Please take and share this short survey on poetry, protest, Occupy & Gezi Park! You will be helping a Comparative Literature student at İstanbul Bilgi University, Turkey. Click the image below, or go to this link:
Do you remember the OWS Library books? What they looked like. How we labelled them. How they were organized? Perhaps you picked one up and saw that we had written “OWSL” across each side with a permanent marker. Perhaps you saw one with our stamp on it, or even a bookplate. Or maybe you were writing with that marker, or cataloguing them, or sorting them.
So, where are these books now? On November 15, 2011 under orders from then Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) dismantled and destroyed the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street under the pretence of “cleaning” the park. Along with the kitchen, medical tent, residences of occupiers and more in Zucotti Park, all of the library’s books, zines, newspapers, media, computers, and other materials were thrown into trucks by sanitation workers and brought to a DSNY garage on 57th Street. Of the approximately 3,600 books seized that night, only 1,003 were recovered. Of that number, 201 were so damaged while in the possession of the City of New York that they were made unreadable. Thus, at least approximately 2,798 books were never returned or were damaged beyond repair.
But. Some books remain. Some were checked out and taken home, and passed around. Do you have one? I do. I have the first book ever entered into our catalogue. It was the book I chose to keep as a memory of our library. Here it is in our LibraryThing catalog, at the bottom of page 190. Hakim Bey’s “T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone (Autonomedia New Autonomy Series)”:
When TAZ was donated, I held onto it, keeping it close. For me it was a perfect book for our occupation, for our library – at least, for what I imagined both to be. We all had that one book, or books. Those certain books we loved, that we were surprised to see when they were donated – that we smiled at between the piles of romance novels, Bloomberg biographies, and other less-wanteds – those books that you just knew someone gave because it made so much sense for it to be in this library.
I’m writing about our books now, about what one of our librarians called the “dregs of the library” – what was left after the attack, what was salvageable, and unsalvageable. Do you have an OWS library book? Don’t worry, there is still no due date, we don’t want them back. We want them to keep living out there. But I would love to hear the story of your book, whether you were an occupier, a visitor, a volunteer, a working group member, a patron, anyone – tell me your People’s Library book stories. And share a photo if you can of your book(s).
Post in the comments, and email me your story, your photos, anything you’d like to share. I’ll post your stories here if you want that, so others can hear about where the books ended up, or not, it’s up to you.
As bicyclists, joggers, and tourists looked on in bemusement, three exhausted individuals pushed a broken-unwieldy-wooden-wagon-thing-on-two-wheels across the Williamsburg Bridge. It was July 21, 2012, a hell of a day to push something heavy through Manhattan and Brooklyn. It is impossible to know exactly what the onlookers thought of those pushing the cart, but it is likely they did not recognize that what they were watching was working group members from the Occupy Wall Street People’s Library moving the last remnants of the collection out of a storage unit and to, alas, another temporary home. It may be that three sweaty people pushing a giant wheeled crate does not make most people think of libraries, but the People’s Library had always been dogged by others’ ideas of it.
We should know. We’ve heard them all…
“Librarian Is My Occupation: A History of the People’s Library of Occupy Wall Street” was written by two members of the OWSL working group, it was included in the book Informed Agitation. The full text of the chapter is available by clicking the above link (or the picture).
The Dayton Project is an oral history project on Occupy created by Kyle Pitzer, a student in the public history program at Wright State University, in Dayton, Ohio. you can follow his efforts to interview and transcribe and hopefully, he writes, turn some of that material into a radio story on his project blog here.
I wanted to share the project here because we often privilege the textual when thinking about libraries and information – but oral forms are important methods of building, sharing, and passing on knowledge, stories, history, and experience.
You can contact Kyle about the project here.
Dear friends of the People’s Library, we recently hit a turning point in the history of our beloved library. As you may remember, last spring we reached a settlement with the city and it’s various departments and officials. We received $47,000 and a not-quite-apology. We got lots of questions about what we were going to do with all that money.
As the city and the NYPD have made it an impossible thing to plant libraries such as we once had, we knew it would be futile and wasteful to attempt such a thing. Further, we are tired and busy, and many of us have moved on to other projects and several have left NYC for less hellish homes. Besides which, money being power, and power corrupting… we didn’t want it. After all, it wasn’t really about the money, it’s just that money is how capitalist government says it’s sorry. Earlier on in the lawsuit process, we were offered a settlement without the not-quite-apology. We didn’t take it.
Anyway, we had no use for it, but we knew there were lots of groups that could use it. We drew up a list of groups we’d like to help out, divided, and wrote some checks.
Of course, it wasn’t actually that simple. There was a ridiculous group video conference, where we spent more time trying to get the damn thing to work than actually talking, for example. It obviously took a while. I’d especially like to thank Michele, Danny, and Zachary for staying on top of it and doing most of the legwork. I’d also like to thank our liaisons from Finance for helping us out along the way. And, as always, big thanks to our lawyers.
For transparency’s sake, here’s the list of groups we gave it to. We’ve held on to a little bit for things like maintaining the domain registrations of the blog and what-have-you.
- Word Up Community Bookshop
- The Brecht Forum
- Bluestockings Books
- Queers for Economic Justice
- National Lawyers Guild
- Food for Thought Books
- Waging Nonviolence
- Reader to Reader
- Silvia Rivera Law Project
- OWS Jail Support / Just Info
- Indiana Prison College
- Free University NYC
- Books Through Bars
- Housing Works
- NYC Anarchist Black Cross
- Pink and Black
- Urban Librarians Unite
- Queens Café (new community space in Queens)
- Free Press
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Demand Progress
- Brooklyn Public Library
- Queens Library Foundation
- New York Public Library
- New Alternatives
- Bailey House
- Lesbian Herstory Archives
- Interference Archive
- American Indian College Fund
- Brooklyn Base
- Tamiment Library
- OWS poetry Anthology
So, that’s pretty much it, y’all. It’s been great to serve you as your faithful librarians. You’ll hear from us occasionally as we work on further projects. And next time things go all insurrection, we’ll be there, too, books in hand.
Call Congress! Rally in the streets! Get up, get angry and get involved, but remember that change requires more than just one phone call or attending one rally! The surveillance currently being conducted by the NSA has been going on for several years now and it has relied on the collusion of Internet companies, telecoms, government, and most importantly it has relied on the passivity of a population easily distracted by fancy electronic gadgets. So, restore the fourth, but also…