When we asked Oak Park “What kind of community do you want?” earlier this year, safe and secure were at the top of the list. We trust that you also want to preserve your privacy and constitutional rights as Americans in a country and a world with increasing demands that our governments do more to keep us safe.
These concerns over the broad power that governments wield regarding our basic rights is one of the reasons we traveled in May to Washington, DC, with hundreds of other library leaders from across the country, to talk with our legislators about issues that are important to libraries and to all of us.
Librarians and those who support them are champions of our civil liberties—particularly the right to privacy and the right to access information. And this advocacy demands that we be vigilant, especially when it comes to the work and actions of our legislators and our government.
As leaders for the Oak Park Public Library, we take our role as advocate for you—our patrons—seriously. During our trip to Washington, one of the legislative issues we raised with our elected leaders was the USA Freedom Act, written to mitigate some of the more dangerous effects of the USA Patriot Act, particularly those that give wide latitude to our government to collect information about Americans without a warrant, including the borrowing records of library patrons.
We are proud and pleased that the USA Freedom Act was passed in June by Congress and signed by the President with all of the protections intact that the library community and others requested. We have thanked those legislators who voted for the USA Freedom Act for their support and leadership.
We discussed many other key legislative initiatives during our visit: copyright provisions that preserve fair use of information in the digital age, laws to eliminate barriers to the public’s access to taxpayer-funded research, legislation to strengthen funding for school libraries as proven paths to student achievement, and laws that mandate Internet neutrality, or the “open Internet,” for everyone.
We were proud to support our community and our nation’s libraries in Washington, and will continue to be vigilant on your behalf. If you want to learn more about these issues, please contact us. You may also access legislative information on the American Library Association’s website at www.ala.org/offices/wo.
Matt Baron, President, Oak Park Public Library Board of Trustees
David J. Seleb, Executive Director, Oak Park Public Library