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Librarian Hero

08/21/08 5:55PM By Arthur Milnes
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(HOST) Recently, commentator and Canadian journalist Arthur Milnes has been reflecting on public libraries, vacations in Vermont, and constitutional rights in a post-nine-eleven world.
     
(MILNES) As a child growing up in the '70s, the children's section at my local library was my sanctuary. On weekends, after school and whenever I could, I'd walk to the library - alone - and explore the world. Countless children's librarians guided me patiently, recommended books and answered my countless questions.

As an adult, I've continued with my love of libraries - I still prefer them to the Internet. My favourite is the public library in Woodstock, Vermont. I stumbled on it in 2001 on the first of what have become our annual camping escapes to Coolidge State Park. Like Vermont itself, this library is beautiful and historic.

It's upper floor is breathtaking and I joked in an email to friend sent from there only a month ago that I wished I could re-do my Bachelor of Arts in Woodstock so I could write my papers in this lovely old building.

But on our last visit, while sitting around the camp fire at Coolidge, I began to follow a story in the Vermont papers about the attempted intimidation of Randolph children's librarian Judith Flint by the long-arm of Big Brother in June.

Police arrived at the library where she works - without a warrant - and demanded she allow them access to records of library internet use. Flint refused and forced them to get a warrant from an impartial judge before they could go on with their task of investigating the death of Brooke Bennett.
I thought of the citizens of Woodstock who have sat near me in recent years as we all have emailed together from that library. What's to protect all of us from the State in this, the post 9/11, Patriot Act world, if there is no Judith Flint on hand?

And unfortunately, not all of us are as brave as Judith Flint.

In my country, our government stands quietly by - unlike other American allies - and allows a teenager with Canadian citizenship to first be imprisoned and then put on trial at Guantanamo in a proceeding that violates both our Constitutions. We have also helped the American government send a Canadian to Syria for torture.

And some days, when I add it all up, I fear the terrorists we're united in fighting are actually winning - as citizens lose more hard won rights and privacies. Because unlike Judith Flint, few of us have the courage to speak constitutional truth to power any more.

Governments need to be reminded they can be checked and that our rights as citizens come first.

Judith Flint's example gives me hope - despite the challenges on both sides of the border and in the wider world as our necessary war on terror continues.  While I have never met her - and probably never will - I am confident that to the children and families in Randolph she is a true friend.

A hero more like it, in this, our disturbing new world.
 

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