Off the Beaten Path Brings Petition Campaign Front & Center

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The name might be Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, but Leslie Ryan wanted to make sure that the residents of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, didn't have to wander too far to find out about the Campaign for Reader Privacy (CRP). To help promote CRP -- a nationwide grassroots petition drive to raise awareness about the threat to the privacy of bookstore and library records posed by the USA Patriot Act -- the store ran two quarter-page ads in its local newspaper. "It was quite successful," Ryan told BTW in a recent interview. "We ran one ad for President's Day and the second was later. It showed the petition itself -- some people even filled [out the ad] and brought it to us!"

CRP was launched in February and is sponsored by ABA, the American Library Association, and PEN American Center. At the beginning of April, ABA announced that phase one of CRP would culminate and conclude with a CRP presentation during BookExpo America in June. Booksellers are urged to continue to collect signatures (and periodically mail them to ABA) through the weekend of May 15, and on May 17 mail all remaining petitions to ABA.

The idea to place an ad in the newspaper came from the staff, Ryan said. "We meet weekly with the staff, and they were excited about collecting signatures…. I think it is an important First Amendment issue. The patrons understand. We didn't have to explain the dangerous language and the potential for abuse."

Ryan reported that, as of the first week of April, Off the Beaten Path had garnered about 1,000 signatures, remarkable for a town with a population of around 10,000. "We're a ski resort," she said. "We're a small, conservative … town, but everyone understands this issue." She said CRP is an issue that crosses political boundaries and added that rural areas like hers are "made up of a lot of independent people." She added that the store would continue to collect signatures up to the deadline of May 17.

For answers to frequently asked questions about the bookstore drive to collect customer signatures, click here.

Booksellers can order additional petition pads by calling ABA's Information Department at (800) 637-0037, ext. 1292 or 1293, or for a downloadable PDF of the petition, click here.

ABA is asking booksellers to send in petitions whenever they have collected a few hundred signatures. (Petitions should be mailed to ABA, Restore Reader Privacy, Attn.: Oren Teicher, 828 S. Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591.)