Monday, January 02, 2006

The little red book hoax

Earlier this week, a story burned up the library listservs about a student who reported a visit from agents after he borrowed Mao's book via Inter Library Loan (ILL). You know, I wasn't going to write about this hoax, but the story is still popping up!

Boing Boing has a good post on the story. Now originally a Mass. paper reported:

"The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further."

The follow up story is here.

If you believe this article, it appears the student was seeking attention:
"When I came back, like wow, there's this circus coming on. I saw my cell phone, and I see like, wow, I have something like 75 messages and like something like 87 missed calls," he said. "Wow, I was popular. I usually get one or probably two a week and that's about it, and I usually pick them up."
Let's talk about the fact that many of librarians suspected the story was a hoax before it came out in the papers. How would ILL's be monitored? Through CONTU? Through OCLC? If though OCLC, how would agents link up the name of the student with the book?

Many people were willing to believe it, however. I think because there is a sense that the Government has been all too willing to trample over people's privacy and rights.

There have been stories from libraries that have reported visits from agents...although the Government has also stated that they have never made use of provision 215 of the Patriot Act.

I think the biggest problem with the Patriot Act is the gag order that accompanies it. Maybe they think a librarian would notify a patron if they were being investigated? Maybe some would, since librarians recently earned the adjectives of radical and militant.

Maybe this is better than the bun and shushing stereotype?

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