When the NYPD raided the Occupy Wall Street Encampment at Zuccotti Park this morning, they tossed the 5,554 books that were assembled from donations into The People’s Library, an extemporaneous institution with a proper librarian and its own website, into dumpsters.
According to the story as reported this morning on mediabistro.com: “According to the city’s eviction notice, the “property will be stored at the Department of Sanitation parking garage at 650 West 57th St.” But the librarians dispute this: “it was clear from the livestream and witnesses inside the park that the property was destroyed by police and DSNY workers before it was thrown in dumpsters.”
The People’s Library, set into the North East corner of the Park near the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street, was one of the most beautiful aspects of the occupation site.
The legality of the eviction is being ejudicated (after the barn door…) as I type, but the city junked everything nonetheless. I hope and I believe that Occupy Wall Street will be back there, and will figure out a new way to outwit the authorities. But if anyone thinks that once set into motion, there couldn’t have been anyway for the police to preserve the books, a story occurs to me. [read on...]
via Inside Higher Ed:
When thinking about the future of Occupy Wall Street, there is something to say for meteorological determinism. An open-ended protest movement may grow when the weather permits, but an Arctic blast means shrinkage. OWS may bloom again in the spring, perhaps on a scale to dwarf anything that's happened so far. But when you ask people involved in the movement about what to expect in the meantime, the response can be rather evasive, and it sometimes comes with a look that says, “Have you ever tried to do anything by consensus, let alone long-term planning? Seriously, quit asking me that.”
But one segment of the movement has been thinking about the cold months ahead, and even beyond that. They are the “guerrilla librarians" -- the people organizing and distributing books and periodicals to keep the demonstrators informed and entertained. A library was established in Zuccotti Park at the very start of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, and it has received a good deal of attention. Several more sprang up as the protests spread. With the occupation movement, decentralized improvisation is the name of the game, so it’s impossible to tell just how many libraries have sprung up. But they exist in Boston and Philadelphia, in Portland, Ore. and Halifax, Nova Scotia, among other places. They are staffed by a mixture of professional librarians and activist volunteers, with "stacks" created through donations from publishers, bookstores, and individuals.
Just keeping their collections running has been plenty demanding. But that's where a slowdown in activity during the cold months could help the libraries consolidate themselves while also establishing contacts with one another. The blog of the flagship OWS library now serves as an unofficial journal providing information and advice for the whole milieu. A stronger network is likely to come out of the American Library Association meeting in Dallas in January, where an informal working group of library and information-science professionals who supporting the occupation movement will get together to compare notes.
Mandy Henk, a librarian at DePauw University, will be attending the session in Dallas. Being on fall break gave her the chance to work with the Occupy Wall Street library in early October. When we spoke by phone, she was back in Indiana but planning to return to Zuccotti Park within a few days.
“A lot of academics have volunteered,” she said, “mostly grad students or professors from the New York area.” Her description of the work required to keep the collection running covers all the basic functions performed by the staff of a more traditional collection: acquisitions, cataloging, building and maintaining a reserves collection, and working the circulation desk where patrons can check books out. “We also have a Friday night poetry slam,” she says, “and events where authors discuss their work with the public.”
I asked how meet-the-author events were organized. This, with hindsight, was a pretty silly question. As with everything else in OWS, the voluntarism sustaining the library follows its own rhythm. Authors just show up. Librarians work when they can and leave when they must. Flux is part of the ambience: a feature, not a bug.
“People are enjoying having a space where they are surrounded by books and ideas,” Henk says. “The great thing about Zuccotti is that constant political and economic debates take place that people might otherwise shy away from.” (Not that the library provides only fodder for argument. Plenty of fiction also circulates.)