With Freedom Comes Great Responsibility

Advocacy, ALA Washington Office, Legislation, Privacy

By: Valerie Nye

More than 500 librarians and library supporters attended Library Legislative Day in Washington D.C. on May 1-2. With the Institute of Library and Museum Services threatened for elimination with President Trump’s “skinny  budget,” this year’s event saw more attendees at Library Legislative Day than any previous year.

A group of librarians in the New Mexico delegation
Photo credit: Rob Banks

This year, I was fortunate to attend as a member of the New Mexico delegation. All of the Legislative Day attendees from all of the states met on May 1 at the Liaison Hotel in Washington D.C. to receive to training about the Library Legislative Day priorities. Librarians were encouraged to speak to their legislators about fulling funding the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), support net neutrality, support the current E-rate program, and bring broadband access to all libraries. Librarians were also asked to speak to their representatives about three privacy issues.

  • Senators were asked by attendees to adopt the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387), which was adopted by the House in February, without weakening amendments. The act would provide Fourth Amendment protection of emails, texts, tweets,and cloud-stored files. It would also prevent warrantless searches and seizures of these materials.
  • Librarians also asked legislators to reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), an act that will expire at the end of 2017. While Section 702 does not give the government the right to target Americans, it does allow the intelligence community to discover information about U.S. citizens when non-US citizens are being surveilled. Librarians are asking Congress to reform this section; to stop warrantless searching of US citizens’ phones and internet communication, limit the “incidental” collection and dissemination of information about US citizens, and regularly disclose how and how frequently Section 702 is used by the intelligence community.
  • Finally, librarians asked elected officials to reject any legislation that may come forward that would require technology designers to create a “backdoor” that would allow encrypted technology to be unlocked.

On May 2, the attendees went to appointments with their state-specific legislators. The New Mexico delegation met with our two Senators and three Representatives and/or staff representing the legislators’ educational priorities. Almost all of the elected officials and/or their staff members strongly encouraged us to consistently communicate with them about issues that were of concern to us. They told us that phone calls, letters and email are all really important to them and their decision-making.

As of this writing, all of these issues are still of concern. Please consider contacting your representatives to let them know what you think about these privacy issues.  It is easy to find your elected officials and make your voice heard!


Valerie NyeValerie Nye is the library director at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. She has been active in local and national library organizations; recently serving on ALA Council, the New Mexico Library Association, and the New Mexico Consortium of Academic Libraries. Val has cowritten or coedited four books including: True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries, published by ALA Editions in 2012. True Stories is a compilation of essays written by librarians who have experienced challenges to remove material held in their libraries’ collections. She has an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her time away from the library she enjoys road trips in convertibles and kayaking on lakes. You can contact her at valnye@gmail.com.

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