Some libraries, however, have declined to take a stand, including those in L.A. County, in the city of Los Angeles and in the cities of Torrance, Glendale and Beverly Hills, to name a few.
A warning sign “is a public notice but it is [also] a statement that you are concerned or don’t agree” with the PATRIOT Act, said Norm Reeder, library-services manager at Katy Geissert Civic Center Library in Torrance. “We don’t want to project that at all. The law is the law and we have to agree with what the law says.”
Others fear a diversion from more pressing issues, especially during tough budget times. “Libraries are busy trying to get positive things in the media,” said Barbara Custen, executive director of the Southern California–based Metropolitan Cooperative Library System. “I wouldn’t necessarily make the PATRIOT Act a banner issue. Libraries are also trying to figure out how to keep the lights on.” In addition, said Custen, some libraries would worry about offending patrons who might support the federal government’s position.
Activists counter that if they don’t make themselves heard, a disturbing situation could get worse. Right around the corner is the proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 or the USA PATRIOT Act II, which critics fear will endanger personal freedoms even more.
“The government said this is what we have to do to keep us safe,” said Joe Rubin, chair of the Monterey Park Library Board. “The president said our enemies attacked us because they hated the freedom that we had and we proceeded to destroy our freedom with the PATRIOT Act. I am saying, Who won the war?”