Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fried Librarian Giblets Awakens ALA Council to Take On Yet Another Non-Library Issue

Always willing to dive into non-library issues, the American Library Association [ALA] is now gathering steam to oppose the Transportation Security Administration's latest efforts to ensure transportation security.  The excuse being used is a familiar one, that library patrons are losing their freedoms.  Sure, pilots are complaining, but an association of librarians?  For example, see: "Pilot Rebellion: Pilots Refusing to Use Full Body Scanners or Submit to Patdown; One Pilot Union compares Patdown to 'Sexual Molestation,'" by Sharyn Alfonsi and Jessica Hopper, ABC News, 9 November 2010.

The remainder of this post will be actual emails from ALA Council members, but I'll remove email addresses and telephone numbers.  Watch as the idea develops, with people opposed and in favor of the ALA making this one of its issues.  As you read, you'll see why I entitled this post, "Fried Librarian Giblets Awakens ALA Council to Take On Yet Another Non-Library Issue."  This is my favorite quote: "Try to at least have some reality in your public utterances as a member of Council."  I wonder why inappropriate books for children and library fraud and crime are not ALA Council issues, but fried giblets is:

Hi Council,

I’m writing because I received this in my email box and was wondering what ALA’s stance is on this since it does concern an ALA member.  It’s something I hadn’t thought about until I received the following note:

So, a question for you in your ALA councilor capacity.

I'm looking into Midwinter travel plans and am basically entirely freaked out that I have to choose between having a naked photo taken of me or being groped in order to fly to Midwinter.  (Or maybe circumventing this by expensive, time-consuming travel plans involving a less convenient airport? Maybe.)  I'm considering writing a blog post, or series of them, collecting information on backscatter machines, TSA newly-intrusive patdowns, your rights and lack thereof, et cetera.  Of course this has me convinced that I will end up on some kind of terrorist watch list for exercising my right to free speech, but I'm thinking I kind of have to suck that up because freedom isn't all that meaningful unless we're willing to someday take a stand on it.

What I'm wondering is: given its longstanding emphasis on privacy, does ALA have a stance on these issues?  And given its value of intellectual freedom, are they going to have my back if I face repercussions for speaking out?

Any good answers from council?

Patrick Sweeney
Branch Manager
East Palo Alto Library
San Mateo County Library
2415 University Avenue
East Palo Alto, CA 94303

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.  Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
-Groucho Marx

Could someone interpret this question for me in specific terms of the airport being referenced?  Does the San Diego airport have a “reputation” for more intrusive TSA personnel? 

This has been a topic of concern recently on the GLBTRT list, especially in terms of the implications for transgender members who will travel to ALA functions.  I would be glad to hear from this list and share that back with the RT.


I don’t think that it is airport specific, rather concern over air travel in general. Most major airports have begun requiring the new x-ray technology, with the option of a really, really thorough frisking if you refuse the x-ray thingy. The frisking leaves no part of one’s body untouched – no hiding anything in folds or creases of skin, etc..  Actually pretty creepy.

I’m not sure it’s an ALA issue, but is sure is a civil liberties issue.

Christopher Bowen
Councilor at Large
I flew the last two weekends through the following airports: New Orleans, Minneapolis, Hartford (CT), Detroit, Houston (Hobby), and Las Vegas. In none of those did I see anything different than what has been in place for some time. I did have my laptop (the computer, not the case) chosen for a random swipe once.

Having said that, I have not had problems flying (bearded or not) in spite of the very public stands which I took against many aspects of the USA PATRIOT ACT in its early days. My then Congressman even invited me to participate in a panel which included the U S Attorney for the area, and was held less than 60 miles from New York City.

As an Executive Board Member, a number of us and key ALA staff requested our records under the FOIA in late 2005 (if I remember correctly). The message which *I* received was that there was no file on me.

Now, I admit to being less vocal lately (lots of reasons), and as much as I hate some of the implications of the very intrusive nature of the new security, I think it is all for show, does nothing to really improve our safety, and in fact may place us in more danger than ever. (Actually...I feel a blog post coming on...comparing the feeling of safety under TSA to the safety from porn that some filtering advocates believe!)

Every time I take off my shoes, I am more at risk to either slip on the floor and crack my head open and/or catch a foot fungus than I have higher security from a terrorist.

The sad bottom line news, these very measures have stripped our freedoms and means that the terrorists have won!

Michael Golrick
ALA Councilor-at-Large 2006-2009, 2009-2012
[ALA Exec Board member 2003-2006]

Hi Council,

Thanks, I’ve received a number of varying responses to this email.  Let me clarify, I am not looking for Council to take this issue up (I would REALLY prefer we didn’t) but, as a new councilor, I didn’t want to speak on behalf of council and answer the member’s questions incorrectly that they ask at the bottom of their email which are:

“What I'm wondering is: given its longstanding emphasis on privacy, does ALA have a stance on these issues?  And given its value of intellectual freedom, are they going to have my back if I face repercussions for speaking out?”

Really, I’m just looking for some appropriate answers for this member.  Maybe something to the effect of;

While we are concerned for our member’s safety and privacy, this particular issue is more concerning for civil liberties than for libraries.  A number of organizations who specialize in civil liberties/rights violations have organized to make a statement in regard to body scanners, however this particular issue is outside the scope of ALA.

Let me know your thoughts.  I don’t have a good response as to whether or not we are going to have their back if there are repercussions for speaking out or what “having their back” would entail.
I must have been very lucky so far--have done a lot of traveling and have never been forced to make a decision between being zapped or being groped.  It appears, from the posts here and from some Googling I've just done, that my luck may be running out.

My choice will be to "opt out"* of the scanning; I'm more concerned about the health issues of exposure to x-rays than I am concerned about being patted down.  Or, at least that's what I'm saying today.

I agree with Christopher when he says, "I'm not sure it's an ALA issue, but is sure is a civil liberties issue."


*Apparently, one must use this exact phrase in order to avoid the scanning.==========
I am not sure that we have an exact answer to the question at this time.  ALA often takes a position on civil liberties issues.  These issues do affect library staff and patrons so it is good when we take positions on these kinds of issues.  In this case there is a close connection since we do use airports and airlines to attend conferences.  We often join with other groups on these kinds of issues.
At the moment there is not really a definitive position but there could be if a resolution on this issue is written and brought before ALA Council for a vote.
Diedre Conkling
Lincoln County Library District
P.O. Box 2027
Newport, OR  97365

Whoa Mr. Berry! I understand why the authorities have instituted these methods, I’m just not sure that a random inspection under one’s breasts or between one’s buttocks really makes flying significantly safer.

Christopher Bowen
Councilor at Large

From: John Berry
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2010 12:53 PM
To: Christopher F. Bowen
Subject: Re: [alacoun] RE: RE: Privacy Concern from an ALA member

Christopher,  No, it's not a civil liberties issue, it is a public safety issue.

You can blame the guys who fly airplanes into building, behead reporters and put bombs in their underwear and in their tennis shoes.

Basically, you or those who are worried about this, can go through what every other air traveler goes through, or ride the train or bus, or stay home.

Try to at least have some reality in your public utterances as a member of Council.   Best, John D. Berry, U.C. Berkeley
I am glad we are having this conversation.  As a librarian and a citizen I am very concerned about these new TSA procedures.  For health reasons I too do not want to use the full body scanners and so will be force to endure being "patted down" by TSA.  I also believe this is a privacy issue and a civil liberties issue.  There may come a time I decide not to attend conferences I have to fly to.   I think we should as a professional organization speak out against these invasive practices.
Monika Antonelli
ALA Councilor at Large==========
See these two brief articles on Budget Travel magazine’s site:

They provide additional information about the body scanners and recent TSA rules.

Jim Rettig
University Librarian
Boatwright Memorial Library
University of Richmond
Richmond, VA  23173
2008-2009 President of the American Library Association
I am posting this to the Council list at the request of [name elided.]

      Jim Rettig

From: [Name elided.]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2010 4:48 PM
To: Rettig, Jim
Subject: Re: [alacoun] TSA information


I still lurk on the Council list, and all this discussion about privacy issues with the new scanners seeing "everything" makes me wonder about our viewing actors and actresses wearing skimpy beachwear on television shows, or women who participated in the wet tee shirt contests as a youth but are now grandmothers, or any male in a spandex swim suit. Are they among the 1% who refuse a full body screening. Most of us don't mind it, and for this antique, overweight, grandmother, not having to wait for a shout to all, "female assist needed!" causing people to look at me, who when she finally arrives asks, "do you have someone to get your carry on luggage?" watching helplessly while she piles all the shoes, purse and other stuff on top my laptop (because that's easier) even though I ask her not to do that, sitting down, "Have you ever done this before?" holding up one foot, then the other, standing up to be waned and patted each time my metal replacement knee buzzes, makes my opinion of that full body scan in 3 seconds heavenly.

Would you mind posting this alternate opinion.

[Name elided.]



The Library Journal has discussed and linked to this blog post resulting in a spate of hits.  See "ALA in the Airport?," by Annoyed Librarian, Library Journal, 15 November 2010.  She pointed out, "The arguments have gotten stranger since Safe Libraries Guy blogged about this last Wednesday."  Go see what she says as she is one of the top librarian bloggers.

And another librarian "got a chuckle out of the title of this blog--Fried librarian giblets."  See "Fried Librarian Giblets Awakens ALA Council to Take On Yet Another Non-Library Issue," by Norma, Collecting My Thoughts, 10 November 2010.  A commenter there points out you can "Check the Council List Archives for the Email Subjct line '[alacoun] Privacy Concern from an ALA member.'"



  1. Wow. That was kind of hilarious in a very sad way. It doesn't sound like something experienced professionals would be discussion - it looks more like something that belongs on a conspiracy theory board.

  2. Julie, thanks for commenting.

    By the way, the ALA Council has sent the URL of this blog post to its members, judging from my getting about 45 hits/hour, all day, and has been discussing me directly.

    I don't have time to blog further this evening, but I will be writing a followup blog to this one, and the followup may be potentially frightening as it may evidence the ALA has been co-opted by, well, you'll see. So please stay tuned, and I love your comments here. Please keep it up.

    Hint, to get you thinking, know that my blog post appears to have resulted in most ALA Council members who responded by email being opposed to the ALA getting involved in this airport security matter.

    Despite that consensus, it appears the ALA has already and will continue to charge full steam ahead in addressing this airport security matter--here is one email I received as a result of this blog post:

    Dear Council:

    The Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks developments concerning the use of full-body scanners at airports, just as it tracks many other issues related to  privacy and government surveillance as part of its Choose Privacy Week/National Conversation on Privacy initiative.   The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC),  an affiliate of Choose Privacy Week, has filed lawsuits aimed at halting the use of full-body scanning at airports without probable cause.
    See:  Group Demands Immediate Halt of Full-Body Airport Scanners,
    While the use of full-body scanners may not be a library issue, it is a privacy and civil liberties issue.   OIF suggests that libraries may want to consider hosting a deliberative dialogue or conversation about full-body scanning for Choose Privacy Week, and recommends that the association evaluate opportunities to support the efforts of other organizations, such as EPIC, that are addressing these issues. 

    Best regards,

    Julius C. Jefferson Jr.

  3. what is the reasoning behind deletion of only one name and email address in the chain?

  4. Anonymous, the reason I removed only one name is that the circumstances were different. The person who's name I removed revealed personal information about her physical characteristics that she shared in a manner I do not believe she would wish to share with the whole world.


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