SLIS Instructor Mary Minow Appointed to IMLS Advisory Board

SLIS instructor Mary Minow recently was appointed to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) advisory board, where she will play a key role in advising the IMLS Director regarding federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums.

Minow was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the National Museum and Library Services Board, a group composed of 20 Presidential appointees plus the Director and Deputy Directors of IMLS. The federal agency provides funding and leadership to the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

“The other board members are already great to work with,” said Minow, who was sworn in by David S. Ferreiro, the Archivist of the United States, during October. “We met for a day and a half, and my impression is that I am serving with some really smart, visionary folks.”

Minow is an attorney, consultant, and a former librarian and library trustee who specializes in free speech, privacy and copyright issues. She manages the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use website, serves on the board of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and just finished her term as chair of the Intellectual Freedom Committee of the California Library Association. She also created the LibraryLaw blog, inspired by the prompting of one of her copyright students who told Minow how much more interactive and easy to use blogs were compared to websites.

“Like many attracted to the field of librarianship, I am animated by its democratic ideals. I believe that information is power, and that equal access to information depends on free speech, privacy and fair use,” she said. “Free speech, and its corollary – the right to receive information – are essential, and I’m proud to be part of a profession that defends these rights, even when the defense is difficult and costly.”

Minow earned her undergraduate degree from Brown University and her MLIS from the University of Michigan before graduating from Stanford University with her law degree. Minow’s path from librarianship to a law degree is somewhat unconventional, but she said her “librarian mindset” influenced her approach to her legal studies.

“I especially got a lot out of my First Amendment, Local Government, Disability Law, and Copyright courses, applying them to real life experiences I have had,” she said. “For example, one library I worked at turned away a religious group that wanted to use the meeting room. I learned in law school that was a violation of the group’s free speech rights.”

Minow is equally passionate about privacy as she is free speech. “Even if the information is produced and you have the right to read, listen to, or view it, that isn’t always enough,” she said. “If you know, or fear, that the government or others are keeping tabs on what you read, a chilling effect sets in. Will you check out that information that you might need on abuse, sensitive health issues or a broad array of subjects?”

Minow’s term on the IMLS board lasts through the end of 2013, although it could last longer if someone hasn’t been appointed and confirmed by the Senate in time. After going through a background check that Minow described as “unbelievable” because of the extensive inquiries into her friends and family, she joked that “I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m on a bit longer…”

Photograph of Mary Minow is courtesy of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.