February 17, 2018

ALA Releases Full Report on Law Enforcement in Libraries

By LJ Staff

The American Library Association (ALA) has released complete findings from its survey measuring law enforcement activity in America’s libraries. Preliminary findings, released in June, revealed that at least 137 legally executed requests by federal and state/local law enforcement in both academic and public libraries have taken place since October, 2001, including 63 requests for records in public libraries and 74 such requests in academic libraries. The full report of survey findings includes contextual data including responses to interviews, ALA noted.

The report, by Abby Goodrum, Ph. D., Velma Rogers Graham Chair, School of Journalism, Ryerson University, Toronto, noted, ‘Although respondents shared a strong sense of the library’s role in providing education on these issues [regarding potential law enforcement access to library records], there was some disagreement about how politicized a library should be. Most pointed to library policies and training efforts – particularly those governing staff responses to external requests for information – as appropriate library responses to recent legislation, but some librarians urged caution and balance in addressing the Patriot Act publicly.’

Also, some 38 percent of respondents from public libraries said their institutions had not trained to staff in how to handle law enforcement requests for information; in academic libraries, the figure was 54 percent. ‘This finding reinforces the notion that a significant number of academic and public libraries either are not aware of the potential impacts from the Patriot Act in their library, do not consider these potential impacts important, or otherwise have other more pressing priorities and concerns,’ the report noted.