I haven’t had much time to chime in on the Wikileaks issue but due to a shout-out from the In the Library with a Lead Pipe blog, I feel some reflection is in order.  As the post states:

believe a richer intellectual and historical record that is fuller and more accurate is in itself intrinsically good, and gives people the tools to make intelligent decisions.” While librarians don’t handle classified government documents on a daily basis, there’s a clear connection between the philosophy of WikiLeaks and that of our libraries. Information creates a knowledgeable citizenry, and a knowledgeable citizenry makes better choices.

Yes!  Philosophically we believe that barriers to information should be removed, that censorship is wrong, and that open access is valuable.

Libraries have, for many decades, embraced unfettered and uncensored access to information.  However, we also uphold the values of intellectual property and copyright.  These documents are the intellectual property of the respective institutions.  So we have values, ethics, and codes that are at odds with each other.

What is one to believe?  Do you place the access to information above the intellectual property rights?  I will let you decide.  But consider this, do we remove all secondary materials that are in violation of intellectual property?  By that I mean if a newspaper were to publish a classified document would we or the Library of Congress remove the newspaper?

The two issues, for me, are transparency and a national library.  The transparency of the government is a necessity in our current society.  Perhaps the really issue is why does the government, of the people, refuse to be open to those very same people?  The Library of Congress’ move to restrict access to the site is shamefully, and reminds us that the Library of Congress is not our national library.  One day, perhaps, we will have a national library, but until then, we have no national librarian to speak for the people.


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