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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Library bill of rights to guarantee privacy

The Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate decided Monday to support a library bill of rights. The bill would guarantee privacy to library users and the development of library collections.
The Faculty Senate discussed the bill at its meeting Friday, but did not approve it because of its reference to the USA PATRIOT Act’s infringement on privacy rights of library users. It was then sent back to the Academic Affairs Committee for further discussion.
Cady Engler, academic affairs chairman, said Texas A&M libraries do not keep a history of what books individuals have checked out in the past, and that if subpoenas were issued under the PATRIOT Act, only records of what books were currently checked out by an individual would be available.
Robert McGeachin, director of the West Campus Library and member of the Academic Affairs Committee, said that under the PATRIOT Act, any records of an individual deemed suspicious could be accessed.
“The (PATRIOT Act) can ask anyone for anything,” he said. “It’s not just for library records, it’s for anything.”
The Academic Affairs Committee voted to remove a paragraph from the library bill of rights that addressed members of the A&M community challenging academic research materials and the PATRIOT Act’s influence on intellectual freedom.
According to the library bill of rights, “The privacy and confidentiality of library patron records are threatened by the subpoena powers of the … PATRIOT Act of 2001.”
Aside from removing that statement from the library bill of rights, the committee made no other alterations to the bill.
Engler said the paragraph was removed because it caused confusion and conflict among Faculty Senate members.
“There’s no point of leaving (the paragraph) in if it is causing controversy,” Engler said.
McGeachin said that if A&M library records were subpoenaed under the PATRIOT Act, it would be referred to the University lawyers.
Engler said the Academic Affairs Committee supported this policy because of privacy concerns.
“What someone checks out from the library — their reading preferences — should remain private,” Engler said.
The revised version of the library bill of rights will be voted on by the Faculty Senate at its meeting on Dec. 2.

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