New Government Agency? The “Ministry of Reshelving”…

Did you know there is an association of Anarchist Librarians? How about that there are Librarians for Peace?  OK then…what about a collective of volunteer library workers (called Radical Reference) who believe in social justice and equality? Or Library Juice, a site devoted to “Intellectual Freedom, Social Responsibility and Flirting at the Reference Desk?”

Yeah…me neither. Until I saw something on Boing, Boing that led me off on a quick web surfing adventure over lunch today and the discovery of these sites.

Judging by the sites above and the prank below, I guess it’s not just me (and luminaries speaking out on the choking of public media and control of the message like Bill Moyers) becoming increasingly concerned about the level of command-n-control measures being driven in to place around government messaging, the media outlets that disseminate it and more. It’s one thing to protest. It’s also fabulous that blogs, podcasts and video blogging exist right now as an alternative to the allegedly timid mainstream media acquiesing to command-n-control. That said, it’s quite another to pull a prank that gets people to start thinking critically. I just love this kind of stuff! If this story doesn’t get picked up by the mainstream media, I’ll be surprised.

Ministry of Reshelving
Got quite a chuckle out of this prank. Here are the rules from the “Ministry of Reshelving” about moving the book “1984” (George Orwell’s description of a totalitarian society in which the government, referred to as the Party, had almost complete control over the people) to more “suitable” shelves..

1. Select a local bookstore to carry out your reshelving activities.

2. Download and print “This book has been relocated by the Ministry of Reshelving” bookmarks and “All copies of 1984 have been relocated” notecards to take with you to the bookstore. Or make your own. We recommend bringing a notecard and 5-10 bookmarks to each store.

3. Go to the bookstore and locate its copies of George Orwell’s 1984. Unless the Ministry of Reshelving has already visited this bookstore, it is probably currently incorrectly classified as “Fiction” or “Literature.”

4. Discreetly move all copies of 1984 to a more suitable section, such as “Current Events”, “Politics”, “History”, “True Crime”, or “New Non-Fiction.”

5. Insert a Ministry of Reshelving bookmark into each copy of any book you have moved. Leave a notecard in the empty space the books once occupied.

6. If you spot other incorrectly classified books, feel free to relocate them.

7. Please report all reshelving efforts to the Ministry. Email your store name, location, # of 1984 copies reshelved, and any other reshelving activities conducted, to reshelving @ Photos of your mission can be uploaded to Flickr, tagged as “reshelving”, and submitted to the Ministry of Reshelving group.


  1. Jane McG on August 17, 2005 at 10:51 pm

    Cheers, Steve! Thanks for these excellent comments. The Anarchist Librarians and Radical Reference links are terrific.

    Hope to see you on the Ministry Flickr boards.

  2. Steve Borsch on August 17, 2005 at 11:15 pm

    He muttered to himself, “I’m just an observer of miscellaneous things” while glancing over his shoulder and slipping a bookmark in to George Orwell’s 1984.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.