On Monday, November 7, 2011 Mayor Michael Bloomberg was in attendance at one of New York City’s top cultural and social events: The New York Public Library’s Library Lions gala. The individuals honored as Library Lions are, according to nypl.org, “distinguished individuals who have made significant cultural and educational achievements to increase our understanding of the world around us.” The 2011 honorees included such literary luminaries as Tony Kushner, Isabel Wilkerson, Jonathan Franzen, Stacy Schiff, Ian McEwan, and the songwriter Natalie Merchant.
On Monday, November 15, 2011 the books of many of those Library Lions mingled with broken shelves, ripped tents, and smashed computers in the aftermath of the raid on Zuccotti Park. The raid, authorized by Mayor Bloomberg, saw, among other things, the OWS People’s Library thrown in the trash. Perhaps, as Mayor Bloomberg enjoyed the library festivities on the 7th he was already planning the action that would destroy a different library on the 15th, or perhaps he was just enjoying the photo opportunity as he exchanged pleasantries with the authors who he held in high enough esteem as to have their works tossed into garbage trucks.
If it was Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to check out a copy of his book Bloomberg by Bloomberg, from the People’s Library, then it was his right to do so, and if he wanted to read Jonathan Franzen’s novel Freedom he could have borrowed a copy of that as well. Yet, checking out thousands of books at once was highly inconsiderate, and his treatment of these materials is unacceptable. The librarians specifically ask patrons not to check out reference materials so that they may be used by others, not to damage archival material, and not to destroy a place where one and all can come and find books on a range of subjects from classics to economics to children’s books. Mayor Bloomberg has expressed that he intends to return the People’s Library to the people, but based on what we have seen so far, as we have attempted to retrieve the library, we fear that Mayor Bloomberg is setting himself up for some serious overdue and replacement fees. Mayor Bloomberg’s decision, that led to the destruction of the People’s Library, is an act unbecoming of any citizen in a democracy, and is even less appropriate for an individual holding public office. Some may suggest that the People’s Library, as with other groups in Zuccotti park, was given a warning by the police before they began their raid, but the idea that removing thousands of books (not to mention other materials) can be accomplished quickly, after 1 a.m., with the trains frozen, and with routes in and out filled with police officers making arrests, is plainly absurd.
Not long ago people across the country were in an uproar over a man’s attempt to burn a holy book, but Mayor Bloomberg tossed dozens of holy books into dumpsters on the 15th. Now that roaring is coming from the lions, Patience and Fortitude, who guard the entry to the very library where Mayor Bloomberg cavorted on the 7th. The 99% have shown tremendous patience and fortitude as individuals such as Mayor Bloomberg have used their money to exert an undemocratic influence over our politics and lives, but we sit idly no longer.
Mayor Bloomberg clearly prides himself on his deeds and actions as a philanthropist, and it is likely that he had a lovely evening on November 7 at the event honoring the Library Lions. Yet his actions on November 15 make clear that when it comes to supporting the democratic ideals behind libraries, Bloomberg is just lying.
- The People’s Library Working Group