Sunday, August 14, 2005

the ministry of reshelving

Our uniform
Originally uploaded by Avant Game.

This week, we launched the Ministry of Reshelving project. My partners in crime as founding members of the ministry: George, Kiyash, and Monica.

This weekend we relocated 19 copies of George Orwell's 1984 in four different bookstores in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Berkeley. It was high stealth adventure.

You are invited to join our efforts.

How to Serve the Ministry of Reshelving

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.

Our goal is to relocate one thousand nine hundred and eighty-four copies, and to complete successful reshelving of 1984 in all 50 United States. Global contributions are welcome.

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.


Many thanks to everyone for their feedback on this project.

We at the Ministry of Reshelving support all efforts to properly classify fiction and nonfiction texts. So here are some alternative (or complementary) tactics.

*Ask to speak to a bookstore manager, perhaps a time when the bookstore is not busy. Introduce yourself as a representative of the Ministry and simply suggest the relocation. Do not relocate any books. Simply have a friendly conversation. Perhaps have a card referring the manager to the Ministry of Reshelving Flickr group.

*Mod the current Ministry bookmarks to SUGGEST relocation of the books. Insert these in all copies. Do not actually relocate the books.

*Stage a photo of the relocation, and then return the books to their original location. This might not be revolution, but it is a rehearsal for the revolution.

*Create a notecard to leave at the bookstore in the section you think 1984 should be properly shelved. The notecard could say "Sorry! There are no more copies of George Orwell's 1984 in the __________ section. Additional copies are located in the fiction and literature section."

*Before you conduct your 1984 reshelving, look around the store for a few books left out by other customers and put them back where they belong. Do a bit of 'traditional' reshelving on behalf of the employees. Then do your 1984 reshelving.

These mods are designed to address people's concerns with the impact of the project on customers and bookstore employees and owners. I'm 100% committed to making these kinds of experiments as sociable as possible, while still confronting the issues of: Where is it appropriate for the public to play, to intervene, to suggest alternatives, to tag, to reclassify, to be expressive? It is clear to me that many people do not feel that bookstores are a proper location for such play and intervention. I very much disagree, but I am learning much from their comments and reactions.

Update: Bart Simpson laments his role in the Ministry of Reshelving.

Update: If you would like to understand the motivations of this project better, why not read a minor statement on avant gaming?

Update: Comments have been suspended on this blog in accordance with Godwin's law. The Ministry of Reshelving, however, continues its work.

Update: Comments reopened. A further statement on the reshelving project appears here.


Anonymous said...

love it! i will infiltrate the neighborhood bookstore.

The Dancing Kids said...

you know i am always game. HAHAAHAHAHAAHH GET IT!?!?! GAME?!?!

oh i KILL me.

Anonymous said...

Jane, I adore you.

Can I blog about this, or is it Top Sekrit?

Jane said...

Phaedra-- blog away! The ministry welcomes its arms to all reshelvers.

Yndy said...

This is brilliant - hope you don't mind that I'm linking it in my LiveJournal...

Anonymous said...

I worked in a bookstore for 6 years. The only thing this will accomplish is making the lives of the poor, minimum waged book clerks a miserable time.

Anonymous said...

I've never worked in a bookstore...and I find this to be a brilliant idea! I will pass it along.

Jane said...

To the anonymous poster, who is in solidarity with the bookstore clerks, I respect your instinct to not want to make life more difficult for anyone, and I very much appreciate your taking the time to give feedback on this project. However, I also believe the following: 1) People pick up books and leave them other places around the store constantly. This is the experience of browsing in a bookstore, and my opinion is that a few additional moved books in a single store will not make a dent in the actual workload of the workers. Each bookstore typically carries only 2 - 6 copies of 1984, and participants are instructed to visit any particular bookstore only once. So I firmly do not believe that this will have a measurable impact on the bookstore workers. At any rate, it is part of what they are being paid to do-- to reshelve books--and reshelving 4 books once is simply not tantamount to making their lives miserable. So I firmly disagree wtih your assessment. 2) I furthermore believe that it could actually make the clerks smile. People who work in bookstores, in my experience, tend to be interested in books and enjoy literary-based humor. I think it is likely a clerk who stumbles upon the few moved books will find it funny, and it might actually brighten up their day. So I would propose that it might actually bring smiles to bookstore employees everywhere 3) I will stand firmly behind the first two points; this third one is more subjective, and I understand if you disagree with it. The political issues this small playful intervention is attempting to draw attention to are more important than the few minutes it will take a bookstore employee to move the books back. If they choose. We have noticed that some employees are NOT reshelving the books. So perhaps the bookstore employees are in solidarity with the Ministry of Reshelving after all!

sdf33ssdf said...

The Ministry of Paranoid Liberal Cliches gives you its stamp of approval.

Jane said...

Ah, the fellowship of the ministries!

Although, underscore, a 32% GBW approval rating suggests to me that it's not just a liberal thing.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, in reply to the poster who was worried about the bookstore employees' workload, I'd point out that unlike the browsers who pick up books and leave them elsewhere, we're leaving cards indicating to where they've been moved.

Anonymous said...

Fellow Americans -
Does Reshelving count if it is done in the Philippines? ha ha. I guarantee I could just tell them they did it wrong it would stay like that forever in all National Bookstores across the country!

Love the game!
Posting Results Soon.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget to return all Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing idiot's books to the Children's section where they belong.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, I might try this in the UK. I should note that during a debate in the British House of Commons over ID cards the book was held by one member or parliament as he gave a passionate speech against the new legislation (which is stalling somewhat at the moment)

BBC report on the incident

Anonymous said...

You may find this hilarious, but I was fired and banned off a university campus for "threatening" to reshelve one book a day at a university library in protest of a library fine. (I didn't actually move anything).

I've been meaning to write the whole episode up sometime. It's one of those sordid episodes from my past which becomes even more bizarre with time.

I once worked at a bookstore, and I can tell you, reshelving the children's books section is the closest you ever get to the 7th circle of hell.

Fun Stunt, but it's always a crapshoot when you do things on private property. Even Bringing Chekhov back from the dead doesn't win a bookstore's sympathies apparently.

Anonymous said...

there is a difference between creative mischief and being a jerk. i work in a public library, and any of the library pages, whose work is largely reshelving and perpetual ordering, can probably explain the difference to you in a few choice words. altho it might amuse them the first time, i do not think they would see much humor in your score-keeping indulgence. perhaps things are diffrent in the public sector?

Anonymous said...

move on already

Paul Denton said...

I'm another former bookstore-drone, and I have to agree with the others: this is just asinine. It's worse than those who carelessly leave books laying around in other sections for later reshelving. At least those people aren't intending to be jerks making extra work for already-stressed wage slaves in aid of a not-terribly-clever Important Statement; they're just careless. You, on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

I believe the Limbaugh books actually belong in the Occult section.

Anonymous said...

To the other anonymous who said Rush Limbaugh should be relocated to the Children's sections...

My God, do kids need to be exposed to more hate and lies?

Anonymous said...

Ann Coulter should be placed in the pornography section.

Jane Dark said...

God, yes. This is the sort of guerrilla activism that I can get on board with. I'll start today.

Anonymous said...

This is the most wonderful project! As a 10 year veteran of the big box bookstore industry (I am happily reformed now, and work as a chef), I applaud your spirit, and admire your choices. I'll be reshelving soon!!!!

Jane said...

Just want to chime in with appreciation for all of your feedback. Like any experiment, I expect it to provoke different opinions, and I'm looking forward to hearing them all, even those who don't agree with me.

To those with concerns about the book clerks, I just want to say first that response so far from actual bookstore employees has been extremely positive. They find it amusing, often leave the books reshelved, and generally have quite a good sense of humor about it. Additionally, let me restate that participants are advised to visit a bookstore only once, and typically bookstores only stock 2 - 6 copies of 1984. So the impact on the employees in terms of the workload for any particiular store is trivial. I think to reject this project because it might pose and undue burden on bookstore employees is simply a kneejerk reaction that is not based on looking at the actual design or reception of the project.

I promise you we have considered this and have designed the project with a sensitity toward not making other's lives more difficult.

To all those in solidarity with the Ministry of Reshelving, welcome!

Anonymous said...

Hilarious and great way to get people who (in theory and hopefully) can think since they're hanging out at libraries and bookstores.

Loved it so much I posted about it here.

Anonymous said...

I always restore Anne Coulter to her proper place in fiction.

Anonymous said...

While you are at it, please move the Bibles to the "Fiction" section...

Anonymous said...

I vote to move Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter to the Religious Fiction section....oh wait, I already do that XD

I'm glad others share my sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

I work in a bookstore - an independent. And I floated this idea by several of my co-workers, including sales floor staff and managers, and everyone thought it was brilliant. I'm not saying which store I work at, but we're game. Hell, if one of the employees here does it, we'll just re-code the book in our database so it's easy to locate.

Hardship for beleaguered, penurious staff? Give me a break. We got a laugh out of it, and won't blink an eye if it happens here.

I do like though that the ministry activity already blogged in the SF area has been limited to the chains. Pranksters with ethics get my vote any day.

Darryl said...

As a librarian, I thank you for not encouraging this at the library. Because if I caught some late-teen fuckhead messing with my shelves to make a amateurish political point, I do believe they'd be in physical danger.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant isen´t the right word, but it´s the first one that comes to mind. I´ll do my share, comrades!

Anonymous said...

Speaking as an employee at a bookstore...

Hilarious. I'm going to do it at mine ASAP.


Anonymous said...


Consider me on board.

-- a supportive Canuckistani.

Anonymous said...

If you REALLY think we're living in 1984, aren't you afraid of being hauled off for reeducation?

Didn't think so.

Michael said...

May I suggest amending the rules to instruct reshelvers to reshelve *some* copies rather than all? As written, this project could make it harder for people who want to read 1984 to find it, which seems sort of contrary to the spirit of the endeavor.

Jane said...

Remember-- print our notecards to prominently display at the location where the books were previously shelved!

People who are posting worried that browsers or employees won't be able to find the relocated copies aren't spending more than 15 seconds looking at the project. If you look at the photos (not to mention the instructions!) you'll see everyone is using these cards to tell people exactly where to find the relocated copies. So worry not....

Anonymous said...

I work at a bookstore, and I think this is the most bullshit thing I've ever heard. As if we don't have enough shit to clean up with people leaving books all over the store, people like you decide to be really hip and cool and fuck up our stores. Thanks....thanks alot asshole.

Anonymous said...

I work at a bookstore, and I think this is the most bullshit thing I've ever heard. As if we don't have enough shit to clean up with people leaving books all over the store, people like you decide to be really hip and cool and fuck up our stores. Thanks....thanks alot asshole.

Paul said...

As soon as I notice this at my bookstore, and I catch someone in the act, they will be banned. We have a system, and while we may not like it, we must stick to it lest we should be fired. No respect for customer service? Fine. Leave! The end.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, i work at a book store as well and all i can say is that this would just make it harder for all those people who actually want to read 1984 to find it.

Don't be a douche.

Anonymous said...

I've been known to relocate, or at least hide, copies of Anne Coulter's books.

Brilliant idea, but yeah, don't try it at the library. There is nothing more annoying than to try to find a misplaced book that the computer says is there. Especially when one is writing a paper and NEEDS said book.

Peter said...

This is so stupid. Not art. Or, if it is art, it's stupid art. You realize you're making it harder for those who actually want to READ 1984 to read it, right?

Want to make an artistic statement? Go to a B&N on a Sunday night and try to help the booksellers put up all the magazines and books that people have left laying everywhere. It's a daunting task without 'artists' like yourselves making their job harder. Help them put all that stuff up, then MAYBE you'd have the right to do something like this.

Also, management regularly walks with booksellers in a particular section, looking for stuff to critique. Thanks for making those booksellers look like idiots. Or getting shelvers in trouble.

In short, you have no right to do anything like this. Moral or legal or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you guys are assanine. 1984 is FICTION. it is a story, it is not real. it was made up long before the year 1984 even came about. most of what is in it has not happened and probably never will. And this is coming from a Lit major and fellow bookseller.
I hope you asses get caught and get banned because it's idiots like you that make our lives hell when we can't find 20 copies of a book in the section where it's supposed to be while students wait because they need it for their summer reading lists. In the meantime you're also messing up the other section in which a bookseller may have just redone and fixed up.
You guys are selfish and nothing better to do with your time but annoy others and be asses.

Unknown said...

I think people around here are a bit too uptight. Relax. With as much as is going on, a few people enjoying what is, relatively speaking, a harmless prank seems insignifigant. Note the limited scale, the placement of the marks, the warning about libraries... it is light-hearted. If it is as bad as you say, then don't attack the people- it's not done with malice, it seems- but the act. Calling them douches or assholes just shows that you need to relax, without saying anything about the validity of the prank.

Connie said...

hahah i love the idea and to all those leaving negative feedback I'm gonna have to ask you to remember today is not "wear sticks up our asses day" :D.

Anonymous said...

You can and will be arrested for these actions.... I was in the 60's.

Rev. Kobutsu Malone

Martin Wisse said...

Rad political statement, awesome in its POINTLESSNESS!

Why not try actually, you know, protest Bush's policies or work to limit them?

100,000 Iraq civilians killed, over 2,000 coalition soldiers killed, untold billions of dollars disappeared, an economy in tatters and a country that is sold off piecemeal to the Republican elite and what is your response?

"Dude let's like totally reshelve 1984! Wicked!"

Yes, that will help a lot.

This is all a game to you, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Since when did reshelving 1984 have anything to do with the Bush Campaign?

I swear it is all those lonely, mid-age wives - who are the ones who complain and whine about everyone elses stated opinion - for some reason the last comment reminds me of that. OHH! The terrorist are so mean lets go kill them all. One war later - OHH! Bush is bad, everyone is dying. Hypocrites.

Yes, it is all a game.

Now get off the computer and quit whining . . . and gee maybe if it is in you skip and sing into B&N and reshelve 1984 - or are you too adult for that or maybe your clan of 14 year olds on CounterStrike will make fun of you?

I am guessing the latter.

Anonymous said...

"Mr President, it's Karl - the games up"
" whaddya mean Karl ?"
"The radicals are .... I don't know how to put this .. the radicals are moving copies of 1984 around bookshops"
"Dear God ... nineteen what ?"
"1984 Mr President. It's a book Sir".
"Like the Hungry Caterpillar? ".
"Yes - but with longer words - and no pictures".
"these people are dangerous, what should we do?"
"Mr President - we've had a meeting of the security council and decided to ignore them and hope they go away"
"Good work Karl"
"Thank you sweetheart"

Anonymous said...

What a heavy social statement. Unless you're one of the people in the store looking to move books around, I don't think anyone is going to notice your dramatic piece of social commentary.

This is like something a 14 year old goth kid would think is cool and funny.

Anonymous said...

You know what's fun, too? At a diner, leave your tip under a turned-over glass of water. The waitress gets her tip, but she gets water all over! Or - this will *slay* you - Superglue the tip to the table! Then she has to break her nails clearing the table.

This "clever" prank is in the same ballpark as the above. As a former bookstore and library worker and future bookstore owner, I recommend to you to either suggest to a manager or owner that books be reclassified (and yes, the conversation may be interesting or amusing - gosh, interaction can be fun), or get a job in a bookstore and suggest reclassifying whichever books you think ought to be moved, or open your own bookstore and shelve the books where you want. Messing around making minimum-wage jobs harder isn't cute or clever. It smacks of bored children with no intention of doing anything that could actually cause themselves any inconvenience (like, say, civil disobedience) or real thought.

Talk to people about books. Write essays and letters to the editor. Heck, write your own books. Do something that means something.

Anonymous said...

" The political issues this small playful intervention is attempting to draw attention to .... "

What political issues exactly does this draw attention to ?

Furthering the rights of self-indulgent children to continue to act like spoiled brats when they're out of their teens ?

I would be interested. Really.

Anonymous said...

I worked in a bookstore and what truly makes bookstore employees miserable are the people who call up and ask for that book with a yellow cover that introduces a character named Fred in the third chapter and then get mad because employee doesn't know the book. This game will be amusing and actually relieve the tedious hours at minimum wage. Long Live the Ministry of Reshelving!!!

Anonymous said...

I see that there are many people who are seriously in need of a sense of humor. Should we have a fundraiser to try to buy them one?

Peter said...

"To those who are uptight about this: we leave cards where the books were that state where the books are. Think about that logically. So really we aren't making bookstore cronies jobs harder, because we are telling them where the books are."

Um. Yes. Actually, you are. The booksellers then have to go FIND the books you misplaced, hope someone else didn't misplace them even further, then put them back where they belong. That's what, maybe 5 minutes out of their day? 10 if someone else has misplaced the books even further. That might be trivial to you. It's not to me, or many people. And ignoring that fact just betrays a blatant disregard for other people who take their jobs seriously.

Look, I really want to like you guys. I do. But the 'artistic' statement that this is making is trite and just generating ill will from people who would otherwise probably dig some of your projects.

Next project, do something more constructive. That's what I'd advise.

Peter said...

Also, what happens if the card that you left telling where said books have been moved to is misplaced?

Also, just to throw a monkeywrench in your monkeywrench, it's not unusual at many stores for many multiple copies of 1984 to be shortlisted for the fall for high school English classes. Sometimes as many as 20 or 30 copies. Moving one or two copies is silly, stupid and trite. I think if you tried to move 30 copies that you'd be noticed.

I'm going to start a new 'art project.' It's called "Sack And Stick The Ministry Of Reshelving." Basically, I (and one of my cohorts) will sit in wait, keeping all copies of 1984 under surveillance. When you go to move all copies, I'll put a large burlap sack down around your head, and then beat you about your body with a small stick, taking care not to hit your head. Should be fun. And quite the artistic statement against poseur artistes.

Anonymous said...

My god, people, lighten up!

To the cranky bookstore workers: it's your job to deal with us. So deal with us! I know that I, like many other reshelvers, am the kind of person who goes into a bookstore, and, you know, BUYS and READS books. So while I might make your day a little more difficult (or amusing), I also keep you employed.

To the people who find it to be a juvenile stunt: you're absolutely right. It's juvenile. It's also pretty damn funny.

To those who are concerned that we're reshelving books instead of doing something more proactive about this terrifying administration: This isn't an either/or situation. I both actively protest the path the nation/world are headed down, and I subversively do shit like this, just because it's funny, and in a world full of sadness, a little humor is a good thing.

To the one or two people who are saying we'll get arrested or banned or whatever: Go read the damn book and see if you can locate the irony in your statements.

Anyway, reshelved in Boston:

Borders Downtown had about 15 copies in three editions. I took one edition to the Travel/Washington DC section, another to Political Science (right next to the book Inside The Mind of Bush, and left one on the shelf. Total, about 10 copies

B&N Downtown only had 1 edition, three copies. They now rest comfortably in the Law section, right next to Civil Rights for Dummies.

Anonymous said...

i should hate you as i own a bookstore but I cant help but find this wildly amusing

Anonymous said...

As a bookseller I find it mildly amusing that you wish to do this, but at the same time very annoying.

It's bad enough that customers think bookstore employees are the next best thing to "Mom" and leave giant piles of books, trash, and coffee cups (from the coffee shop next door) strewn about the store (often in odd places), or leave giant spills from said coffee cups all over books and the floor (often without telling a bookseller so we can clean it up without too much damage being done). But to encourage such juvenile behavior is just unkind. Kids already have figured out the joy of putting books in places they don't belong, just for the humor of it.

Why don't you encourage them to read 1984 instead of hiding it. By hiding it, someone who came there to read it for themselves won't be able to find it, and neither will the bookseller that is trying to help them.

We lowly booksellers do what we can against the great tide of slobs (aka: customers). Our stores are filled with hundreds, nay, millions of books. 'Re-location' just isn't very nice. It puts the needle in the haystack.

N said...

I work at the library...

and yet I'm tempted to do the same. I think it is as much as a prank as a statement of the current affair--off to the bookstore I go.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is great! I unknowingly did this last weekend at Border's in LA when I moved a copy of the "Left Behind" DVD from the Family section to the Pornography section...

Anonymous said...

Doubleplusgood. I enjoy a good prank.

You seem to be the sort of person i'd really like to meet sometime. I won't be at Foo Camp this year, but perhaps we'll run into each other eventually.

Anonymous said...


Bookstore should be more random, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

As a former bookstore employee, politico, and bibliophile I have to say that this is a -great- thing. Ignore the disgruntled employees who don't get the significance, they probably don't remember the contents of the book. Any really good bookstore manager or employee would embrace this stunt with open arms, regardless of the side of the political fence they sat. ... On the other hand, I don't reccomend you moving Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh to the children's section. The children wouldn't get the joke.

Anonymous said...

Get a life. Your ridiculous "game" does nothing more than annoy people. It is immature and a waste of everyone's time, including yours (unless you are just retarded).

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think it would be nice if copies were left in unusual places. Use your imagination, I'm sure the Gideons can give you an idea. Of course, this would require $$. But hey, might be more interesting since your only targeting the 3-10% of Americans who actually visit bookstores regularly.

Anonymous said...

This is just a bad prank. It really has zero effect on those who need to be pranked, and at worst, hides good literature from people who want it and makes a job harder for others. This one shouldn't have ever gotten off the drawing board.

Anonymous said...

Very ego centric and self serving little carry on. Irrespective of the work involved to bookshop employees (I'm of the opinion that this isn't really too offensive to lay on them) this is just one horrificly flat project. Telling other people to lighten up is not the way forward. Perhaps lightening the amount of spare time on your hands may be.

Anonymous said...

This is so obnoxious. I am on your side (politically), and I relish the absurd, the mischievous, and the playful. I even appreciate the thought, time, and creativity that went into this. I'm sure that in time you'll have a good idea or two.

But this is obnoxious.

A) It will only make the people you're trying to influence laugh at you and the cause(s) you represent.

B) It divides the people who agree with you (see above).

C) It really is disrespectful of the legions of booksellers who believe in their work.

D) It's narcissistic to the extreme, and narcissism subtracts from the efforts of those who work selflessly for the causes you purport to champion.

E) Maybe some people *do* need to "lighten up" (whatever that actually means), but laughing at them, dismissing them, treating them with scorn and then telling them to lighten up isn't going to be terribly effective. Nor is such a message bred out of the compassion I suspect you would like to imagine you value.

Why not just leave the books where they are and put a bookmark in them indicating your dissent with where it should be shelved?

This is not a bit different from the activist I saw "paint" salt peace signs on a university dorm's cafeteria tables. Effectless, ill-considered, wrong-headed, and inconsiderate of the people who have to come along towel-in-hand behind you and pick up after your "activism".


Anonymous said...

"To those who are uptight about this: we leave cards where the books were that state where the books are. Think about that logically. So really we aren't making bookstore cronies jobs harder, because we are telling them where the books are."

Actually, when there's about 20 copies of something and you're moving them somewhere else, you're also ruining another section in which the bookstore may be required to fave-out a book in which you just moved. If the DM walks in at that moment everyone in the store gets in trouble.
As for calling us cronies: Shut up you jobless retard. It put me through college and paid for my Masters degree.

"To the cranky bookstore workers: it's your job to deal with us. So deal with us! I know that I, like many other reshelvers, am the kind of person who goes into a bookstore, and, you know, BUYS and READS books. So while I might make your day a little more difficult (or amusing), I also keep you employed."
Idiots like you don't keep me employed. Buying a mag every now and then when you usually sit on your ass and read our books for free is not helping us.
We get enough abuse. We don't need idiots who think they're smart when they actually aren't coming into our stores and making a mess of it. We have to clean up after people all day, don't make it any worse. How would you like it if I just come into your places of employment and take a dump on your tables? I think that would be an artistic and brilliant idea since perhaps they'll be in the form of the Virgin Mary. Then you would get to clean up after someone else who is old enough to know better and shouldn't have done it in the first place. You see the point? Or are you still too stupid to get it?

Anonymous said...

I am a clerk in a neighborhood library, and we get people moving books all over the place all the time.

People sometimes rearrange entire rows in our library. People turn books upside down and backwards. People cram stuff together in ways that make no sense at all.

I don't see how moving 1984 and leaving placards telling us where you moved it to would be all that much trouble. It sounds like something to laugh about.

Jane said...

Again, continued thanks to everyone for their feedback.

A few notes:

I'd prefer it if no one used this space to tell anyone to go f*ck themselves, okay? Really, that's not helpful. I'm not censoring any of the comments, except spam, so please don't abuse my trust. But please do feel free to leave your visceral response, constructive criticism, and relevant personal experiences.

Also, a tally: of over 1000 blog posts currently linking to this project, we currently have a ratio of over 25:1 of posts in favor of the project vs. critical of the project. On this particular blog, the comments are currently roughly 5:1 i favor of the project vs. critical of the project. So I feel quite comfortable continuing the project and continuing to assert its positive impact.

In response to people who have complained that such an action has no impact whatsoever, I refer to to the 1000+ blog posts above. Generating discussion and dialogue definitely counts in my book as a meaningful impact.

Finally, and most importantly, in response to the concerns about impact on employees and customers, I've updates the instructions to inlude a set of alternative (or complementary) tactics, which do not involve actual relocating of the books.

Choose your own intervention.

palinode said...

Yes, everyone involved in this affair should be punished horribly. Moving copies of 1984 completely fails to bring down the government and momentarily confuses the Barnes & Noble staff. Why can't you find a prank that delivers a utopian government and soothes bookstore employees at the same time? And it's been brought to my attention that the current political situation is not absolutely identical to Orwell's dystopian vision, so clearly your prank means nothing.

The only critics here I agree with are the librarians. We all know not to mess with library shelving. And the fellow who warns of possible consequences is quite right. Someone with an underdeveloped sense of humour may decide that your actions fall under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security.

I used to run a used bookstore and we had dozens of copies of 1984. If someone managed to move them all without my noticing, I would have applauded. More power to you.

Anonymous said...

This is the best you could come up with? And you keep using the term 'revolution?' Please. Try again.

Anonymous said...

There are much better ways to make a political point, ones that don't involve comparisons we've all heard before. At least you got off the "it's their job to reshelve things" shtick after a few posts.

It is likely that nobody in a position of power will hear about this, and if they do they won't give a shit, so enjoy your self-congratulatory "revolution." And then maybe you could use this time to actually get involved.

Anonymous said...

I've been a library director for nearly twenty years. I think this is brilliant. Unfortunately, I run a medical library, so we don't have the books in question or I'd sneak in at night and commit the reshelving. The next day I'd have to ban myself from the library, but that's just the kind of creative tension that the modern world pushes you into.

Keith said...

This is vandalism, pure and simple. If I caught you doing this in any bookstore I'd ever worked in, you'd be banned for life. It doesn't work as politics, it doesn't work as art, it doesn't work as protest -- what the hell's the point?

Anonymous said...

To the people who have said that NOTHING in 1984 has come true. What about cameras on every street corner... Drug campaigns encouraging children to turn in their parents for smoking pot? Citizens on the lookout for "terrorist" activity. And as far as re-writing news stories to fit current agendas..happens every day. I work in the media, and it happens EVERY day. Also Slogans that mean the opposite of their actual actions. "Iraqi Freedom" - who's kidding who? We are living in many of the elements of 1984. Re-shelve away.

Anonymous said...

"it is part of what they are being paid to do"

it was at that moment the emperor lost her imaginary g-string

Anonymous said...

Blogging the Ministry:

Peter said...

So, admitting that I find this whole thing trite and ineffective, and am against it, I would like to ask the artists if they feel that they have the ethical right to engage in this behavior. Obviously you feel that you do. It is my contention that you have not fully thought out either the possible ramifications of your actions or the ill effects upon others. That is why, taking all considerations of artistic merit aside, I find this whole thing distasteful and blatantly in disregard of bookstore employees.

Not to play the Nazi card (but I will), in reference to all the supposed positive blog reaction you're getting, public approval does not justify your actions. Germany was a democracy. The Nazis were voted into office. You get my drift? Public approval of immoral or unethical behavior does not magically make this behavior ethical.

And as for my Sack and Stick The Minstry of Reshelving comments earlier, they were obviously hyperbole and a joke. Anyone who things I'm actually advocating hurting these people doesn't get my joke (which was to jokingly 'suggest' an unethical response to unethical behavior, i.e. 'irony')

Anonymous said...

Heh, i'll poop in the "Religion" section and leave a note in the toilet . Hyuk! That'll learn 'em!

Puerile and asinine.

Anonymous said...

i had no idea the bookstores of america were staffed with such humorless fascists... i think this is a cute yet largely ineffective protest that hardly deserves the high pitched protests of Bookstore Clerks United for Amerika...we should ship you all off to The wouldn't last a day!

all Focus on the Family literature to be reshelved under "mental illness."

Jane said...

There is a tradition in Internet forums that as soon as someone compares another poster to a Nazi, the thread must be closed.

This discussion has devolved into a bunch of ludicroulsy irrelevant statements only tenuously connected to the reality of the project.

My patience is wearing thing with people who are willfully misconstruing the intentions of this project.

I support public discussion, but any more Nazi comments, and you guys will have to find another place to duke it out.

Anonymous said...

I have never considered myself an activist. I vote. I fight about politics with my dad. That right there's about the extent of my activism. I'm pretty quiet when it comes to my political beliefs. Maybe I should be out trying to convince a million of my closest friends to move from California and New York to a battleground state and sway the vote for the next election, but that's not my style, and maybe I'm part of the problem. I suspect there are many like me out there...people with political and moral convictions that are strong and deeply held, but who are not inspired or empowered to express them in daily life.

I think that the point here has always been to do something playful that offers a safe, peaceful outlet for some of our thoughts on the state of current world affairs. Might it ultimately be ineffectual? Yes. Will the Ministry topple the current administration? Doubtful. But it gives me and people like me the chance to express our beliefs. And apparently, judging by the 91 comments that precede this one, a few people have taken notice, and I suppose that means that so far the project has been successful in that end.

To those who are dismissing this project as silly or superfluous, I guess it was not intended for you. Maybe it's not your style. Maybe your frustration that such a mild form of protest has been getting some modest coverage (which I guess takes bandwidth away from more serious activist endeavours) will inspire you to undertake an act of revolution that seems more worthwhile. If that were an ultimate outcome of this project, I'd consider it a success. If nothing else, I can see that this project has inspired people to think about the ideas it aspires to convey.

To those of you who consider this vandalism, I invite you to consider this definition from Merriam Webster's Dictionary of Law, which classifies vandalism as "the willful or malicious destruction or defacement of property". At the risk of asking the obvious question, what property, exactly, has been damaged or defaced by any of these actions?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. Read your statement, totally get it. Don't worry about the kneejerk jerks. They're not thinking about this clearly, or they haven't looked very closely. I'm going to try it here in Salt Lake City! The Ministry will continue.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hello there, all of you ineffectual, egotistical, white affluent hipsters and non-risktakers. THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE BLOGIFIED!

"Its ego evaporates in the mutability of desire, its communal spirit withers in the selfishness of obsession."

First, recommended reading: Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone. Read Poetic Terrorism. Read Amour Fou. If you think you've read it before, read it again. It didn't stick. Or listen to the spoken word album version of TAZ he did with Bill Laswell.

Next, crush your ego. Put your obvious and overbearing facination with your own cleverness aside for a moment, and please listen to me. I beg you. I'm earnestly pleading with you on bruised and battered knees.

I'm all for fun, for comedy, for detournement, for fighting the status quo. You're doing none of these things. And after viewing everything on "Avant Game" that I can find and applying critical thinking and reasoning skills, I can pretty much say that you are the status quo. (Where's your ego? If you don't have one, it's not there to be bruised!)

You're doing jack squat. The only effect your going to have is making someone who has already read 1984 chuckle and briefly think "Oh golly! Someone moved a stack of 1984 to the current events section! How clever!"

And you're just going to annoy the crap out of people who do want to buy and read it.

It's not going to get someone who hasn't read 1984 to read 1984.

You're not practicing detournement.

You're certainly no Situationist.

You're not even monkey-wrenching.

You're currently a fashion victim. You're about as cutting edge as a charcoal briquette.

What you did is about as effective as carving a totally punk rock anarchy symbol in your desk in High School.

You want social change?

Go work in a soup kitchen. Join Food Not Bombs. Sell those godawful sunglasses and hipster clothes, take that money, go to the thrift store and buy a much larger quantity of functional (but possibly ugly) clothes and give the rest away to the homeless. Volunteer at an old folks home. Volunteer at a hospital.

Give books away. Buy them from thrift stores or garage sales or used book stores.

Join, support, or start a protest or rally. Lobby. Write letters to your reps. Hang a goddamn sign off a freeway overpass. Stand on a street corner with a banner.

Step out of your comfort zone and be that unfortunate nutcase that actually pushes people out of their own comfort zones. Be grandiose.

Do (good!) street theater. Do puppetry. But stop and think for a moment about how effective your hipster flashmob pseudo-safety-protest really is. Because it's total bullshit.

Do something real for fuck's sake, and stop wallowing in your masturbatory amusement at your own self-perceived cleverness.

It's trite. GODDAMNIT LEGGO YOUR EGO. Please listen to me, I'm on your side and I've been here for decades and decades.

Yeah, I'm pissed off at you. Of all the things that you could have done, this is what is going to end up being your legacy? BOOK RESHELVING? Nigga, please.

I don't know where you're coming up with your 25:1 ratios of approval, but I call bullshit. There's a lot of pissed off people in this thread. And like someone else said, just because a majority of juvenile people agree with you, that doesn't somehow make it true or correct or functional.

Just as it would be incorrect to assume "truth" from a majority of negative replies. But the negative replies here seem to be more nuanced, thoughtful, erudite and well-formed. The positives seem to be mostly "Hell yeah! Anarchy! Wooo!" and "LOL!!1!".

Which side of that fence would you prefer to be on? Well formed? Or doing a keg stand down at the frathouse?

By all means, have fun. But please, please learn to actually think. Learn to take real risks for what you believe in. MOVE FORWARD.

You're but mere toddlers yet, and publicity and attention seeking ones at that.

Again: That's not activism. That's a fashion statement.

There's some more good pro and con debate over at metafilter. ( )

Enjoy your 15 minutes. Use it wisely. Go big or go home.

Anonymous said...

I choose to ignore those previous comments:

I from Canada say Yeah to the Ministry of ReSHeLViNG!


Off to the bookstore i go!

p.s.(Yet again, i realize hitshermark's avatar is cool.)

All your base are belong to us.
You have no chance to survive make your time.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and i think this project should be extended from just the 50 states to include the 10 provinces of Canada!

Anonymous said...

You people crack me up. Between the people ranting about how ineffective this is, to the people who think that the purpose is to create some sort of political coup.

No lie, some guy said something about people who haven't read 1984 wouldn't get the joke, and wouldn't be able to find the book. I suppose neither would those poor fools who have never actually read the Bible.

I'm sooo sick of hearing about the minimum wage workers being worked to death. If ya don't like it, get another job. Better yet, learn a lesson, get a degree, then, unlike myself with a liberal arts degree, do something in the field that your degree is in. (And to those of you who have a Masters Degree and are still complaining about how hard your job is when you have to work for minimum wage in a bookstore, puh-lease, you guys are pitiful and nobody really cares about you anyway.)

This is purely and simply a PRANK.

It was never intended to topple governments, create an actual prolific society, or ruin the lives of you oh-so-pitiful minimum wage employees.

It was however intended to garnish a laugh, from some of the more enlightened and well read persons out there. So if you don't find this funny (2+2=5, and 5 is not what you think it is) well that should tell you something about what you've done with your life, now doesn't it.

BTW, if I ruin your life, career, year, day or coffee break by moving a book (or seven)intentionally, you are definitely so far down on the intellectual food chain that it probably doesn't matter anyway.

P.S. This whole prank is much cooler when done with a british accent.

Anonymous said...

"If you REALLY think we're living in 1984, aren't you afraid of being hauled off for reeducation?"
We're not there, we're heading there...dumbass.

Anonymous said...

I worked in a bookstore for 5 years, and often amused myself by putting books that, to me, made sense to be in a different place than assigned. Examples would be such as the one you mention (good on ya!), or books on "how to please your man" next to feminist lit, books on religion next to books on critical thinking, etc.

It was a simple rebellion, but oh fun! :)

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous coward who enlightened us with:

"It's trite. GODDAMNIT LEGGO YOUR EGO. Please listen to me, I'm on your side and I've been here for decades and decades."

Your rant is full of your own sub-culture's version of "hip" references. Hakim Bey? Please, Ontological Anarchism was big when piercing and tattoos were still so hip it hurt. The true believers got into branding and reading TAZ aloud as some form of art event. Your style of writing is clearly ripped off from Bey, especially the pithy advice following "You want social change?"

I also enjoyed your commentary on the relative quality of posts on the sides supporting and opposing the reshelving activities:

"Just as it would be incorrect to assume "truth" from a majority of negative replies. But the negative replies here seem to be more nuanced, thoughtful, erudite and well-formed. The positives seem to be mostly "Hell yeah! Anarchy! Wooo!" and "LOL!!1!".

Which side of that fence would you prefer to be on? Well formed? Or doing a keg stand down at the frathouse?"

Wow, people showing support for the reshelving didn't go into detail regarding the socio-political implications of the activity? They simply said "rah" or some other lame equivalent showing agreement with the activity? Is this a shock to you somehow? The fact that the people against the activity have a tendency to go into extensive detail explaining why they stand opposed while wrapping it up in varying levels of thought and mumbo-pocus is a sign of what? Intelligence? Why would those who support the concept bother writing more than "Woohoo" even if they could? They don't need to present anything besides supporting what has already been said. The opponents feel the need to present their side in as much detail as the original post, and that led to your post, and then to mine.

You accuse the avantgamers of "doing jack squat" and then you ascribe a possible outcome to their actions:

"The only effect your going to have is making someone who has already read 1984 chuckle and briefly think "Oh golly! Someone moved a stack of 1984 to the current events section! How clever!""

That reaction would be something and therefore more than nothing or "jack squat." They also provoked a rant from you, not an intended consequence but surely worthy of note. You demand that the avantgamers "crush their ego" and receive the truth from you in all your humility on your "bruised and battered knees" before rising up and telling them why they are wrong with all the cliches of a person who believes that he/she has somehow found the truth. You are as much a fashion victim as anyone else on this planet, spouting convenient slogans in opposition to the uninformed. If Hakim Bey's writings were compiled in one convenient book you could simply use the chapter and verse format so popular with some other religions, and that has the added benefit of looking more authoritative.

PeacefulMum said...

I never worked in a bookstore, but I DID volunteer daily in my school library in 6th grade. It was my task to reshelve ALL non-fiction books except for biographies and autobiographies.

I gotta say, I LOVE this project!

And even if some people don't like it- I think it must have some use. It's reminded me of the importance of actually getting "1984" into the hands of my kids. Because a couple of my kids have read "Animal Farm" but we haven't yet gotten "1984" into our family library yet, although we've discussed it with them. So when I go out to reshelve, I will pick up a couple of copies as well.

I'll put one copy in our family library, and donate one to BookCrossing - which anyone who likes this project will probably really dig -

I'm posting about this great reshelving project in my own blog - Big Happy Family.

Oh - and to the anonymous person who doesn't think it's possible that we could get locked away for this tiny act of civil disobedience, really, it could happen. All they'd need to do is get the American Psychiatric Association to vote on a new psychiatric disorder (Reshelving Disorder or something like that) and then they could lock us away for drugging and evaluation. If we refuse treatment, then there is a whole other disorder they've got already for that.

Heck, while I'm at it, I might reshelve "Brave New World" - right next to the DSM-IV (the psychiatric encyclopedia of disorders - my favorite disorder in there is "math disorder").

Anonymous said...

Can I suggest that the good practice of bookstores be carried on the wave of this revolution and infiltrate the dogmatic library institutions? For example, Frank Herbert is located under Sci-Fi in the bookstores, yet the LC classifies him as American Fiction 1945- 1999 i.e. 813.54, which is not what the real world would consider as an apppropraite tag.

And before I forget, since Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We" is also a Soviet version of 1984 - they were pals in the '30's - we all should be relocating this book too!

Peoples Liberal Tagging Front (Scottish Ministry of Re-Education sub-group A1-45/3).

Anonymous said...

my work begins tomorrow

Anonymous said...

First of all, a disclaimer. I have worked in the bookstore business for a long time. I currently work part time for a bookstore, but I also work full time for Whitman-Walker Clinic - so I'm both: a loser retailer and a person with a socially-conscious job.

Now, consider:

A.) Booksellers who are peeved at this prank. Bookstores were not created to provide a canvas for practical jokes. They were created to sell books to people. If a book is misplaced from one side of the store to another and a bookseller cannot find it to sell it, then you have turned a customer away. If a customer goes to a shelf and finds a little sign that says "Whoops, not here! Check somewhere else!", well, that customer is going to think less of the professionalism of the store. So, yeah, I'd be a little pissed if someone did that to me.

B.) If you want to do some constructive reshelving, go to a bookstore and look for copies of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriela Garcia Marquez. I guarantee at least half the time they'll be shelved under M and not G. The proper surname is Garcia Marquez. It's the same with Mario Vargas Llosa - it should be under V, not L. Even the store I work at now shelves them incorrectly, and they've been doing this for 25 years.

C.) Moving 1984 to Current Events is wrong. 1984 is soooo like 22 years ago.

Anonymous said...

You guys are going to get hung by a rampaging procession of book store owners and librarians for starting this stupid thing. John P.

Anonymous said...

1984 sold out, had to reshelve the bible and paperback copy of the prince.

Jugal said...

Jane, I think I'll nearly fall in love with you and then stalk you with a celeb obsession ;D

Awesome works! Read through your site... inspired, related a lot with the stuff you do...

Anonymous said...

I work at a bookstore in Campbell, CA. I agree with the ministry of reshelving and I will most definitely help out.

At the my bookstore, I doubt anyone will notice that 1984 has been relocated until a customer wants to buy a copy. I'm sure this is the same with most other corporate bookstores. I know all of the employees at my bookstore will find this humorous if they even notice that the books have been moved.

I would say that this doesn't impact the employees negatively because if they are to put the books back under "Fiction," it is generally easier to put back a couple copies of the same book by a well-known author than one book by some random author (and it is definitely MUCH easier than reshelving multiple misplaced magazines).

Anonymous said...

The Ministry of Love desperately needs those copies of 1984, to send to 315 members of Congress who voted for the Military Commissions Act (you know--end of habeas corpus, legalize torture, and all that). Please find them wherever they are shelved, buy them (new or used copies), and send them to Minluv.

Details from Comrade O'Brien are here:

Anonymous said...

Yes, we need those books!
Please visit to learn about our creative protest of the Military Commissions Act.

Anonymous said...

this sounds fun and personally rewarding.
to everyone that cant understand why all the bookstore workers are complaining, it's not really about the game, it's just that if you worked retail for minimum wage, you'ld want to complain about anything you could get your hands on too.
before you criticize some one, walk a mile in their shoes, then if you still hate them your a mile away and you have their shoes...

this whole thing reminds me of an Australian comedian called "paulie" for the Ronnie Johns Show (you can probably find video on youtube), that famously used to go into supermarkets and complain that gnocchi should be placed in the potatos section not the pasta.
i remember seeing him once complain to a bookstore owner that 1984 was bullshit because it wasn't historically acurate and didn't mention Duran Duran at all. his solution "put a sticker on it" warning people of its inacuracies.

try to have some fun people

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Andrey said...

Thnx you for you post.

I'm Andrey from St. Petersburg bridges

Skip Mendler said...

"1984+25" is coming in 2009 - and it's also the 60th anniversary of the publication of the novel. Great opportunity for readings and discussions - please drop me a note at if you'd like to participate in the "1984+25 Project."

Please check out the following -
The "1984 INDEX" stands at UNGOOD: