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Libraries and 9/11 and the U.S.A. Patriot Act


In November of 2001, shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, the Library Research Center (now CIRSS) mailed a questionnaire to 629 public libraries in Illinois. With funding from the Illinois State Library system, the survey sought to understand how public libraries were responding to new security measures and to the events of September 11, 2001. The questionnaire received 553 (87.9%) responses, providing insight into questions regarding security, staff attitudes, collection development, attitude toward users, and general knowledge of the USA PATRIOT Act. The results of this survey were published in the Winter 2002 issue of Illinois Libraries. After reviewing the results of that poll, the Library Research Center undertook an additional survey, a sample weighted by size of population served of 1,503 of the 5,055 public libraries in the U.S. serving populations over 5,000. These libraries provide services to 96% of the U.S. population. The survey was conducted on December 4, 2001, with a follow-up to non-respondents on January 9, 2002. A total of 1,028 (68%) libraries responded, with many comments from librarians indicating their interest in the findings. The study covered a number of areas in public library service, including security measures, changes in attitude toward patrons, influences on collection development, knowledge of the USA PATRIOT Act, and information requests by government authorities. It is important to remember that both the Illinois and national surveys were conducted only a few months after passage of the USA PATRIOT Act and before Attorney General John Ashcroft's decision on May 30, 2002, to extend the rights of the FBI to monitor activities such as Internet use and public meetings at libraries, churches, and other public gathering places. A year after the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act of October 2001, the Library Research Center prepared a follow-up national survey exploring how librarian attitudes toward patrons' privacy had changed. The survey was mailed in October 2002 to directors of 1,505 of the 5,094 U.S. public libraries serving populations of over 5,000, with 906 responses (60.2% of those sampled). An analysis of both national surveys will appear in the forthcoming Patriotic Information Systems: Privacy, Access, and Security Issues of Bush Information Policy published by Idea Group, Inc.

Project PI(s)

PI: Leigh Estabrook
No project contact.
Funded by: Illinois State Library

Research Area(s)

Project Team