Daily Archives: October 16, 2011

Cardboard Boxes

I came across this post in the Seattle Stranger, a publication I’m familiar with from years of living in Portland, Ore. and I was disturbed to read this line about the Occupy Seattle library: “Make The People’s Library into something worth our attention, rather than a couple of cardboard boxes in the middle of a much-contested thoroughfare.”

It isn’t that Occupy Seattle was using cardboard boxes for their library that disturbs me, it was the criticism of that fact by the author. Sure, the Stranger and their Portland weekly, the Mercury are better known for sarcasm than journalism. But the critique the author makes is that Occupy Seattle should be trying to “build the kind of utopian society you want” instead of “fuck[ing] shit up and piss[ing] off the police.”

First of all, every Occupy Library starts out as a few books, usually they’re lucky to have a cardboard box to keep them in. Here’s our library in the beginning of the occupation. We didn’t even have cardboard, just a plastic sheet they sat on.

And here’s our library after the eviction resistance this past Friday. This was all that was left, a corkboard. And after everything you’ve spent weeks building is taken apart – you go right back in and put it back together. And it’s not always pretty.

So, the second point I’d like to make to Mr. Constant of the Stranger is that keeping up a library in an occupation is a constant struggle. It’s a fight against the elements, against police who want to dismantle it, against people who steal from it, against occupiers and visitors who want to stand on it or spill coffee on it, from working groups who want to take that space for their own projects. And if your entire occupation is facing constant harassment and threats of displacement and eviction from the police, it’s not always number one on your list to make the library pretty – you feel lucky to have some books at all.

My final point, to Mr. Constant and all those who commented on his article saying things like “the occupiers should do this” and “the occupiers should do that” – this is not a sit-on-the-sidelines and complain, back-seat-driver movement. If you see something that you want to change, get your ass down there and do it. If you don’t hear something being said that you want to hear, get your ass down there and say it. Get involved, volunteer your time and resources. Don’t whine about it from the safety of your computer by posting snarky articles or comments about their cardboard boxes, don’t sit there and tell those brave folks that what they’re doing “flies in the face of what the Occupy Wall Street protesters have created” – get up! go down there! and bring the folks some plastic bins.


Filed under #OccupySeattle, Announcements, OccupyLibraries

Inside the Occupy Portland Library

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Filed under #OccupyPortland, OccupyLibraries, Rob, Video

Library Working Group Meets

On Saturday we had our first formal working group meeting at the library. Prior to this meeting, our decision making process has been to reach consensus within the group who are on the ground at the library or through conversations on this blog. On Saturday, we put the same process used by the General Assembly into use and spent three hours discussing the items on our agenda (agenda items were posted in advance here). Minutes from our meeting will be posted soon, in the meantime, here are photos of the process in action at your library.

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While the General Assembly meetings serve as a forum for participation, decision making and announcements about the movement and occupation as a whole (as well as report-backs from working groups), a working group is a decision making body for a specific project within the occupation of Liberty Plaza. Both General Assemblies and Working Groups use the same process for conducting meetings. The meeting is facilitated by a facilitator and a stack keeper. People are also responsible for checking the vibe (the feeling and response of the group) as well as taking minutes.

The process involves many tools for giving everyone a voice, for respecting speaking and listening and for using hand signals. This video on YouTube is a good introduction to how it works.


Filed under Photographs, Process, Rob, Working Group Meeting

London Review of Books blogs about the OWS Library

This is my favorite publication, so I’ve been waiting to see them do a piece on us or the movement as a whole. They also have a blog, and we did get a mention there and even a link back to this blog: http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2011/10/12/annie-dorsen/in-zuccotti-park/


Filed under Steve S.

The People’s Library Loves Books and the Writers of Books Love the People’s Library

Here’s Beth Gutcheon donating a copy each of all of her books—and in the rain! I asked her to pose for a photo and inscribe her donations. Because, how great is this?

If you meet any other writers who want to donate their own books, I encourage you to post photos! Nobody has turned me down yet. Don’t let those camera shy authors get away too easily!

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Filed under Photographs, Steve S.

Solidarity Letter from Occupy Portland Library

During our Library Working Group meeting today, we were thrilled to get a hand delivered letter from the Occupy Portland Library (Oregon). We put the courier on the spot and asked him to read it to us. Here’s the video, as well as the letter. We’re excited to connect with our fellow Occubrarians in Portland (yeah, I know that word is awful, but I’m addicted to it now). Much love and solidarity to you Occupy Library in PDX!

The text reads:

Dear Occupy Wall St.
We stand in solidary with you and wish to share best practices and an open line of contact with your library. Please shoot us an email: [email address]

Much Love,

In solidarity, brothers and sisters

Much love from Portland! Stay Strong.


Filed under #OccupyPortland, Media, OccupyLibraries, Photographs, Rob, Solidarity, Video