director of the Westford Public Library will ask trustees to allow the library to charge for interlibrary loans (ILL) from outside the state. The director of the Reading Public Library, however, said she would aim to absorb those costs because “preserving the ‘public’ in public libraries is so important to me.” Rob Maier, the director of the state Board of Library Commissioners, does not object to charging fees for expensive ILL services, likening them to fees for special services like copy machines or computer printers. The legislative appropriation to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners dropped from $34.6 million in FY01 to $26.2 million for FY03.
A petition (libr.org/peace/Iraq.Sept.2002.html ) headlined “We Need ‘Weapons of Mass Instruction’—Books Not Bombs—No War Against Iraq!” had, as of mid-October, gained nearly 1000 signatures from librarians and library workers in the United States and internationally. The petition was written by Mark C. Rosenzweig, an active member of the American Library Association’s Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) and an ALA Councilor. It is issued through an ad hoc web-based group created by Rosenzweig and SRRT coordinator Rory Litwin, as the timing didn’t allow it to go through a body like SRRT. There has been much debate on U.S.-based librarian electronic discussion lists about the tone and the appropriateness of the petition. However, Rosenzweig said that the petition provoked “an intense debate on the main Swedish librarians organizations list and the majority clearly favored it; many signed individually.” The petition has been sent to various
media outlets and international bodies.