Haruki Murakami Library Records at the Center of a Privacy Debate

novelist Haruki Murakami Image: nytimes.com
novelist Haruki Murakami
Image: nytimes.com


Serving the Albuquerque, New Mexico, community, attorney Geoffrey Scovil provides legal defense for the indigent and aggressively protects the Constitutional rights of his clients. An avid reader, Geoffrey Scovil considers novelist Haruki Murakami, who mixes diverse literary elements, ranging from detective fiction to magical realism, his favorite author.

In December 2015, librarians in Japan were dismayed to find that the list of books the author checked out as a teenager were published by the newspaper Kobe Shimbun. The list included a three-volume set of the complete works of Joseph Kessel. The pioneering French author is known for writing scandalous books, such as 1928’s Belle de Jour, about a housewife who seeks alternative life pathways.

The Japan Library Association was vocal in criticizing the dissemination of these records from half a century ago, claiming that it constituted a violation of privacy. The assistant managing editor of Kobe Shimbun countered that understanding how Murakami developed as a writer was valid as “a subject for scholarly study.”

This debate is noteworthy in that it brings to light a Japanese system that protects library data privacy more strictly than the United States, in which the Patriot Act empowers federal government access to a host of data once considered private and off limits.


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