Why Is New York City Planning to Sell and Shrink Its Libraries?

Defend our libraries, don't defund them. . . . . fund 'em, don't plunder 'em

Mayor Bloomberg defunded New York libraries at a time of increasing public use, population growth and increased city wealth, shrinking our library system to create real estate deals for wealthy real estate developers at a time of cutbacks in education and escalating disparities in opportunity. It’s an unjust and shortsighted plan that will ultimately hurt New York City’s economy and competitiveness.

It should NOT be adopted by those we have now elected to pursue better policies.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Articles About Library Privacy and Surveillance In Libraries

As the articles mount up we thought it would be good to set up this page, which we can further update in time, with a collection of links about articles on the subject of library privacy and surveillance in libraries.

•    National Notice:  Snowden Revelations Considered: Is Your Library, Once Intended To Be A Protected Haven of Privacy, Spying on You? by Michael D. D. White, March 8, 2015
During the McCarthy era there was also concern about what books were available in the libraries, how readily available certain books were and concern about the political leanings of librarians working in the libraries.

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. . .  the surveillance state is interested in something else: The surveillance state wants to know what you think and for that reason the surveillance state believes that libraries should tell the government what you read.

Librarians in Connecticut were the first to successfully challenge the PATRIOT Act when the FBI, along with an accompanying perpetual gag order to keep its actions secret, demanded broadly that the Connecticut librarians turn over to the bureau library records concerning what their patrons were reading and their computer use.

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Now consider this: Changes are being implemented at libraries, and the changes are particularly apparent in New York City, that would make the heroism of these librarians wanting to protect their patrons' privacy virtually meaningless except for its symbolism.
•    Noticing New York:  Snowden, Booz and the Dismantling of Libraries As We Know Them: Why Was A Private Government Spy Agency Hired to Take Apart New York's Most Important Libraries And Turn Them Into Something Else? by Michael D. D. White, October 30, 2016
Essentially, although technically a private publicly traded company, Booz Allen is virtually indistinguishable from our government itself when it comes to surveillance, with as Bloomberg Businessweek said, the "federal government as practically its sole client."  The government's surveillance work is now carried out predominantly through `private' spy organizations like Booz: "About 70 percent of the 2013 U.S. intelligence budget is contracted out, according to a Bloomberg Industries analysis."

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in 2007 the New York Public Library hired Booz Allen Hamilton to advise and help oversee a "radical overhaul at the NYPL involving real estate sales, consolidation and fund-raising." Sherman says that "in consultation with with Booz Allen" the NYPL made the decision to sell three major libraries, the Mid-Manhattan Library, the Donnell Library and the Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL).   In addition, the plan involved gutting the research stacks of the NYPL's 42nd Street Central Reference Library which held three million books, most of, and what was once the core of, its research collection.

The four libraries thus being dismantled were the four most important central destination libraries in Manhattan. SIBL was a state of the art library just completed in 1996 and the Central Reference Library has last been expanded in 2002.

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If librarians were the first to successfully stand up and oppose the intelligence overreaching and if Booz Allen Hamilton "is really an arm of the intelligence community" involved with the federal government's "most controversial federal surveillance programs in recent years" then why was Booz Allen Hamilton hired to help reorganize the New York Public Library's most important libraries?

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Why was a top U.S. intelligence spy agency engaged for radical overhaul of libraries as we have traditionally known them?
•    Noticing New York:  American Library Association Issues "Advocacy Alert" About “Massive Privacy Threat" of U.S. Government Remotely Hacking Library Computers and NYPL Issues “Privacy Policy”- Is “Privacy” At Libraries Actually Protected? by Michael D. D. White, December 6, 2016
. .  the NYPL hired Booz Allen not very long after its board was advised of the expectation that CALEA might "require" the NYPL and "to reengineer their Internet service facilities to enhance law enforcement's ability to monitor and intercept communications."
•    Noticing New York:   Too Close For Comfort? Real Estate Addresses- Blackstone, Booz Allen Hamilton, The Libraries & Bryant Park Wednesday, by Michael D. D. White, November 16, 2016
. . .  the U.S. contracts out the huge preponderance of its surveillance to private firms, and mainly to just a few firms with  Booz Allen Hamilton regarded as the “colossus” of those few.

* * * *

The potential possible connections between Booz and Blackstone were myriad, but not necessarily easy to find out about or discern if they were there.  Frankly, it hadn't yet occurred to me that I should do some simple address checking.  Now that the landlord/tenant real estate connection is identified, what does it mean?  It could actually mean a lot of things. . . .
•    The Nation: The Nation: The Hidden History of New York City's Central Library Plan, Why did one of the world's greatest libraries adopt a $300 million transformation without any real public debate? By Scott Sherman, August 28, 2013
. .  what was the role of Booz Allen Hamilton . .   hired by the NYPL in 2007 to formulate what became known inside the trustee meetings as "the strategy"?

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In January 2007, Booz Allen Hamilton was hired to assist the trustees with "the strategy." On February 7, the trustees went into executive session (the substance of which is never covered in the minutes)
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Were Booz Allen's fingerprints on the sale of the Donnell Library and other "non-core assets" owned by the NYPL? In a recent interview,
[NYPL Chief Operating Officer David] Offensend was tight-lipped about the NYPL's association with Booz Allen . . .  “The primary reason that Booz Allen was retained was to help the library develop a broad strategic direction on a lot of different fronts." (NYPL spokesman Ken Weine won't release the documents that emerged from the NYPL's partnership with Booz Allen, for which Booz received $2.7 million
•    Citizens Defending Libraries: Physical Books vs. Digital Books, March 1, 2015

•    On The Media: Librarians Vs. The Patriot Act, June 5, 2015
. . . in the post 9/11 environment, America is like that. They are watching, taking books out of the library, and they are watching our library behavior. Under Attorney general Ashcroft. Things have changed.

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only six weeks after 9/11. At the time, 67% of Americans said they'd be willing to forfeit civil liberties if it helped keep America safe. Ten years later, only 27% would say the same. So, if the ALA poked holes in the Patriot Act - they risked public backlash.

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. . . mostly, librarians figured the best way to protect their patrons' privacy was to have nothing to protect. So after a book was returned, the record of its borrower was deleted, and they started shredding paper records daily.
•    The Nation: Librarians Versus the NSA- Your local library is on the front lines against government surveillance, by ZoĆ« Carpenter, May 6, 2015
Under the Patriot Act, the government can demand library records via a secret court order and without probable cause that the information is related to a suspected terrorist plot. It can also block the librarian from revealing that request to anyone. Nor does the term "records" cover only the books you check out; it also includes search histories and hard drives from library computers. The Muslim-American who uses a library computer to correspond with family abroad, or the activist planning a demonstration against police brutality-those digital trails are vulnerable to surveillance, along with everyone else's.
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[Alison] Macrina wants librarians and library users to be less complicit.

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Librarians have frequently been involved in the fight against government surveillance. The first librarian to be locked up for defending privacy and intellectual freedom was Zoia Horn, who spent three week in jail in 1972 for refusing to testify against anti-Vietnam War activists.

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Section 215 allows the FBI to request "any tangible thing" relevant to a terrorism investigation, without having to show probable cause that the "thing" is actually connected to a terrorism suspect. The provision applied to library circulation records, patron lists, Internet records, and hard drives, and it prohibited any library worker who received such a request from discussing it with anyone.

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"The FBI is poised to intrude once more on library confidentiality, this time with an arsenal of surveillance that even our library confidentiality laws may not be able to prevent," a retired librarian named Herbert Foerstel, who'd helped to raise the alarm about the bureau's Library Awareness Program in the 1980s, warned in a Baltimore Sun op-ed in the spring of 2002.

* * * *

The rebellion eventually attracted enough attention that in a September 2003 speech, Attorney General John Ashcroft attacked the librarians directly, accusing them of "baseless hysteria." . . . .  Ashcroft used the word "hysteria" five other times throughout the speech, and then again a few days later during a speech in Memphis.

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 Because of the gag orders, it is impossible to know how many other libraries have received similar requests. At the very least, the case of the Connecticut Four, like the Snowden leaks, validated those who refused to take the government's assertions regarding Section 215 at face value. Adam Eisgrau, the managing director for the ALA's Office of Government Relations, told me that as a result, we know now that librarians "were not hysterical, but absolutely prescient."

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. . The digital shift has increased the privacy challenges. . .
•    American Libraries: Toward the Post-Privacy Library? Public policy and technical pragmatics of tracking and marketing, by Eric Hellman, June 16, 2015
Libraries have a strong tradition of protecting user privacy. Once all the threat models associated with the digital environment are considered, practices will certainly change.
•    The Guardian:  You are not what you read: librarians purge user data to protect privacy- US libraries are doing something even the most security-conscious private firm would never dream of: deleting sensitive information in order to protect users,  Sam Thielman, Wednesday 13 January 2016
Perhaps that sounds like harmless information, but Polly Thistlethwaite, chief librarian at the Graduate Center, said that guilt by association with controversial books has a long history and that librarians have a duty to protect readers of “heretical texts”.
•    The Washington Post: Librarians won't stay quiet about government surveillance, by Andrea Peterson, October 3, 2014
In the case of government surveillance, they [librarians] are not shushing. They've been among the loudest voices urging freedom of information and privacy protections.

Edward Snowden's campaign against the National Security Agency's data collection program has energized this group once again. And a new call to action from the ALA's president means their voices could be louder and more coordinated than ever.
American Libraries Magazine: Advocate. Today. One hour a day makes a difference- American Library Association President’s Message, by Courtney L. Young
We are passionately dedicated to our profession and to fundamental human rights like education, privacy, and intellectual freedom.
Slate: Long Before Snowden, Librarians Were Anti-Surveillance Heroes, by April Glaser,  June 3 2015
. .  Before there was Snowden, there were librarians.

Librarians were among the first to raise concerns about the Patriot Act while it was being debated in Congress. The American Library Association was a signatory on the earliest coalition-led opposition to what became the Patriot Act, which passed in October 2001. Within a few months, a University of Illinois survey found that 85 libraries had been contacted with government requests-and that's likely a low figure, considering that Patriot Act requests came with a gag order.
•    Waging Nonviolance- People Powered News and Analytics: How your local library can help you resist the surveillance state, by Melissa Morrone July 8, 2014
The third principle in the American Library Association's Code of Ethics is, "We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted."

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Google, Facebook and other major Internet corporations, by contrast, may be calling on the U.S. government to curb surveillance, but they have their own plans for how to turn our data that they collect and retain into shareholder value.

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Like any other institution, of course, libraries are beholden to interests, which can inhibit their potential. Library staff as well as patrons are heavy users of Google and other big-data platforms, and in some cases these companies are looking to partner with libraries. E-books and digital rights management present privacy issues within library collections.  Library trustees often come from the business sector or other layers of municipal power structures and may bring correspondingly conservative outlooks to library operations.

* * *
Librarianship may be shaped by the broader society, but it is also marked by opposition to a dominant commercial culture. Librarian Barbara Fister reminds us that libraries do something Google and Amazon don't do: "We serve communities, not just customers, and our goal is the common good, not profits."
•    Brooklyn Daily Eagle: DHS head Johnson asks Brooklyn groups for help fighting home-grown terrorism- Concerns about lone-wolf terrorists `lurking in our communities', by Mary Frost, May 8, 2015
Johnson and Johnson: Brooklyn Public Library president Linda Johnson (left) hosts Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's (center) event event at Brooklyn's central Grand Army Plaza Library.  Event was held as platform for Johnson (Mr.) to ask community groups to assist in surveillance because of concern for possible "lone wolf" terrorist attacks.
Saying that the global terrorist threat has evolved to become more decentralized and complex, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met with community and religious leaders in Brooklyn . . .   at the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza.
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“We are concerned about . .  the so-called lone wolf who could be lurking in our own communities . .”
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Brooklyn Public Library President Linda Johnson hosted the event.
Johnson with Johnson again: Brooklyn Public Library president Linda Johnson as host stands with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's (podium).
•    Citizens Defending Libraries: Testimony in connection with the NY City Council Hearing Re NYPL's 42nd Street Central Reference Library and Midtown Campus Plans Opposing Proposed Sale of SIBL, the Elimination of Books and the Surveillance of Library Patrons, December 14, 2016.
Last night at the Mid-Manhattan Library the NYPL . .  the NYPL [at the presentation of their plans for the libraries future] said they would answer the public's questions, but the NYPL refused to answer critical basic questions about their plan.

Asked how many books SIBL used to hold, not just the other day, but before concoction of the Central Library Plan when we know that there were well over one million books in SIBL, and, similarly, asked how many books the Mid-Manhattan Library used to hold the NYPL refused to answer.  

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NYPL Won’t Answer The Question: . . why, in connection with its library reorganization plans banishing books, the NYPL hired Booz Allen Hamilton, a top private surveillance firm with the U.S. government as its main client, shortly after the NYPL's board (according to its minutes) was advised that it was expected that the federal government was going to "require" the NYPL "to reengineer their Internet service facilities to enhance law enforcement's ability to monitor and intercept communications."

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The City Council is hereby advised that these questions have been asked and the NYPL has refused to answer them.. .  You as City Council can ask these absolutely essential questions and insist on answers.

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Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer [in response]:  "As you know. .  I am very familiar with the PATRIOT Act. . .we are the place where everyone comes to feel safe.  The New York Public Library, like the Queens and Brooklyn Library, have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of undocumented folks. . . .  You’ve stated your position, your concern: I understand it; I disagree with it."
 •    Washington Examiner: Trump likely to have Kobach, Kelly run DHS, by Gabby Morrongiello, December 6, 2016.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly are likely to be tapped for secretary and deputy secretary of homeland security, according to a top transition official familiar with the president-elect's current thinking, but the source would not reveal which of the two men is favored for the top post and which is likely to be deputy secretary.
 •    McClatchyDC: Reports: Immigration hardliner Kobach misses out on top Homeland Security job,  By Lindsay Wise and Dave Helling,  December 7, 2016.
President-elect Donald Trump has passed over Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for the top job at the Department of Homeland Security. . .

Kobach, an immigration hardliner, was thought to be under consideration for the post. . .

. . . It's possible that Trump might still offer Kobach a role at DHS or the Justice Department.
 •    Daily Kos: Be afraid, very afraid: Kobach plan as Secry of Homeland Security, by VaallBlue, November 21, 2016.
Suddenly there is a lot less guesswork in figuring out what Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach  would do as a member of Trump's Cabinet . . .

For those not familiar with Kris Kobach, he has a proven record of conceiving and implementing racist laws on immigration and voter suppression. . .

On Sunday, Kobach made no effort to hide what he proposed to Trump if he becomes the new head of the DHS.

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Item #5:  Disenfranchising voters. . .   it is clearly a plan to issue regulations about voter rolls along with amending the National Voter Registration Act.

Given what Kobach did in Kansas, it's not hard to guess that this is about. As Secretary of State, Kobach suspended or cancelled more than 30,000 would-be voters' registrations . . .

* * *
Kobach's plan refers to some use of the Patriot Act with some action taken to "forestall future lawsuits."  That sounds ominous.
 •    Esquire: This Is the Man Spearheading the Newest Voter Suppression Effort- Kris Kobach has quite a track record,  By Charles P. Pierce, August 31, 2016.
Kobach has been the guy that John Ashcroft tasked [when Kobach was at Homeland Security engaged in surveillance/profiling programs] with weeding out foreign travelers in the wake of 9/11-and Kobach's program was so deeply involved in racial profiling that it was shut down. 
 •    LJWorld: Democrats accuse GOP of vote `caging'- Republicans deny making list of voters to challenge, by Scott Rothschild, December 27, 2007.
In an e-mail message sent to state Republicans, Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kris Kobach reviewed the party's accomplishments this year.

In the message, he states: "To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years."

Mike Gaughan, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said, "Vote caging is a pretty direct form of voter suppression."

 . .  In the past, there have been reported incidents of caging lists targeting predominantly minority districts that tend to vote for Democrats.

* * * *

But Christian Morgan, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, denied the party was doing what Gaughan described.

"It's just a term of art," Morgan said of caging voters.

He said what the party has done is try to identify voters and their views on certain issues.

"We cage that person's information," he said.

Then when the election comes around, the GOP will . . .
  •    Project Censored: Ralph Nader, in October Berkeley CA address (recorded) about his latest book, "Breaking Through Power," December 30, 2016.

If you start out with 1% or less surrounding a particular issue that reflects what Abraham Lincoln called the public sentiment, that is public opinion, you're almost unstoppable. And if you connect on the left/right issues. . . . . Civil liberties, the PATRIOT Act, left/right with a vengeance. They don't want the government to search your home and not have to tell you for 72 hours or get into your medical, financial records without probable cause, or your library records without probable cause.

. . . You want to see a legislator or a lawmaker go pale and have the knees shake?: Walk into their office with conservatives and liberals and say "We are a left/right coalition." They don't know how to game you.. . They don't know how to game a union of both.  [Audio of this quote is used in our CDL YouTube video]
For an overview of how consistently government surveillance effect thread through the history of libraries in the United States see this article:

 •    First Monday (Peer reviewed journal): Libraries and National Security: An Historical Review, By Joan Starr, December 6, 2004.
The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks launched the United States into a new era of defensive preparedness. The U.S. federal government’s first legislative action in October 2001 was the passage of the . . . USA PATRIOT Act introduc[ing] a greatly heightened level of government intrusion into many aspects of ordinary life, including library use.

* * *
 An inquiry into the similarities and differences with the past may aid in suggesting a response . .

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World War I . . . also brought with it increasingly restrictive information controls and a nearly complete stifling of dissent. Beginning in 1917, Congress passed several pieces of legislation designed to regulate information content and transmission. . .  declaring that any materials containing treasonous or revolutionary content would not be allowed in the mail. . .

. .   authorizing the establishment of an official censorship board . . the Sedition Act, substantially limiting free speech by making it illegal to speak, write, print, or publish anything critical of the U.S. government. Penalties for breaking this law included steep fines and incarceration. Throughout this period, the library community voiced no public or private objections . .

In addition to information restriction, military authorities also requested librarians’ assistance in patron surveillance. In the spring of 1918, military intelligence issued an order to remove from libraries any materials on explosives, as well as to report the names of requestors to the Army. Libraries readily complied, some developing innovative methods for reducing and monitoring access to the materials.

Indeed, librarians responded with extreme initiative, complying with both the letter and spirit of these laws and regulations. . . The pressure to conform suppressed nearly all dissent. The library community completely abandoned the very few librarians brave enough to hold opposing views>

* * *

World War II. . . came the 1942 War Department order for libraries to remove materials on munitions and cryptology, as well as to report to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) the names of individuals requesting the materials. . . .

. . . In addition, the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF), an early World War II propaganda agency, asked individual libraries to collect intelligence on public perceptions. Librarians were eager to participate . .  providing an "entrance of American librarians into the world of trenchcoats and the coeval emergence of information science and military intelligence in the United States."

 . . . librarians apparently considered privacy a peacetime luxury . . .

* * *

The Early Cold War and McCarthyism. . . What began as strictly an anti–Soviet book purge soon spread to any materials viewed as anti–American. Working librarians had to decide how best to respond to powerful citizen groups, and they debated the merits of book removal, reshelving, and labeling.

The [American Library Association] Council issued two groundbreaking resolutions during this time that provided the profession’s first substantial national support for intellectual freedom. . . intellectual freedom was a major topic, and "general sessions exhorted librarians to uphold democratic values of free inquiry and to combat censorship." The Council adopted the new Bill of Rights, asserting, "Censorship of books … must be challenged by libraries . . .

 . . . The second major document to come from the ALA was the 1953 Freedom to Read statement . .  a product of a large coalition of librarians, publishers, and educators. The statement asserted the value of "diversity of views and expressions," as well as denounced the practice of selecting books based on "the personal history or political affiliations of the author" . .   and clearly articulated the professional responsibility of librarians and publishers to defend intellectual freedom.

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The Late Cold War and the Library Awareness Program. .  June 4, 1987, two FBI agents entered Columbia University’s Mathematics and Science Library and asked a clerk about foreign library users . .  the reference librarian overhead the request and referred the agents to the Acting University Librarian . . . who refused to cooperate with the FBI. . . . she reported the incident . . .

The story of this encounter broke in the national media with a front–page article in the New York Times . . .  The national media picked up the story, and it spread to "all parts of the country and abroad."

The following year. .  the disturbing information that the FBI had conducted over 100 background searches on librarians or their associates, many of whom were presumably "those who had criticized the [Library Awareness] program"

. . .     “documents show that librarians have continued to be contacted after 1987, that people who opposed the program have been investigated, and we are not as secure as we thought."

The year ended with ALA filing appeal with the Justice Department for a full disclosure of the FBI program . .  "We feel we have been grossly misled about the nature, scope, and continuation of the FBI Library Awareness Program"

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. . .  in a parallel study of the public by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Rainie, et al., 2002). By so doing, they were able to show that librarians are far more likely (67 percent) than the public (35.3 percent) to object to the federal government removing information from its Internet Web sites.
For more on the related issue of physical vs. digital books see out other Citizens Defending Libraries page:

  •    Citizens Defending Libraries: Physical Books vs. Digital Books

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