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Joan Airoldi Remembered

Former Whatcom County Library System director Joan Airoldi died Dec. 3, 2022, at the age of 76. Joan had been a League member since 2004, and most recently served on the budget committee for several years.


Joan was best known for standing up to the FBI in 2004.  As recorded in Wikipedia, with the support of staff from the Deming Library, a branch of the Whatcom County Library System, Joan refused to provide information requested by a visiting FBI agent regarding a patron's use of a book on Osama bin Laden. The library system informed the FBI that no information would be released without a subpoena or court order. She also led the library board to vote to fight any such subpoena in court. When that grand jury subpoena was eventually issued, the library prepared to challenge it in court, and the subpoena was quickly withdrawn. At the time, Airoldi made this statement: "Libraries are a haven where people should be able to seek whatever information they want to pursue without any threat of government intervention.”


According to the American Library Association, “Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association …. The right to privacy includes the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others, in person or online. Confidentiality exists when a library is in possession of personally identifiable information about its users and keeps that information private on their behalf.”