It’s been 20 years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, flashed on our TV screens and left an imprint on our memories. Nearly 3,000 people died at the World Trade Center in New York City, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and aboard four hijacked airplanes. For many of us, including those who witnessed these events in real-time news coverage, the losses of that day still feel incalculable.
In the aftermath, American Libraries tried to make sense of the tragedy and our nation’s response, and consider their implications for libraries and American Library Association members. Our 2001 and 2002 reporting covered topics related to collections destroyed in the attacks, communities dealing with Islamophobia, restrictions imposed on civil liberties, and what librarian eyewitnesses remembered about that day.
In this issue, we return to these themes—and examine others—to promote healing and reflection. What have been the lasting effects of September 11 on libraries and librarians?
The stories in this special report include:
- a look back at the 21 libraries destroyed in the World Trade Center and the documentation activities that followed this immense cultural loss
- recollections from librarians who countered post–September 11 ignorance and bigotry with programs and information about Islam and the Middle East
- a profile on the public library of Gander, Newfoundland—a small Canadian town that found itself in the spotlight when 6,500 travelers were diverted there after the attacks
- an overview of two archives preserving the broadcasts and digital ephemera of September 11
- an interview about privacy and surveillance with the Connecticut Four, the four librarians who challenged the Patriot Act and government overreach that followed the attacks
Twenty years on, these accounts remain powerful and relevant, serving as a reminder of the profession’s role in telling and keeping our collective history.