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Foerstel, himself one of the leaders in the effort to expose the FBI's notorious `spies in the stacks' program, writes as a partisan of privacy rights with a well-earned distrust of the FBI's efforts to excuse itself from observing those rights. In fairness to the other side, however, he also gives full play to the arguments of national security and for the prevention of the flow of `sensitive' information into foriegn hands. In this extensively documented and thoroughly researched tale, he offers many stories of the courage and fortitude of librarians opposed to this program, from the jailing of Zoia Horn to the eloquent indignation of Columbia University's Paula Kaufman and the tenacious Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee. Less happy is his picture of the heavily politicized National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) and others who have acquiesced to the spying. The chapters on the political ramifications of the program and the legal context of library confidentiality are also valuable--although it is possible to argue with some of Foerstel's conclusions. But this illuminating, cautionary work is bound to remain an authoritative source on a vitally important subject. Library Journal
. . . the book can be compelling and even, melodramatic as it may sound, frightening reading. Booklist
As part of its Library Awareness Program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted numerous counterintelligence activities in libraries, including requesting confidential information on library users based solely on their nationality. Written by a librarian whose own institution was the target of such intrusions and who later helped to develop confidentiality legislation, Surveillance in the Stacks is the first book to document and analyze the FBI's wide-ranging surveillance of libraries. Relying heavily on previously classified FBI reports, the book traces the recent history of federal library surveillance, documents the media and congressional response to the Library Awareness Program, and discusses the professional and legislative moves that have been taken to safeguard library confidentiality.
Following a brief introduction, Herbert N. Foerstel begins his study with an overview of library surveillance, its background and significant examples, and a detailed analysis of the Library Awareness Program. Chapter 2 looks at the FBI's documented activities in libraries, including their visits to Columbia University, New York University, the University of Maryland, and the New York Public Library. The role of librarians in surveillance is addressed in chapter 3, which includes discussions of librarians as information filters, as assets, and as potential KGB agents. The final chapter on law and library surveillance, explores the issues of free speech and inquiry, state confidentiality laws, and attempts at legal restraints. The book also surveys the confrontation between the FBI and the library profession and relates the content of numerous disturbing FBI documents, including one that reveals an extended investigation of librarians who criticized the Bureau's program. This timely work will be an essential addition to the collections of both public and academic libraries, as well as a useful resource for courses in special libraries, library ethics, and first amendment issues.
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