December 5, 1996
Honorable Thomas V. Johnson
Chair, House Judiciary Criminal Law Committee
Illinois House of Representatives
Springfield, Illinois 62706
Dear Representative Johnson:
I am writing to you today on behalf of the American Association of Law Libraries in support of the statement by the Illinois Library Association (ILA) and the Chicago Association of Law Libraries (CALL) before the House Judiciary Criminal Law Committee at yesterday's hearing on Senate Bill 1036. We join the 3,400 members of ILA and CALL in opposing this bill that, in specifying that obscenity would be defined at the county level, poses very serious implications to Illinois libraries and to the citizens of your state.
The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is a nonprofit educational organization based in Chicago with nearly 5,000 members nationwide. We are very concerned about this measure particularly because our national association headquarters is located in your state and CALL is one of AALL's thirty regional chapters. Our members respond to the legal and governmental information needs of legislators, judges, and other public officials at all levels of government, corporations and small businesses, law professors and students, attorneys, and members of the general public.
This proposed legislation would have a negative impact on the multitude of libraries in Illinois whose areas of service cross county lines. Were neighboring counties to adopt differing definitions of obscenity, policies to restrict some materials based on a patron's county of residence would be necessary. In addition, one of the important services offered by libraries is to obtain materials at patron request from other libraries within their own neighboring geographic area, the state, the nation or indeed the world. The detrimental impact of this measure on interlibrary loan would result in citizens of your own state being unable to request needed materials from other libraries because of their own locality's definition of obscenity.
The impact of this measure on law libraries in Illinois would have a chilling effect on the ability of attorneys, judges, and others to access certain needed materials. To cite just two examples, the broad nature of legal research involves resources such as copies of court cases that describe acts of sexual assault or anatomy books needed to prepare medical malpractice cases. The inability to access such materials that a few individuals might deem obscene would be seriously impeded by SB 1036.
I sincerely hope that the detrimental and presumably unintentional barriers that SB 1036 would cause to Illinois libraries will cause you and your members of your committee to pause and reconsider passage of this bill. We believe it is an ill-advised measure that would have a very chilling effect on the ability of citizens of Illinois to access materials that some might deem obscene. Thank you for your serious consideration of the negative implications of SB 1036 on library services, and please feel free to contact me if you have further questions.
Robert L. Oakley
American Association of Law Libraries
Washington Affairs Representative
cc: Honorable Jay C. Hoffman, Minority Spokesperson, House Judiciary Criminal Law Committee