Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I am Melvil Dewey's furious anger

A Richard J. Cravatt published an editorial in the Boston Globe yesterday which you can read here.

Cravatt's thesis is a many-splendored thing.

First, that librarians actively protect terrorists and actively seek to prevent their arrest and prosecution.

After a credible terror threat to Brandeis University was traced to a public computer at the Newton Free Library on Jan. 18, the FBI and local police rushed to secure the computer, with the possibility of identifying the nature of the threat and the person behind it.

What law enforcement had not anticipated, however, was that their pressing search would be abruptly sidetracked when Kathy Glick-Weil, the library's director, informed them that no one was searching anything without a warrant.

Glick-Weil, like many of her counterparts who are members of the American Library Association (ALA), was well-prepared to stymie the investigative efforts of government officials.

The laws of Massachusetts state that a court order must be obtained for the disclosure of library records. If Cravatt is so hot for law and order, he can start by respecting the laws of the Commonwealth.

This is where he starts to shank them off the fairway:

The would-be terrorist who threatened Brandeis University, far from relying on an expectation of privacy and the ''right to be left alone," in fact loses those protections once he conducts his transactions in the public marketplace. As Heather Mac Donald, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, recently observed, ''Like it or not, once you've disclosed information to someone else, the Constitution no longer protects it. This diffuse-it-and-lose-it rule applies to library borrowing and Web surfing as well, however much librarians may claim otherwise.

Hmm? The diffuse-it-or-lose-it rule? This isn't just overly general, it's wrong. The library is public property. It's records are not. I don't have a right to expect that a phone conversation that takes place on the street is private. But I do have the right to expect that my phone records are private.

Not only does Mr. Cravatt not understand how this area of the law works, but he appears to have not watched TV in the last 25 years.

We all have jobs to do, Mr. Cravatt. Yours is, I assume, pretending to be smarter than everyone else. This Sisterhood runs libraries. The FBI enforces the law and catches bad guys. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, specifically the legislature, writes laws. This division of labor becomes important after Cravatt says:

...why a library director could even exercise the authority to block access to vital evidence requested by the police and FBI, stalling an investigation during an ongoing crime where stakes are high. More to the point, why are librarians, whose professional training concentrates on mastering the use of the Dewey Decimal System, making any decisions that affect law enforcement?

Here's a question for you: Who cares what a English Ph.D has to saw about law enforcement or the administration of a library? Can I have the list of who died and made you boss faxed to me? Richard, I know it makes you feel all warm and tingle-y to use your outside voice and show us how brave you'd be if it was you going after those terrorists but a few minutes of thought over your point would prevent you from looking like an ass, provided you aren't already used to it.

We AREN'T making any decisions about law enforcement. The Commonwealth made the law and the library director followed it. The FBI has the right to do warrantless searches if they feel they are necessary to prevent an imminent threat. They did not feel that was the case and so they applied for a warrant.

The system worked perfectly, Mr. Cravatt. Does it tell you anything that you are the both the angriest person about this situation AND the person who knows the least about it? Does that happen to you a lot?

And thanks for the shot about the Dewey Decimal System and librarian training. My degree had more to it than that, but if facts never got in the way of you making your point, don't let them start now.

Further, I'm proud of what Dewey accomplished and of what the Sisters and I do everyday. I dare say we contribute more to society everyday than a windy, bloviating, factually-challenged English Ph.D from Punditville, USA.

This is one of the stupidest editorials I've ever read. Awful. Appalling. You can write to letter@globe.com and tell them what you think Richard Cravatt's embarrassing Andy Rooney impression.

Amen, Sister! I wish people would think twice before insulting an educated and intelligent profession, because they are often going to regret it. And have people lost their goddamn minds, thinking it's okay for the feds to just get whatever information they want from whatever agency they choose for whatever reason they have? Again... I am thinking of defecting.
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