In the wake of the nine-eleven attacks, the federal government massed several new powers, including the ability to demand information from libraries about what books any patron has checked out. Susan Henricks, director of the Carneigie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque, explains what she’d do if the feds approached her employees. Henricks says if they have a search warrant or a subpoena, they would not break the law but would stop, call the director and then call the legal counsel or the city attorney. She says the secrecy involved is a bit shocking. The U-S-A Patriot Act prohibits library employees from telling the patrons about whom the government is inquiring. Library employees who divulge the information could face huge fines and jailtime. Henricks says the library doesn’t do much to keep track of who checked out what books once they’re checked back in. She says they don’t have a reason to know, other than to find out what things are out and need to be returned.Henricks says most people don’t know about the government’s powers in this area, as it happened in the whirlwind following the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.The measure was enacted in October of 2001, one month after the attacks.
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