BURLINGTON -- The American Library Association honored University of Vermont librarian Trina Magi last week for her efforts to organize opposition to portions of the USA PATRIOT Act. On June 27, Magi received the Elizabeth Futas Catalyst for Change Award at the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans -- a gathering that drew roughly 18,000 librarians from across the country and featured guest speakers such as Madeleine Albright and Laura Bush.
Over the past few years, Magi has mobilized librarian opposition to Sections 215 and 505 of the PATRIOT Act. The first allows investigators to access library records without having to specify a person's name or show probable cause for a search. The second gives investigators access to information from anyone providing electronic communication services. That includes libraries.
In addition to her work with librarians, Magi also accompanied Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders on a speaking tour around the state to raise public awareness about the law. Sanders told the ALA, "Magi's efforts to reform the PATRIOT Act have proven that one person's actions can affect change in this country."
But Magi says the real difference, so far, has been "minimal." "This issue has not gone away yet," she says. Magi notes that Congress recently reauthorized the PATRIOT law, making only slight changes. "They can ask for a bunch of information and just go through it and see what's there," she says. "I still have great concerns, as do many of my colleagues. It's really troublesome. We're still vulnerable."