PHILADELPHIA -- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) will be honored by United for Libraries, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), with the 2014 Public Service Award during National Library Legislative Day activities in Washington, D.C., on May 5. Vermont State Librarian Martha Reid will present the award.

The Public Service Award, United for Libraries' highest honor for legislators who support library issues, is being given for Leahy's introduction of S.1599 the USA Freedom Act. This bill proposes amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act that would continue to protect the nation's security while implementing rules to preserve the privacy of American citizens.

Co-sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who will also receive the Public Service Award, the bill would require the government to make disclosures about the intelligence surveillance it conducts, and establish a process for declassifying opinions issued by the FISA court.

Additionally, the law would end the bulk collection of phone and other business records by the government of U.S. citizens, allow telecommunications and Internet companies to make public the number of FISA orders and national security letters received and complied with, and allow those receiving a national security letter to immediately challenge it in court.

The ALA's involvement in privacy policies stems from the library principle to protect patron confidentiality.


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"We waited for more than a decade for privacy reforms of this magnitude," said ALA President Barbara Stripling. "The public deserves more transparency and accountability than what we've been seeing from the Obama Administration. The library community welcomes this bipartisan effort because it shows us that reasonable privacy expectations are possible."

State Librarian Martha Reid praised Sen. Leahy for his longtime support of libraries and his vigilance in the protection of privacy for American citizens. "The Vermont library community is proud to have Sen. Leahy's leadership in the U.S. Senate. By introducing this bill, he echoes the voices of librarians nationwide in their concerns about current provisions of the PATRIOT Act."

The Public Service Award is given annually by United for Libraries to a legislator who has been especially supportive of libraries. The first award was presented in 1989 to Congressman Major Owens (D-N.Y.), the only librarian serving in Congress. Other recent awardees include Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.). For more information about the award, visit http://www.ala.org/united/grants_awards/public_service .