Fictional librarians might be meek and mild but those in the Kitchigami Regional Library System appear ready to stand up to authority when they think First Amendment rights are being abridged.
The Kitchigami Regional Library System, unhappy with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department's seizure of nine computers, has asked Judge Fred Casey to limit the dissemination of what it argues is private data on one of its computers.
Marian Ridge, the library system's director, objected that all nine of the Brainerd library's computers were initially taken, thus shutting down the library's popular offerings of Internet and e-mail service.
Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan countered that the library's lack of cooperation resulted in the temporary removal of all the computers. Eight of the computers were returned within two weeks as law officers investigated an alleged stalker. No arrests have been made in the case.
The concerns raised by the library system and its attorney John Erickson are ones that are worth raising in our information age. Issues such as access to information and the privacy rights of library patrons will continue to be important as our reliance on computers increases.
In many ways this world of computer drives and megabytes is new territory for law enforcement. There's no doubt law officers and prosecuting attorneys are trying their best to do a very difficult job, but every once in a while there's a time when it's worthwhile for citizens to raise questions to make sure that the course taken by the public's legal authorities is appropriate.
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