Radical Militant Librarian tee

Just ran into a Norwegian librarian at Internet Librarian International in London wearing this killer tee-shirt, created in protest of the PATRIOT Act's provision to force librarians to reveal which books their patrons were checking out. The Latin translates as "We know what you read, and we're not saying."

We know what you read, and we're not saying


  1. Librarians are so militant on this particular point, most high-end library management systems no longer even record what books you’ve borrowed — once you’ve returned it and paid any fines/fees, the fact that you borrowed it is gone forever.

    Plays havoc with their ability to manage their collections (or to answer the questions such as ‘Can you tell me the book I read last week? It had a blue cover.’) but means they’ll never have to tell.

  2. Reminds me of a great anime/manga “Toshokan_Sensō”


    Basic premise: in 1989 the Japanese Govt began censoring anything they found to be potentially harmful to society. Local groups formed acutal militias (Library Defense Forces) to protect books and information from government troops.

  3. It’s nice to live in a country were the librarians don’t just kowtow. Unlike various phone companies. Go get ’em EFF. Sorry, wore one of my T’s today and I’m feeling feisty.

  4. Privacy (from Wikipedia)
    In 2003, the ALA passed a resolution opposing the USA PATRIOT Act, which called sections of the law “a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users”.[26] Since then, the ALA and its members have sought to change the law by working with members of Congress and educating their communities and the press about the law’s potential to violate the privacy rights of library users. ALA has also participated as an amicus curiae in lawsuits filed by individuals challenging the constitutionality of the USA PATRIOT Act, including a lawsuit filed by four Connecticut librarians after the library consortium they managed was served with a National Security Letter seeking information about library users. [27] After several months of litigation, the lawsuit was dismissed when the FBI decided to withdraw the National Security Letter.[28]

    In 2006, the ALA sold humorous “radical militant librarian” buttons for librarians to wear in support of the ALA’s stances on intellectual freedom, privacy, and civil liberties.[29] Inspiration for the button’s design came from documents obtained from the FBI by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The request revealed a series of e-mails in which FBI agents complained about the “radical, militant librarians” while criticizing the reluctance of FBI management to use the secret warrants authorized under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Ben Franklin would be so damned proud of you people.

  5. You know, there’s a cool anime/manga called Toshokan Sensou (“library war”) where the librarians are essentially a heavily armed para-military force, who’s sole purpose is to protect the books from another para-military force bent on censorship. Both groups work for the government.

  6. (disclaimer: The writer is inside a phone company)

    @efergus3: First off. Bully for the librarians!

    Second, in (very weak, lame) defense of phone companies, there has been a provision in the law since the 1996 Telecommunications Act was passed which has granted law enforcement access to traffic data with a FISA warrant. The bar is very low, and the equipment/software to grant that access is in place on every piece of switching equipment in the US telco infrastructure. No special boxes have to be added. The real time to complain was back in 1996.

    Once the door got opened, it wasn’t much of a reach for the Bushies, in their usual interesting interpretation of the law, to say that for national security purposes, a grant should be made for all traffic data to be available all the time.

    Fortunately for the librarians, they have resisted ALL efforts to request people’s reading lists. If the door isn’t cracked open in the first place, it makes it a lot harder to pry it open further.

  7. Would make a cool basis for a Postman-like story, although I don’t know if even the best screenplay could have warmed the general movie-going public up to the premise.

  8. Saw one of these this past weekend at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, commented on it to the lady wearing it, and was informed by the lady in question that I was the only one who’d noticed it that day.

  9. “The real time to complain was back in 1996.”

    Unless it stopped in 1996, p. sure the real time to complain is right now, and ongoing until it does stop.

  10. I have one of these shirts and wear it to library conferences. It’s always a great conversation starter.

  11. @Anonymous #1 — purging user records does not “play havoc with” our ability to manage collections. We do just fine at keeping track of how often which books are circulated and when, just not who.

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