Thursday, August 24, 2006

Librarians as Freedom Fighters, Maybe Felons

Joseph Huff-Hannon has written an article "Librarians at the Gates," which mostly praises librarians as human rights heroes. It was posted on the The Nation's website on Tuesday. I found it through LISNews. I really like the first paragraph:

"Courage, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And in an era of increasing controls on the gathering and dissemination of information, many Americans are unaware of the courageous stands librarians take every day."

The article goes on to tell several short stories about how librarians are standing up for the public right to information when others are not.

What jumped out at me in the article was the statement that if the Sensenbrenner bill on immigration H.R. 4437 becomes law as written, it will become "a felony for a librarian to issue a library card to an undocumented immigrant." What does this mean? We issue cards to people who are documented for residence. Does the statement mean public libraries will have to check card applicants for citizenship or a visa?

I have found nothing on this topic in a quick search across the Internet and in blogs. The summary of the bill linked above does not mention libraries. I have not read the text of the bill. Does anyone know anything about this possible library felony?

I have several thoughts. First, librarians do not usually issue the cards. Circulation clerks issue cards. Second, we do not keep track of who makes a library card for a client. Who would the federal government arrest? Would directors be held accountable because everyone in libraries is under their supervision?

How would the federal government enforce a no-library-card-to-illegal-immigrant law? Issue rules for documenting all library cards to a federal standard? Would all citizens be given citizenship cards so they could safely be given a library card?

Would the federal government forego regulations and instead rely on capturing illegal immigrants with library cards? Find a card and take a library to court?

I hope this felony idea is just a rumor. If not, it is another case of Congress totally out of touch with real life. (Think DOPA.) We may see another case for library courage. Ready to stand up for freedom again?

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