Working the Reference Desk

Let’s get one thing out of the way. I’m not a Librarian. Being a Librarian requires years of study and training and experience and education. We’re so lucky to have our founder Betsy who is a Librarian, and for the amazing work of Mandy, also a Librarian, who drove all the way from Indiana today with her husband to help out and is continuing to work with us.

But, when I spend a day sitting at the library with my name-tag on, helping our patrons and brothers and sisters in the movement and get so many questions from people I start to know what it must feel like to be a Librarian. Questions about everything. So, even those of us who aren’t librarians, but are working at the library have to learn to think like we’re sitting at the reference desk. And this is not the usual reference desk. Sometimes we’re working in the rain, sitting in a puddle, while being interviewed by a German reporter who got off the plane an hour ago, and talked at by a gentleman who insists one can stop the rain if you just point your finger at the sky and say firmly “dissipate!” all while a pigeon is poking around next to you and someone walks up and says:

“Where is the poetry meeting?” – “Do you have any of the Wall Street Journal Occupation paper?” – “Can I buy this book?” – “What’s the march route?” – “Where is the bathroom?” – “When is Radiohead getting here?” – “I read there isn’t really a point here, what is this protest about anyway…?”

It’s that last one that can be the hardest to answer. Well, yes – of course there is a point to the protest, to the movement, to the activism. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re doing this. And so in my temporary capacity as an ad-hoc reference librarian, I’m pleased to post a link here to the official “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City“.

So, have a look at that, and then hear what I have to say about it and tell me what you think, tell me why you’re here. And ask someone else, ask someone at the kitchen as they hand you warm food (so grateful for the excellent burrito tonight!). Ask someone in the sanitation group who is changing out a trash can or sweeping up. Ask someone who is sleeping in the park. Ask someone who just walked out of the 77th precinct in Brooklyn after being arrested on the bridge today. Sure, the Occupy Wall Street movement is non-hierarchical, and what I say about it might totally conflict with what someone else says about it. But that’s ok. In fact, it’s not only ok – it’s by design. That’s what makes it participatory, that’s how it’s built from the ground up, that’s how we are building a community, a cause, a¬†consciousness, that’s how we’re building a movement – we’re doing it together.


Filed under Reference, Rob

13 responses to “Working the Reference Desk

  1. I do trust all of the ideas you have presented to your post.
    They are very convincing and will definitely work.
    Still, the posts are too brief for newbies. Could
    you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Your method of telling everything in this post is genuinely pleasant, every one be capable of easily be aware of
    it, Thanks a lot.

  3. Lisa Hubbell

    Thank you so much for all your hard work and dedication. I am working on a paper for library school about Occupy libraries, and am deeply grateful that the OWS Library has been so conscientious about documenting its purpose, philosophy, and practices.

  4. Pingback: Occupied? Or Censored?! Protesting Veterans & Librarians | Emerging Technologies Librarian

  5. Stephanie Willen Brown

    I love that there is a library down at Occupy Wall Street. Folks answering other folks’ questions is so important. I giggled knowing that you are answering the Most Common Library Question: where’s the bathroom. Rock on y’all!

  6. I started a Facebook page, Redstocking Grandma Library, so I could function as an Occupy Wall Street reference librarian online. If you “like” the page, my posts will appear on your wall. All of you are free to post and comment. You can share to your Facebook account any of my posts. All of them are public. Take a look

    I am pleased with its versatility. I am particularly happy about my latest discovery. If you want to recommend a specific book, go to the New York Public Library online catalog, find it there, and post the link. When people click on the link, they will go to the catalog entry where they can see which library has the book, reserve it to be delivered to their local branch.

    The public library is the only American institution I have ever trusted. I am always shocked by how many people don’t use their library.

  7. Pingback: Occupy Wallstreet Library - Working the Reference Desk | LibraryLinks LiensBiblio |

  8. Beautiful to see! You are an inspiration to us all. And “What’s the Point” really IS the hardest question to answer- first, because your jaw drops every time someone doesn’t get it. how can they NOT get it? But some don’t, Because it is hard to whittle it down to a key demand phrase. What I tell people is: We are here to be a voice. Something is wrong, and everyone here, of every race, color, creed, class, religion, and shoe size, agrees that SOMETHING must be done. We gather to shout that, so that more will come, and strengthen that voice. And when we speak our demands, there will be no one on the planet that cannot hear it.

    Peace to the marchers, the sleepers, and those who work the wires!

  9. J Rawson Schaller

    When is Michael Moore coming to address The Movement?

  10. Hi,
    I’m home and tired, but a post will be completed by tomorrow night and I also have that outreach email–who should I send that to for the group to consider?

    • Michael

      Hi Mandy – over on the Working Group page, we’re having all our discussions out in the open – and we’re building projects there as well. So you can start a new project page for that if you’d like. Post over there if you need help doing that.

  11. Michael

    Hi Sue, thanks for asking! We’ll all have different answers for this, but here are some of my thoughts. We could certainly use more copies of A People’s History Of The United States by Howard Zinn. We had at least one, but that would be a great one to have multiples of. Our largest sections now are Fiction. We have a lot of interest in the Poetry box, it’s always one that people go to. We don’t have very many contemporary Law books, so relevant books about law in NY would be helpful. The approach I’ve taken with my own donations is to give books that I feel passionately about.

    Another thing we are going to have an ongoing need for are good plastic boxes with lids. In fact, it’s just started raining again now, and that’s only going to continue as winter comes.

  12. Sue G

    Do you have book requests?

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