Department of Justice Rescinds Order for Libraries to Destroy Documents

We librarians have been monitoring this one. About a week ago, the Department of Justice asked the Superintendent of Documents to instruct depository libraries to destroy all copies of several DOJ publications, mostly dealing with asset forfeiture. DOJ claimed that the documents were “training materials and other materials that the DOJ staff did not feel were appropriate for externaluse.”

This, of course, sounded alarm bells in the library community. It didn’t take ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman to issue the following statement: “ALA has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the withdrawn materials in order to obtain an official response from the Department of Justice regarding this unusual action, and why the Department has requested that documents that have been available to the public for as long as four years be removed from depository library collections. ALA is committed to ensuring that public documents remain available to the public and will do its best to bring about a satisfactory resolution of this matter.”

It appears that ALA’s swift action helped resolve the issue. Here’s a selection from the latest announcement from American Libraries on the situation:

Department of Justice Rescinds Order for Libraries to Destroy Documents

The U.S. Department of Justice has withdrawn its June request to the Government Printing Office ordering depository libraries to destroy five DOJ publications—resources for prosecutors handling seized assets and forfeiture cases, including statutes and case histories—because the department had determined they were “for internal use only.”

Before the decision, some librarians had vowed to preserve the materials until the matter was resolved. In a July 29 posting to the ALA Council discussion list, Boston Public Library President Bernard A. Margolis noted that he had contacted Lester Joseph—acting chief of the asset forfeiture and money laundering section of the DOJ’s criminal division, who reportedly made the decision to remove the items—and asked him to reconsider his request. “I believe all he really wanted was that new editions/publications not be placed in the depository system. I do not believe . . . that he actually wanted these to be destroyed,” Margolis said.

Sources: ResourceShelf & WLA mailing list