February 16, 2018

Trina Magi | Movers & Shakers 2006



If by ‘rabble’ one means librarians and Congress, then University of Vermont librarian Trina Magi has earned that title, bestowed on her by Vermont Woman magazine. She worried that section 215 of the USA PATRIOT ACT could have a chilling effect on her students’ curiosity. ‘If you have to start wondering what your reading list might look like to an FBI agent, you might start to censor yourself…and the moment you begin thinking that, you are no longer free to be an informed citizen.’

A former president of the Vermont Library Association (VLA), Magi took her concern to VLA, which became the first state library association to oppose the Patriot Act officially. The letter it sent to Rep. Bernie Sanders convinced him to champion librarians’ opposition to the act. After a joint press conference in which he had Magi explain the danger of unrestricted government intrusions on reader privacy, Sanders introduced legislation to protect records of bookstore and library patrons.

Jessamyn West (librarian.net) says Magi is effective because she ‘communicates ideas so that you don’t feel threatened or attacked even if you don’t agree with her.’ Along with bookseller Linda Ramsdell, Magi spoke frequently in public meetings and on radio and TV, alerting readers to the dangers of Section 215 – for which both women received the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. Magi discovered that people regard librarians as well informed and honest and says, ‘I’ve worked hard to honor that trust by doing my homework on the issues and speaking carefully and accurately.’

Though thinking globally, she also acted locally. Magi researched and helped draft policies and procedures to protect user privacy in her own library.

Magi doesn’t consider herself an activist, but when she feels strongly about an issue, she tries to raise awareness and change things. ‘We need to have the debate that didn’t happen before the law was passed,’ she says.



Current Position Library Associate Professor, University of Vermont, Burlington
Degrees MLS, University of Maryland, 1997
Honors New England Library Association ProQuest/SIRS Intellectual Freedom Award; Playboy Foundation’s Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award