Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


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In the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the United States Congress passed special security and anti-terrorism legislation which included the USA Patriot Act. In response to the passage of the Act in 2001 two Councils of the American Library Association (ALA) passed resolutions reaffirming the basic principles of that organization. This article is an account of how two early ALA Council resolutions CD 19.1 (Midwinter 2002) and CD 20.1. (Midwinter 2003) were drafted and brought to Council. It is also a reflection upon the nature of political and social discourse and the fixing of meaning. It asks whether the deliberations of the ALA support Habermas's (1983, 1989) notions of an undistorted speech situation as that which should, or can, be an ideal for public deliberations, or Leo Strauss's (1952) views on the strategic use of silence, ambiguity and contradiction as necessary for important forms of dialogue and for political functioning or Derrida's (1976) assertion of infinitely delayed meaning. Transcripts of the ALA Council Midwinter discussions of CD19.1 (American Library Association 2002) and of CD20.1 (American Library Association 2003) were requested from the ALA and reviewed. Also reviewed were minutes of the 2002 and 2003 Midwinter meeting of the Committee on Legislation (ALA Committee on Legislation 2002, ALA Committee on Legislation 2003) and minutes of the 2003 meeting of the Intellectual Freedom Committee (ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee 2003). Individuals identified as speaking at these deliberations were contacted from November 2003 to January 2004 and asked to respond to a questionnaire. The respondents, although small in number, provided a rich supply of information on which to base the following account.