Friday, March 28, 2014

A story of courage: Joan Airoldi, librarian

Do you recognize the name "Joan Airoldi"? In June 2004, Joan (a career librarian, then 58 years old) was Director of the Whatcom County (Washington state) Rural Library District. Under her direction, the Deming branch library refused to provide information requested (under the auspices of the despicable "USA PATRIOT Act") by a visiting FBI agent and the library system informed the FBI that no information would be released without a subpoena or court order (that is, without "due process" ... the equivalent of a search warrant). She also led the library board to a vote to fight any subpoena in court. When that grand jury subpoena was eventually issued, the library prepared to challenge it in court, and the subpoena was quickly withdrawn.

In light of the US government's extreme efforts to prevent groups like WikiLeaks from divulging embarrassing information about its activities and exposing it lies, Joan Airoldi's stand takes on even more significance than it had in the summer of 2004. Just for the record, if the news media in the United States had been doing its job; there would be no need for WikiLeaks. As for the claim that WikiLeaks is not a "legitimate" news organization, let me ask you this: how "legitimate" were the mainstream media outlets doing when they sold a war to the public with lies? They were carrying water for the neoconservatives. They were not doing their jobs.

We need WikiLeaks. We need courageous whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. And we need public access to the truth. Joan Airoldi was not defending the rights of libraries; she was defending our right to seek out information; to know the truth that our government would prefer to conceal from us. She was defending one of the most basic rights of citizens in every democratic society everywhere. And she was defending a core American principle against a very serious assault.

At that time, Airoldi made this statement: "Libraries are a haven where people should be able to seek whatever information they want to pursue without any threat of government intervention." That explains, in a nutshell, why she did it ... because she's a librarian who believes in what she's doing for the public, because she believes in intellectual freedom (freedom of thought, and freedom of expression) ... she's not an anarchist, a socialist or even an activist.

She's a patriot.

Sometimes American heroes are those who simply say, "No!"

Sometimes the involvement of the ordinary typical America citizen is required in the fight to preserve our liberties and our nation.

Sometimes there is a limit to the price that should be paid for comfort and security.

And a librarian named Joan Airoldi is my hero.

More about Joan Airoldi: