The Board of Trustees of the Paul Pratt Memorial Library endorses in general principle the “Freedom to Read” and “Library Bill of Rights” statements of the American Library Association. The principles set forth in these documents declare that the freedom to read is guaranteed by the United States Constitution, and that free expression and access to ideas must be protected. Massachusetts General Laws (Chapter 78, Section 7) states that data revealing “the identity and intellectual pursuits” of a library patron “shall not be a public record.”
In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the United States Congress passed without public hearings and with little debate the USA Patriot Act (Public Law 107-56), which contains provisions that threaten citizens’ rights to privacy and intellectual freedom. The Patriot Act allows the FBI to search and seize records and property, including library patrons’ reading records, without a warrant and imposes a “gag order” to keep the searches secret.
The constitutionality of the provisions of The Patriot Act has yet to be decided by the courts. Meanwhile, it is our duty as Trustees to protest the enforcement of this Act upon the patrons of the Paul Pratt Memorial Library. The campaign against terrorism should not be waged at the expense of the civil rights of U.S. citizens, as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.