After the raid, we were given all of the books found by the sanitation department. This included many people’s personal journals. It is our duty to help return them to their rightful owners, so here we are. If anybody lost a journal that is featured in either photo, please get in contact with me, [email removed] or [phone removed]. It is my personal contact to ensure that it doesn’t get lost in the mass mailing list that we have for the library. To ensure it is yours, I would need some sort of verification, any kind that shows you are the rightful owner of the journal through knowledge of what is inside. Please spread this around to anybody that may have lost a journal on the night of the raid.
Monthly Archives: November 2011
This is part one of a two part series.
As a People’s Library librarian one question I get asked over and over again is why we don’t offer a digital library for our readers. It’s a good question and one I think is worth exploring in some detail.
To start, we have to address the question of what a digital library is— is it an institutional repository or archive? Is it a search engine for curated links? Or is it a virtual library? It’s an open question and one that I think different people can reasonably answer in radically different, but still valid, ways. A digital library can be and is all of those things.
And if by digital library you mean archive, there is one, and probably there are plenty more I don’t know about. OWS also has its own Archives group working to preserve the ephemera and other documents of the movement. So, in that sense, there is a digital library for Occupy Wall Street. But that doesn’t answer the question about bringing content to our readers.
The next question then is what the People’s Library takes as its mission. As a leaderless library, the question of mission is tough to answer; the mission is fluid depending on who is asking and who is answering. The simplest answer is that the People’s Library and the other occupation libraries exist to support both the full-time activists who live at the various occupations and the Occupy movement as a whole. We also exist to serve the local communities surrounding the occupations, whether in lower Manhattan, LA, or Washington, DC. Given that, a digital library seems a perfectly legitimate undertaking, especially after the raid and seizure of the books.
So, why don’t we have one?
The first barrier is time. We could offer a list of useful links to our Occupiers and our online community. With an all volunteer staff through, finding time to gather relevant links and then present them with annotations and so on is tough. This kind of digital library also requires quite a bit of maintenance, links need to be added and removed regularly and annotations need updating as content evolves. Searchable or categorized lists of links are also the most basic kind of digital library. They certainly have their place, but what they don’t do is offer content that would otherwise not be available. Instead, they make free content easier to find. A worthy task, but one that takes many many hours of work.
Most libraries these days, both public and academic, offer access to databases that contain articles and books not legally available on the open web. This is the virtual library that has evolved as more and more content is born digital and made available not through the codex or traditional journal, but rather through databases like JSTOR, Gale’s InfoTrac, Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier and so on.
(Hey, wait a minute, those links don’t work for me! It says I need a password! Yep. I know . . . read on. If they did work, it’s because of your local librarians. You should thank them.)
Those databases and others like them serve two main functions. First, they provide an important infrastructure so that each library doesn’t need to gather and maintain servers, indexers, and so on. This is valuable work, work that few libraries have either the expertise or funds to carry out themselves. It is also work that has a pretty clear counterpart in the print world—remember that dusty old Readers Guide to Periodical Literature or the New York Times Index In many ways, databases are the same thing, just with bits and bytes instead of pages and volumes. The second function is that of gatekeeper. This is a new function for the digital world. Almost everything behind those pay walls you just ran into is copyrighted. That means that the rights to the content are owned by someone and the database companies ensure that those rights are protected.
This second function, protecting the rights of the copyright holders, makes providing a virtual library for Occupy pretty much impossible. What database company would (or even could given their contracts with rightsholders) want to offer access to the 99%? These databases aren’t cheap. Like the banks, the publishing industry–the companies who control the databases, has seen consolidation into the hands of a relatively few players. More important than that even, the publishing industry has transformed into one dominated by multinational conglomerates. Projects like JSTOR and Project MUSE are bright exceptions to this rule, ones that deserve our support, but they are exceptions. So, let’s look for a moment at who owns our scholarly heritage and who the People’s Library would need to do business with to provide a virtual library for the 99%.
The market for large databases includes relatively few players offering a small number of comparable, but not identical, products. The products fall into two main categories, single publisher databases and aggregated databases. A good public library is able to offer access to both types. ScienceDirect is an example of a single publisher database—you want access to an article published by Elsevier? ScienceDirect is your go-to database. Wiley more your speed? Wiley Online Library is your one stop shopping spot. Interested in a wider range of materials from multiple publishers? Proquest Central, Ebsco’s Academic Search Premier, and Gale’s InfoTrac have got your back. Or would, if you had the cash. Which, unless you’re a 1%er, you don’t. That’s one of the beautiful things about your library card, your local library may allow you access to some of these databases. Or it might not.
And who are these companies anyway? If the People’s Library had the funds, is sending them to these folks a good idea? No. Let’s start with the low hanging fruit—Gale.
Gale has an honorable history as library vendor. But, like many fine companies, it has changed hands repeatedly throughout the years. Started in 1956 with a single title, the venerable Encyclopedia of Associations, Gale was bought by Thompson in 1985. You can learn more about the younger Thompson, the 2nd Baron Thompson of Fleet here. His Lordship was the richest person in Canada in 2006. It was in 2006 that Thompson spun off its Learning Division, and with it Gale, for 7.75 billion dollars. The new owners, private equity groups Apax and OMERS (the Onterio Municipal Employees Retirement System) are a mixed bag. OMERS is an institutional investor working on behalf of the upstanding municipal workers of Canada. It controls about $53 billion, but is struggling right now and cutting benefits to workers. Apax is a private equity group. This means that they invest in companies with the goal of bringing them to short or medium term profitability and then selling them off. As the newly named Cengage, aka Thompson Learning, says in its annual report,” Investment funds associated with or designated by Apax control us. Apax is able to appoint a majority of our board of directors and determine our corporate strategy, management and policies. In addition, Apax has control over our decisions to enter into any corporate transaction and has the ability to prevent any transaction that requires the approval of shareholders regardless of whether we believe that any such transactions are in our best interests.”
Apax owns a lot of different companies. They also claim a commitment to sustainability and good labor relations. They’ve had a few issues in Israel, are working hard to bring the glories of for profit medical care to India, and they even owned my favorite anthropomorphic train. Pity they haven’t lived up to their commitments—but then who could? With 57 different “investments” across five sectors, Apax isn’t a business or even a corporation, it’s an empire. And like any empire, it has an emperor, one whose salary at 502 times the median wage in Britain certainly befits his position. And like any 1%er these days, Apax owns its share of politicians.
Other database companies suffer from the same problem: an extreme concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the few. ProQuest is a bit old fashioned in that its parent company is family owned—a very rich family indeed the Synders are (you can tell by the board memberships, those don’t come cheap). Ebsco, which recently merged with the beloved H. W. Wilson company, is a conglomerate of truly stupendous proportions. Committed to Growth through Acquisitions, Ebsco seems to be run by good people. But they are people who are caught up in a system that has run its course, a system that has generated tremendous wealth for the few through the wonton destruction of the natural environment and human society.
Stay tuned for part 2 . . .
Bill writes, “For the past six weeks I have been living and working as a librarian in the People’s Library, camping out on the ground next to it. I’m an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and I’ve chosen to spend my sabbatical at Occupy Wall Street to participate in the movement and to build and maintain the collection of books at the People’s Library. I love books—reading them, writing in them, arranging them, holding them, even smelling them. I also love having access to books for free. I love libraries and everything they represent. To see an entire collection of donated books, including many titles I would have liked to read, thoughtlessly ransacked and destroyed by the forces of law and order was one of the most disturbing experiences of my life.”
Head on over to The Nation for the full essay.
THE POETRY MARATHON CONTINUES:
The OWS Poetry Anthology has again been updated… It’s massive! It’s a marathon of poetry! 100 pages added!
THE WORLD HAS A POETIC SPIRIT! IT’S BEING RADICALLY UNLEASHED! THERE IS A COMMUNITY OF THE SPIRIT! AND IT WANTS YOU TO JOIN IT! AND FEEL THE DELIGHT OF WALKING IN THE NOISY STREET! AND BEING THE NOISE! DRINK ALL YOUR PASSION AND BE A DISGRACE! FOR THE WORLD HAS A POETIC SPIRIT! NOW JOIN IT!
THIS WEEK’S WRITING PROMPT: Watch OWS video’s on youtube that show police brutality. Spend a half hour in silent reflection. As you reflect, calmly send radiant energy to people the world over that have been victims of police brutality. Then write a poem to a police officer! Dedicate poems to Robert Hass or anyone you know that has been a victim of police brutality.
Here is a poem in this spirit from WEEK 7:
when you beat me
By, Richard Vargas
does your arm tire
as you swing your
baton into the thud
of my flesh and bone
and you hear me
scream out in pain
when you crack
my ribs and jab
my soft belly
do you feel like a
job well done when
you pin me on the
ground and harness
my wrists like a
no matter that
we are both looked
down upon by those
on their balconies
of glass and steel
who laugh and joke
as they spread caviar
on fancy crackers
that will never pass
while you choke me
knock me down
look at how they
raise their flutes
of exquisite champagne
sparkling in the sun
blinding you with
their cold brilliance
and empty nods
The night before Thanksgiving at Occupy Tampa a generous amount of food was donated by a local church group. This included bags of sandwiches, several trays of pasta and drinks. When the Tampa Police Department came to play their nightly cat and mouse game where they threaten to confiscate anything that is touching the ground–they took all the food–boxes of literature that was used on the info table–and crates filled with books that were part of the Occupy Tampa Library. The crates were forcefully snatched and thrown in the back of a truck for sanitatuion disposal. When one Occupy Tampa member attemted to retrieve a crate of books–he was thrown to the ground—arrested –and taken to jail.
Just prior to all of this–another Occupy Tampa member was jailed for trespassing in Curtis Hixon park. He was clearly targeted as an occupier because 50 people were in the amphitheatre in the park participating in a musical open mic—and he was the ONLY one arrested.
The nighttime harrassment by the police is non stop and an effort to cause sleep deprivation. They mock us—laugh at us–and shine bright lights in our faces. Their behaviour is much like a schoolyard bully!
Our library working group meeting will take place this Sunday, November 27th at 7:30PM at The Moonstruck Diner, 244 Madison Ave on the corner of Madison and 38th St. All are welcome to attend to discuss the future of the People’s Library and the future of our occupation movement. We hope to see lots of you there!
Last night, Charlie and I, were the only librarians left at night near Liberty Plaza. Word had been going around of “Occupy Macy’s,” in which the occupiers would go and chant, until we are allowed in the store with the rest of the crowd, at which point we would enter, shop, and just leave our filled shopping carts in the middle of the store. There were few of us, and we knew that we would not be let in. But that did not stop us from giving out books to the crowd as they waited. We soon caught up with Reverend Billy from the church of stop shopping. At first he just passed us by, but we ran into him when the Security Guard that caught him preaching was kicking him out. “Don’t buy it, Occupy it!” So in honor of our first Buy Nothing Day as a library, happy Buy Nothing Day! Here’s Reverend Billy standing on our mobile books crate, from the knee down, spreading the love.