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American Libraries reported on July 7 that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has called a halt to its “pilot test” requiring passengers to remove books and other paper items from their carry-on luggage during security screening.  Where the AL story link sent its readers for more information will surprise you!

In the online AL digest of July 7, the linked article titled TSA Ends Test of Separate Scanning for Books leads to a story on the website of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund or CBDLF.  It is one of those unexpected moments of serendipity where an article catches your eye and leads to learning about something else that’s entirely fascinating!

We’ll get back to the CBLDF in a minute, but first the TSA story….

Media reports last month confirmed that new rules requiring unpacking reading material from carry-ons were being tested by TSA during pre-flight screenings at a limited number of small airports.  TSA justification cited cutting down on “too much clutter” in bags in recognition of scanning machine limitations when discerning potential explosives from other contents such as dense books and paper goods.  Though the test period has ended, a TSA spokeswoman left room for the rules to return at a later date.

Public concerns quickly arose from patrons wanting to protect their reading privacy to the greatest extent possible, citing an already increasingly chilly atmosphere for travelers, on domestic as well as international flights in recent months.  A related article on the CBLDF website from June 26 details both the reasons travelers might not want strangers examining their reading choices, as well as suggestions for opaque wrappers to ensure privacy.  Cases involving Arabic-English flashcards and books critical of US foreign policy are also mentioned.

In the CBLDF article, ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley outlined just a few reasons that travelers might not want strangers perusing their choice of reading: “A person who is reading a book entitled “Overcoming Sexual Abuse” or “Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction” is not likely to want to plop that volume down on the conveyor belt for all to see. Even someone reading a bestseller like “50 Shades of Grey” or a mild self-help book with a title such as “What Should I Do With My Life?” might be shy about exposing his or her reading habits.”

But, hey, there’s a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund!?  How cool is that??!! 

According to the CBLDF FAQ page, it’s a small non-profit organization “dedicated to the protection of the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals.”  Comics art form includes graphic novels and manga.   Their Resources Page is an amazing tutorial on the history of comics censorship combined with librarian and educator tools.

As we say in the business, “check it out!!”  PS, they have some awesome gear!

Submitted by Kris Adams Wendt.