Sunday, May 11, 2008

Note to Vermont Governor Re S220 Library Confidentiality Legislation

Here's an example of another way the ALA pushes its agenda nationally. In this case, the Vermont Library Association decided to use ALA policy to create legislation requiring parents to get a court order to see their own children's library records starting at age 13. That legislation has been amended to age 16 as a compromise, but it has been sent to Vermont Governor Jim Douglas for his signature (05/07/2008). Therefore, I used the Governor's online, 1000 letter limit web form to send him this message:

Please don't sign S220 until the age that parents are cut off from children's library records is 18, not 16.

From what I can see so far, the Vermont Library Association came up with this sua sponte, and did so specifically naming the American Library Association as its source of inspiration.

Not only is the ALA external to Vermont, but the ALA has said despite what the US Supreme Court said in US v. ALA, ALA policy will remain unchanged. And that policy includes that it is age discrimination to keep children from any library material whatsoever. What the ALA is ignoring in the case it lost is, "The interest in protecting young library users from material inappropriate for minors is legitimate, and even compelling, as all Members of the Court appear to agree."

The ALA does not agree with that, yet the VLA uses the ALA as inspiration? Please - 18 at least. The VLA's interests here lies with ALA policy, not with VT's children. Don't compromise on VT children.

On this subject, I sent out the following request for information:
Dear Charlene Dindo,

Re: Legislative History of S.220 ( ), please advise me of, or tell me how to get access to the legislative history of S.220. I am asking you since your name is associated with that linked document, but please forward this to someone who can answer the below questions if you can or may not.

In particular, I am looking to see the source of this legislation, namely, whether that source is internal (Vermont Library Association) or external (American Library Association) to Vermont.

Regarding the age of the children originally proposed to be protected from invasions of privacy by their own parents being age 13 and up, I would like to see if and how that age has changed any, if at all, during the legislative process, and why. I see the age is currently set at 16. How did that happen and why -- was it based on similar rights obtained by children in Vermont at the same age (like driving, voting, drinking) or was it based on "compromise," and who were the parties to the compromise and what were their arguments.

I shall assume these records are available under some open records law, and I will be happy to pay reasonable costs for photocopying any information that answers my request. Please call me at [# elided] to advise of the cost before it is incurred, but anything less than $25 has my blanket approval and no call will be necessary.

I will also assume public notice has been made of this legislative activity and that public records of public hearings are available, perhaps even transcripts online, and any related hearings. I would like to have the URLs for that information, and I would like to learn how I can obtain that information otherwise.

Lastly, if the bill is headed for the Governor's signature as a Vermont Library Association source suggests, please advise me of the expected date of signature and of the means to contact the Governor so that I may exercise my own intellectual freedom in this matter. Given this, if my requests for information can be available in a timely fashion so that I may make an informed comment, that would be greatly appreciated.

FYI, I have begun to follow this issue, and I have a public list of links to related materials here: I would really like to know what media coverage has been provided on the issue so that I may determine the extent to which that coverage was fair and balanced, then advise the Governor accordingly.

Thank you very much.

CC: Vermont Library Association; S.220's introducer; S.220's drafter; Mary Minow of LibraryLaw fame


  1. Oh my. I just noticed the bill as originally submitted by the VLA would have prohibited parents from accessing the records of any child--no minimum age limit! The exception for the "under 13" language was "exclusively" for the library to collect overdue materials and fines! What an outrage!

  2. This just in. The Vermont Department of Libraries is now also following the ALA's lead. Its 2008-2009 Green Mountain Book Award was just awarded to a book the ALA awarded as its top book of 2006 for children as young as twelve. Looking For Alaska contains graphic oral s3x and is otherwise pervasively vulgar.

    I do, however, give credit to the VT Dept. of Libraries for making this award for children in ninth grade and up, and not for twelve year olds. To that extent it is not so alarming. (It's a little alarming that any pervasively vulgar book should be promoted in public schools given Board of Education v. Pico.) I note, however, this book may never have come to the fore as it has were in not for the ALA's award.

    I believe this is relevant to show another way Vermont librarians are affected by the ALA's actions. Thank goodness they had the sense not to push it on twelve year olds like the ALA did and still does.

    Thanks go to Words Are My Life - We Have a Winner! for bringing this to my attention.

  3. My name is Retta Dunalap, executive director of Vermonters for Better Education.

    I believe I can answer some of your questions.

    My organization supported the age to be raised to 18 as a parental rights issue. I submitted language to the committee that would do this. Two other parents went in to testify and wanted the age of 18 as well. There is legislative history online at the legislative web site but the meetings were also recorded and you can request the testimony. There should also be a file with submitted documents that you can get.

    The source of the legislation was the Vermont Library Association and I am sure they were backed by the ALA as well. If you go to the VLA's web site you can find minutes of board meetings in which this legislation was discussed well over a year before it came to the legislature. They hired a lobbyist to specifically to lobby in favor of the bill.

    The age of 16 was a compromise between 13 and 18. There was discussion of similar rights obtained by children in Vermont. We knew that 18 was not going to happen. Also, it was not like they “asked” anyone would they be willing to compromise. It was simply the number in the middle.

    All but one of the meetings was duly noticed. One parent wanted to testify in the House about the bill and they got things "mix" up at the end of the session. She got to testify after it was passed out of committee. There was floor debate about the bill as well. There is no record of what was said on the floor. I do know that a few legislators talked about parental rights and this bill.

    On May 2 the legislature went home and I am not sure of the timeline for the bills but I think you are running out of time to say anything to the Governor.

    This bill will cause confusion in some Vermont school/public libraries. My local community library is a public library and also the school library. The library trustees and set the age at 18 years ago. So what do they do now? They do not keep the records separate nor do they keep much in the way of records. My guess is that they will have to follow FERPA although they are also a public library. There are other Vermont libraries in this particular situation. I did testify in House Judiciary about this conflict that they are creating but it was too late. They had already passed it out.

    I will tell one of the other parents about this blog.


  4. Fascinating comment. If I understand you correctly, the VLA has been working on this for at least a year and likely following the ALA's lead. (I think definitely, based on the linked contents of one of the links I added in my original post.) Professional lobbyists sheparded this along, then the people of Vermont had no say until the deal was done.

    Would that be a correct assessment that the people of Vermont had no say until the bill was already ready for the Governor's signature?

    Do we have a bill here that:

    1) takes away parental rights and gives them to the state,

    2) allows children access to potentially state-supplied s3xually inappropriate material, and

    3) allowed little or no input from Vermonters in the usual democratic fashion,

    4) yet the VLA (and Vermont-NEA, etc.) is happy with this process and outcome?

    Does this sound like anything to anyone?

    Personally, I wonder what the founders of Vermont would say about this and about current Vermonters allowing this to happen as it apparently has.

  5. The bill is now law. The Governor never responded to me, nor did anyone in the government respond to my other letter.

    Remember how people opposed to the bill never got a timely chance to speak up? Well the VLA patted itself on the back for getting what the public did not, and with the help of the ALA and the ACLU:

    "Special thanks to:...

    "John Shullenberger, who ably shepherded our bill through the legislative process and persuaded the House Judiciary Committee to make some time for us in the final days of the legislative session."

    And notice the ALA is thanked as well, the very person who refused me access to take ALA classes on library law open to all--until I applied, that is:

    "Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom of American Library Association, for her counsel and support"

    Hey, did opponents of this bill get equal access? Look at the extraordinary access these people got, including Gail Weymouth, who developed the "talking points" and who happens to have served on an ALA Intellectual Freedom committee:

    "Karen Lane, Susan Monmaney, Louis Battalen, Sandra Lindberg, Jenny Hermenze, Paul Erlbaum for providing testimony to the legislative committees, and to Gail Weymouth for helping to develop talking points (and making a brave attempt to get to the State House in a horrible winter storm)"

    Guess who the state librarian "advocated" for -- I'll bet not the people of Vermont: she's a "state coordinator" for the ALA who created the Green Mountain Book Award that just used an ALA-awarded oral sex book for this year's award (linked in a previous comment)! Given her allegiance to the ALA, I doubt she acted in the interest of Vermonters (I wonder if there is a law regarding dereliction of duty or otherwise abusing the public trust):

    "Sybil McShane, state librarian, for her advocacy with the governor's office"

    Look at this -- the ACLU testified (the very guy who said, "there's no evidence that online sex offender registries increase public safety, in fact, they might just do the opposite" is now decreasing public safety more by helping to prevent parents from parenting their children), but not the bill's opponents:

    "Allen Gilbert of the Vermont ACLU for his counsel and testimony in support of the bill"

    The above quotes are from the VLA's own blog at VLA and VSLA Succeed in Getting Library Confidentiality Bill Enacted. By the way, I commented on one of the VLA's blogs and the freedom of speech people deleted the comment. If I recall, I just asked them to clarify some things.

    If I were a Vermonter, I would view this as my government taking away my rights by, among other things, favoring those with out-of-state interests whilst cutting out the right of those opposed to the bill to speak and to have access to the government in a fair and equal fashion. I'm not surprised given many of the people involved were or are major ALA players. I really have to give credit to the ALA for effectively wielding its propaganda power and its propaganda agents in Vermont to get what it wanted in Vermont and not what the people of Vermont wanted. I suppose the ends justifies the means for the VLA, the ALA, the ACLU, and now the Vermont state government.

    No matter the wording of the bill and its merits or not, the process by which Vermonters opposed to the bill were cut out or left out, according to my understanding of the facts including comments on this blog, borders on being unAmerican. In short, I would be outraged and possibly launch some kind of action to restore democracy. At a minimum, political pamphlets to unseat incumbents should be considered. The linked article shows an example where they have been successful when the issue of libraries and children has been raised.

  6. For clarification about some erroneous statements and reader conclusions:
    In reference to the statement
    "The source of the legislation was the Vermont Library Association and I am sure they were backed by the ALA as well. If you go to the VLA's web site you can find minutes of board meetings in which this legislation was discussed well over a year before it came to the legislature. They hired a lobbyist to specifically to lobby in favor of the bill."

    1. VLA began working on a stronger law to protect patron records three years ago as documented in their long range plan. It was the impetus of Vermont librarians and town officials NOT ALA. And was a result of harrasment by local law enforcement officers during a criminal investigation who threatened individuials with USAPATRIOT ACT powers under which they have no authority.

    2. ALA was consulted since they are the national association; just as the Vermont Bar Association seeks consultation from the American Bar Association, The Vt Medical Association consults with the American medical association etc.

    2. VLA hired a lobbyist a year prior to drafting the confidentiality language to help with a state aid to libraries bill , not as specifically to get the conficentiality bill passed as Ms Dunlap asserts.

    3. The majority of Vermont public libraries are not automated so they have do not have a means of supplying the information on what a person is reading until materials become overdue. Vermont librarians recognize that there may be conflicts that need to be resolved.

    3. It was the legislature and their committees who determined the number of people that would testify. In fact the Senate judiciary committee sought ADDITIONAL testimony from parents not librarians.

    4. The assumption that Vermonters were not informed,allowed to speak and that it was an undemocratic process is completely erroneous. Libraries all over the state provided the full text of the proposed bill to their patrons before the bill was introduced, which is how Ms Dunlap became informed.

    5. ALA has no authority in Vermont. The overwhelming majority of Vermont Librarians are NOT ALA members. The State Librarian is not 'the coordinator for ALA." VLA has a duly elected chapter councilor who informs VLA of ALA business and votes according to Vermont Librarians beliefs.

    6. Mr Kleinman's statement that his comment was deleted is false. I happened on this blog by reading his comments that are still there. The site is intended for the VLA membership. He has been able to post his comments as a courtesy of a very small and overburdened organization with miminal web space.

    Finally, given Mr Kleinman is not a Vermonter isnt it ironic that he argues against "out of state" efforts to influence Vermonters while he is doing his utmost to spread his propaganda? Vermonters, it is widely known, are fiercely independent, not easily swayed by national opinion or trends and we are highly respectful of the individual's opinion even when it is in direct conflict with our own.
    Democracy did work; it just didn't favor your position.
    Signed, A proud Vermonter and Public Library Supporter

  7. "Finally, given Mr Kleinman is not a Vermonter ..." So much for free speech! The guy tried to make a point and you have a problem with that? Are you sure you are interested in free speech or only in what you say speech? Obviously the guy is onto something that you should spend so much effort responding and not even identify yourself!!! Fiercely independent? Did you skip over his remarks about all those Vermonters being ALA connected? Hey, why don't you admit who you are?

  8. Anonymous 1, thank you for writing here.

    Anonymous 2, thank you for writing here. Thanks for defending me, but I can do it myself. I believe the information I provided in combination with the links to relevant sources adequately explains my positions and allows people to make up their own minds for themselves.

    Further, I have been contacted by people who expressed to me exactly what I said about the lack of the ability to be heard in a timely manner. I understand the need for someone in the VLA to defend such actions, but I have only reported what I believe to be the truth based on those contacts, the various sources I provided for all to see, and the great similarity of the VLA's actions to those advocated by the ALA.

    Frankly, what Anonymous said about the public notice does amelioate my concerns generally, but I am still surprised to hear from people saying to me what they did, and I am still surprised to see how well entrenched the ALA's influence is in the Vermont people who brought about this law.

    Recall that age 13 was the original target for cutting off parents from access to their own children's information. I doubt that's what Vermonters really wanted. And I think age 16 was just a compromise. How does one compromise between right and wrong?

  9. For the record, my comments were not erroneous. AND the only incorrect thing I said or rather typed that was that the age of 18 was set “years” ago. It was actually set “months” ago while this bill was IN committee. Not only, this but a couple of my local community library trustees did not realize this was a bill until late in the game. So much for everyone being on board with this.

    Further more, the libraries that I use, and I use several, did not EVER inform me of this bill. I, “Ms. Dunlap” found out about the details of this bill from an upset parent whose 10 year old child was asked to sign a permission slip to give the library permission to give out the 10 year old child’s records to her mom who was standing next to her.

    Not to mention that if it was indeed the case, that library patron records needed to be protected from improper police activity or because of the Patriot Act, fine then deal with this but this bill dealt with so much more.

    I am also a proud Vermonter and a public library supporter. In fact, I used public libraries to educate my children back when I was homeschooling them. We would check out 40-50 books at a time. It was extremely useful for me to be able to call and get the names of over due books so that the kids could go and find them so that they could return the missing books. This bill as passed would have interfered with how I used the libraries to educate my children. If we as a society make it difficult for people to use brick and mortar libraries, they will come under more pressure from online libraries. It is getting easier by the day to simply use books online or purchase them online second hand for pennies.

    At my local community library, the librarian is asking the trustees to institute a policy that would make it so that I would have to sign TWO documents to get the information of a child under 16. Because it is a community/school library, I would need the community librarian and the school principal’s signature to get the names of the missing books. My kids were NEVER in the public schools. Why in the world would I need the school principal’s signature? I will tell you why. The records of the school and the community are combined and this is a problem created by this law.

    Oh, well, there is now a new law and policies must change. The first vote on the passing the new policy at my local community library trustee meeting failed. The age will most certainly be set at age 16 because it is the law but how he parents of the 16 and under crowd are treated in the policy will make all the difference.


  10. “And was a result of harrasment by local law enforcement officers during a criminal investigation who threatened individuials with USAPATRIOT ACT powers under which they have no authority.”

    This is a red herring. Harassment by local law enforcement officers has NOTHING to do with preventing parents from being told what books their minor children have checked out or overdue. Legislation that protects patrons, including children, from intrusive individuals AND respects parental rights could have been crafted, but it was not.

    “VLA hired a lobbyist a year prior to drafting the confidentiality language to help with a state aid to libraries bill , not as specifically to get the conficentiality bill passed as Ms Dunlap asserts.”

    True, according to the VLA minutes of 5/11/06, a member proposed hiring a lobbyist “to follow through on its work to increase state funding of libraries.” However, in the same discussion, Trina Magi said, “A lobbyist may be helpful in working to strengthen the confidentiality of library records.” The idea of using the lobbyist for the library patron confidentiality bill was there from the get-go.

    Also, it is interesting to note that in the 10/13/05 minutes where strengthening the Vermont statute regarding confidentiality was first mentioned that “Discussion included the possibility that parental rights over children’s records might become an issue…” I guess maybe they hoped no parent would notice and the legislation would slip through as introduced, which would have given confidentiality from parents with NO MINIMUM AGE (except for <13 for the purpose of libraries retrieving books and collecting fines….but not for parents who just want to know). (The bill was changed in the Senate to make the exception for parents of children “under age 16.”)

    “Libraries all over the state provided the full text of the proposed bill to their patrons before the bill was introduced, which is how Ms Dunlap became informed.”

    This is blatantly false. First of all, I am the mother whose daughter was given the permission slip to sign. That is how I became alerted to the bill, and I am the one who informed Retta.” Secondly, I checked with my librarian to be sure that they hadn’t notified patrons, and they had not. In fact, I have heard of no one who had been notified by their library when the bill was introduced.

    “Democracy did work; it just didn't favor your position.”

    I would not say that democracy worked exactly. The House Judiciary Committee voted on this bill without an opposing viewpoint, even though there was known to be one. I requested to testify in the House Judiciary Committee in opposition to the language that prevented parents from their children’s records. In fact, I was on the schedule one day, went to the State House, only to find out the discussion had been cancelled. Two weeks’ later, I received a phone message giving me about 2 hours notice that the discussion in committee would take place. I was not home to receive the call, so I missed giving testimony. Even though the committee chair knew that I wanted to testify, the committee voted with NO opposing viewpoint. The professional lobbyist for the VLA, of course, had no problem with such short notice since he is at the State House daily. I cannot say that this was done intentionally, but it still happened, and a voice representing Vermont parents was not heard.

    The committee heard my testimony 2 days later, but it was really too late since the vote had already taken place. I believe one or two representatives might have voted differently had they heard my testimony. Would this have changed the votes in the full House? Probably not, but at least then we could say that it had been fair.

    Also, can we say that democracy worked when Vermont parents hadn’t a clue that this legislation was in the works? This was not brought to the legislature by Vermont parents, but by the VLA, and only furthers the ALA agenda with its extreme view of privacy for children, that includes stomping on parental rights.

  11. This is a very revealing blog. It appears to evidence a systematic attempt to force Vermont to comply with the agenda of a very few who know how to manipulate people and push an agenda. That was apparently successfully done in Vermont.

    I noted it here. An apparent VLA member refuted it. In that new light, I mollified some of my statements.

    Now two more comments have revealed that the VLA has apparently successfully hidden its agenda and is currently propagandizing--including on this very blog--to protect how it was successful in forcing its agenda on Vermont.

    This is a really interesting blog on how library associations work against the interests of the public.

    I am known for saying some unbelievable things. But they are only unbelievable because the facts are unbelievable, not because I am spinning the facts. But I back up my statements with facts. This blog appears to be an example of that, with my support being the actual statements of the actual people involved.

    My statements were based on information I received. I altered them when the VLA apparently misled me. Look at that, they are so slick even I was fooled. Then you two came back to set the records straight.

    This blog seems to evidence a propaganda effort by the VLA against the interests of Vermont citizens, and it does so in as countered by citizens themselves. Outstanding.

    Will the Vermont Governor and the Vermont people do nothing about this in the face of this information?

  12. "That was apparently successfully done in Vermont."

    Yes and no. The fact that the language was changed to give exception to parents of children "under age 16" was a partial victory for parents. It was not wat the VLA wanted or expected, as evidenced by the The Annual Report of the Intellectual Freedom Committee:

    "Although the committee is disappointed that the legislature compromised on the issue of confidentiality for minors and allowed parental access to records of minors under the age of 16, the committee is pleased with the other provisions of the bill."

    I still can't believe it when I read the words "allowed parental access." And they think the Patriot Act is chilling?

  13. I am willing to set the record straight anytime any place. We need more parents to be willing to, at the very least, question what is going on. Just ask some questions. Parents might find that they do not exactly like the answers.

    Unfortunately this is politics and the facts do not always matter. There is a saying, which goes like this, “bad cases make bad law.” This bill is an example of that. There are kids who need help and their parents are probably the reason why the kids need help. Supposedly, this language was necessary to protect these kids. However, this law will restrict the actions of far more good parents than it will restrict the activities of the bad parents. This law does not provide protection for children of “bad” parents. It is designed to hide the problem.

    Just thinking out loud here -- Maybe the librarians should be held responsible when they discover that kids are being abused or into drugs or need medical attention because of a sexually transmitted disease? I would think that this could set a library up for a lawsuit if it could be documented that they KNEW there was a problem and did nothing. There is such a thing as en loco parentis, which means in place of the parent. Are the libraries now acting in place of the parent? These kids are still minors or are kids 16-18 now emancipated adults and thus on their own concerning library records? Did the Judiciary committees even think about these questions?

    Having said all of that, we were fortunate to have gotten the changes that were made. The law is better now than when it was introduced. I do thank the Senate Gov. Opts committee for that much.

    Anyway, now that I am more aware than I was before, I will be watching….


  14. This just in from the freedom of speech people, the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, on a blog the OIF maintains that allows no comments:

    Vermont Enacts New Library Confidentiality Law, by J. Kelley, ALA's OIF, June 6, 2008.


Comments of a personal nature, trolling, and linkspam may be removed.