Ministry of Reshelving

Culture jamming in bookstores: Avant Game has launched the Ministry of Reshelving project, which encourages people to visit bookstores and re-shelve incorrectly categorized books. Steps 3 & 4 in the reshelving guidelines:

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.”

They also post a clarification on the site:

Note: this project is not a critique of bookstore culture, the state of the shelving industry, or even of pervasive government surveillance. It is merely an observation that 2 + 2 = 5, and 5 is no longer fiction.

Photos at Flickr.

Music: Zero 7 :: Spinning

2 Replies to “Ministry of Reshelving”

  1. I noticed this on BoingBoing, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. My wife works in a bookstore; an “independent” bookstore she’d have me say. Indie bookstores are fighting for survival against the Borders of the world just like local coffee shops are fighting against Starbucks and everyone is fighting against Walmart. They also fight against ignorance (big and getting bigger in this country), and those who think freedom of speech is conditional on what you want to say.

    I’ve seen what goes on behind the scenes in her store, and these booksellers are trying VERY hard to get important titles in front of readers. It’s not just good citizenship, it could mean the long-term survival of their business. You should see the “Bushco” display at our store. (Alongside a much smaller “Fox News” display, since freedom of speech is important. Not to mention that there are occasionally red state customers in the store; they are still a business after all).

    I’m a fan of statement art, even when it’s a bit intrusive (lord knows I’ve caused enough random acts of directed chaos in my life). But making these hard-working people’s jobs harder (“sorry Ma’am, our computer says we have 6 copies left, but they’re not where they should be”) doesn’t seem like the best use of our collective energy, especially when the bookstore employees are more likely than not on the same side (there’s a reason people work in bookstores). A simple suggestion to the manager that “1984” deserves more prominent display would probably be met with enthusiasm. If not, promoting the reading of “1984” outside the bookstore could be fruitful. But with all the enemies we face (I’m not talking about overseas), and the work that will be required to turn things around, it seems to me that harassing bookstores should be VERY low on the list.

    Then again, maybe I’m just getting old and crochety. =)

  2. Heard an interview with The Ministry on NPR, and it turns out that all founders of the project either currently work in bookstores or used to. So their sensitive to the issue, but feel that this is such a tiny drop in the bucket of all the reshelving they have to every day that it’s hardly worth worrying about (and that it’s worth it for political reasons).

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