legally, ethically & practically

Jessamyn West
Rutland Free Library




These two pieces of legislation on the surface don't have a whole lot in common except... [next]

USAPA: Context

USA PATRIOT Act - stands for The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act [next]

CIPA: Context

CIPA stands for the Children's Internet Protection Act, a very small part of a larger appropriations bill which passed Congress December 2000. [next]

USAPA: Legally

In short: Section 215 gives the government new powers to ask for and receive records in your library.

BUT, the DOJ disagrees with organizations such the ACLU & ALA on the extent of the new laws and how invasive they are, or can be. Previously subpoenas for information came from a federal grand jury. Now they come from the [secret] FISA court. FISA orders could only be used previously if the primary purpose of the order was to gather foreign intelligence information. USAPA changed the "primary purpose" criteria to one of "significant purpose." Potential uses include.... [next]

CIPA: Legally

In short: if you get government money for net access, you must install filters on all computers
but remember: even without CIPA there is no constitutional protection for anyone to view obscene images or child pornography


USAPA: Ethically

While librarians may or may not be split as to how much of the USAPA is vital for National Security there are generally conficts with USAPA and patron privacy policies, and librarians' and library staff's rights. [next]

CIPA: Ethically

The American Library Association was one of the organizations fighting to overturn this law, but it is now the law of the land, with most appeals exhausted. Official responses need to be tactical, not reactionary. [next]

USAPA & CIPA: Practical concerns

Core values of librarianship Involve staff, the public, the media and the board in your work on these issues.


USAPA: Practically speaking

Step one: talk about it

Legally, you can't do as much after an FBI visit as you can before....

Discuss options with board, publicize the USAPA and the library's reaction to it, to patrons, media and other staff. Remember your discussion options are limited once you've had a visit by officials [though the ACLU would sure like to talk to you....]


USAPA: Practically speaking

Step two: facilities


USAPA: Practically speaking

Step three: staff and community involvement


CIPA: Practically speaking

First: Do We Need to Filter?

If you don't get e-rate or LSTA funds, you're set... for now. Watch your purchases and keep apprised of regulations and funding streams for Internet access.

If you're opposed to CIPA on ethical grounds, start looking for sources of funding to compensate for e-rate and LSTA funds.

Do a cost-benefit analysis of all costs involved in CIPA compliance to see if complying will be worth the expense. Include in your analysis: filtering costs, maintenance and upgrade fees, hardware to run filters, staff training and administration time, additional technical staff, etc.


CIPA: Practically speaking

Second: Educate yourself


CIPA: Practically speaking

Third: Educate the Community

Your patrons should know if their terminals are being filtered, and why. Adult patrons should know they have the right to unfiltered access.

Libraries without filters may still want to offer filtering as an option without restricting underage patrons to only filtered terminals.

It's not a one way street. Libraries may decide that filtering is not a viable or cost-effective solution and forego future federal funds, forever [or for a few fortnights]


And Finally...

The choices are yours to a large degree. While certain degrees of compliance are required legally, other levels of patron interaction are up to you. Be proactive, be positive and above all be informed so you can be an advocate for your patrons and staff and the community at large.


Links & Sources





"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."
-John Ashcroft

Jessamyn West is the new outreach librarian at Rutland Free Library the editor of the weblog and the co-editor of Revolting Librarians Redux. She has written extensively about the USA PATRIOT Act on her blog and for online and print sources. She is an ALA At Large Councilor and will be one of the supporters of a resolution to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act coming before ALA Council in January.

Her "The FBI Has not Been Here" and "Make Mine Unfiltered" signs have received the odd media mention here and there.

This presentation was created in HTML using CSS. There was no PowerPoint involved in this presentation except as a nagging bad example.