I must explain for both of my readers in non-US venues (the other three of you know this no doubt) that America is lurching through a secondary paroxysm of legislative fear and political blustering that passes for making the country safe from the threats of terrorism. Part of the current hubbub involves renewal of the so-called Patriot Act, so named to cow legislators harboring the delusional notion that civil liberties are sort of THE POINT of the US-flavor of patriotism. Patrick Henry didn’t say “Give me liberty, or give me access to your library records.” He probably didn’t even have a library card.
One of the stories in the news this week concerns this particularly controversial part of the act. According to a story on NPR:
Agents are particularly frustrated that they cannot get approval to use Section 215 of the Patriot Act, called the "library provision" by Patriot Act critics because it could be used to search library or any other business records.
One FBI e-mail from 2003 complains that the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) "should be embarrassed that the FBI has used this valuable tool to fight terrorism exactly ZERO times."
The e-mail goes on:
"The inability of FBI investigators to use this seemingly effective tool has had a direct and clearly adverse impact on our terrorism cases. While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR's failure to let us use the tools given to us."
Remember when librarians were characterized as middle aged women with sneakers and hair in a bun? We’ve come a long way, baby!
The patient reader may be wondering where the Jane Austen action figure comes into this story. Well, OCLC Research just had its annual multicultural, poly-ethnic, northern-hemispherical-winter-solstice-proximal social get together. You know... a Christmas Party. Part of our tradition is a gift-giving game wherein all participants bring a modest gift (costing about $5 USD). Everyone draws a number from a hat, and participants sequentially select either one of the wrapped gifts or a gift already opened by someone else. In the latter case, the victim then can return to the gift table or victimize another colleague in turn. Continue until all gifts are unwrapped. Its sort Kriss Kringle with a touch of schadenfreud, and this year’s edition was particularly mirthful. The hands-down winner of the Most Popular Gift was the Jane Austen action figure pictured above. Jane changed hands a dozen times before finally coming to rest. Who would have thought?
I take comfort from being part of a group that is
pigeonholed as radical militants on the one hand, and whose acquisitive instincts
are inflamed to wine-spilling, gaze-averting passion by a Jane Austen action figure on the other. And what
would the action part be, anyway??? That’s
a quill in Jane’s hand, by the way, not a weapon. Perhaps the pen is mightier than the sword?
Happy Holidays, everyone. May all your action figures have literary merit, and your office parties be as much fun as ours.