Know Your Rights: Intellectual Freedom & Libraries

The public library as an institution is charged with providing access to information, regardless of content. In doing so, the library stands firm in upholding the First Amendment and the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. This is why, as Jo Godwin famously stated, “A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”

The Seattle Public Library strives to meet the widest range of information needs through the careful and intentional selection of physical and digital items by librarians, by borrowing resources from a network of library systems throughout the country, and with purchase requests from you, our library patrons. If there is some piece of information that we don’t have, library staff will try to find it with you.

Continue reading “Know Your Rights: Intellectual Freedom & Libraries”

I’ve Got a Secret: Intellectual freedom and you.

image-of-statue-outside-national-archives-courtesy-of-takomabiblelotIntellectual Freedom can mean many things: the right to read scandalous or subversive books, patron privacy, and access to information. Today I want to focus on access to information – and more specifically, government information.

When politicians talk about government transparency, what do they mean, exactly? What kind of information is given to the public at large, and what is kept secret? I’m one of those slightly paranoid, liberal types, and these are some of my favorite questions to research, read about, and debate with friends.

There’s more than one rule requiring the Government to give information to the People, but the big daddy of them all is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552. The FOIA is a 1966 amendment to the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The FOIA is a journalist’s best friend, and it allows any person (including citizens of the US, foreign nationals, universities, etc.) to request information from the Federal government. The hoops through which one must jump are many, but a diligent and patient researcher will be rewarded. Unless, that is, the information is CLASSIFIED…

image-of-statue-2-outside-national-archives-courtesy-of-takomabibelotThe National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is home to many of the US’s most prized documents, some of which areavailable online. On the NARA website, you can read a telegram sent by Jackie Robinson to JFK, start your genealogy search, or request military documents.  The archives are very rich in information, just a percentage of which is available online.  An arm of NARA is the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which oversees the classification of information. Continue reading “I’ve Got a Secret: Intellectual freedom and you.”