Librarians perplexed over counter-terrorism guidelines

Latvia's libraries are perplexed about recommendations published by Latvia's security service, the Security Police, over reporting visitors who express interest in Islamic extremism.

"We fully support it, but some fundamental interests of the way libraries work should be taken into account," Augusts Zilberts, a PR person at the National Library of Latvia, told LTV January 9.

While Dzidra Šmita, head of the Riga Central Library, said that librarians should "understand and discuss the possible course of action with the Security Police, taking into account the security interests of the state but at the same time not violating Library law that stipulates confidentiality of the readers' interests."

Recently published Security Police guidelines ask librarians to pay extra attention to people who may be turning to radical Islam and also explain how to identify potential extremists, pointing out telltale signs like interest in Daesh-related magazines, wearing clothes sporting the logo of the terrorist organization, watching terrorist videos and expressing extremist views.

Librarians are surprised because they had not received the communique directly. It only came to their attention via the media.

"I wouldn't want to be cynical in a serious situation such as this, but I'd say I haven't thought that the librarian of the Wobbly Duck parish would start their day by perusing the Security Police website," said Šmita. 

Librarians say they would like to help identify potential terrorists, but they also don't want to report people who've come to the library to learn about Islam.

"We don't judge what people read and research, what they're interested in. Because there are numerous reasons why someone may visit a library," said Zilberts.

Employees at the Riga Central Library, however, say they have in fact engaged in some crime-busting in the past, using data about people's reading history and internet use. 

Meanwhile the Library Council wants to meet with the Security Police to discuss the guidelines and the service's expectations from the libraries. 

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