Author Archives: oneofthelibrarians

About oneofthelibrarians

Respectable art librarian by day, dirty street librarian by night & other days.

This is a Thing

Last fall, Edward Winski replaced Tony Bologna as head of downtown state-sanctioned Occupation harassment.  He’s been a pox upon our house tent.

And, despite the opinions of the “get a job!” hecklers, we have a lot of well-read, creative, hardworking folks in the Occupation.  Which means that things like this happen:

Lyrics are here, for those who can’t hear it.

I appreciate stuff like this much more than I do, say, doxing him, which is also a thing that happened.  Though, turns out that he writes his Amazon reviews in all caps with no punctuation, which makes my librarian heart cry.

[ETA: Further, if anyone even tries to give the video's makers a hard time about copyright, you'll be facing the wrath of a bunch of folks who really know what they're talking about, so maybe you shouldn't even try.  Just sayin'.]

[Additional ETA: I've since learned that one of our more fabulous librarians was in on the creation of this gem!  Clearly, one should not fuck with librarians.]

2 Comments

Filed under Art, Cops, Jaime, Media, Music, Video

Toronto Public Librarian Strike

G’morning to all you dirty commies.  I only got two hours of sleep last night — between my day job, jail support at central booking for one of the librarians and other friends, and then hanging around Union Square for possible park defense (reoccupation, what then!) — so this’ll be a little punchier than usual.

 

Toronto is near and dear to the hearts of the People’s Library, as a couple of our librarians are currently in residence there.

 

For those who haven’t yet noticed, Local 4948, Toronto Library Workers Union, went out on strike late this past Sunday, and the libraries in Toronto have been closed since.  2,300 (about 3/4 are women) workers are out, and, to quote Utah Philips, “the issues [are] wages, hours, and conditions, of course.” In particular, the librarians are concerned about job security, especially for part-time employees who already have trouble making ends meet. They’ve been picketing at City Hall and some of the library branches.  Patrons are asked not to return materials until things are settled, and overdue fines will not be charged for the duration.

 

Further, on Tuesday Toronto’s CUPE Local 79,  representing 23,000 inside workers – clerks, child care workers, nurses, janitors, and the like — voted in excess of 85% for a strike mandate.  Their contract had expired at the end of 2011. If they and the city don’t get things straightened out by this weekend, we could see them out as well.

 

I love a good strike. And, remember — friends don’t let friends cross picket lines!

 

Progressive Librarians Guild has the link round-up.

2 Comments

Filed under Jaime, Solidarity

More from the link farm: perpetuating inequality through higher education

From the NYTimes this morning (and if the Grey Lady has bothered to say something about a problem, you know it must be really bad).

“The education system is an increasingly powerful mechanism for the intergenerational reproduction of privilege.”

In short: colleges — especially top-tier four-year colleges — have gotten vastly more expensive; non-loan financial aid covers a decreasing percent of costs; students from lower income brackets have seen only slight increases in college graduation rates, while upper brackets have had sky-rocketing graduation rates; and all this has happened while the value, in terms of likely income, of a college degree has also risen sharply.  That is, a college degree is literally worth more, and is harder for low income students to attain.

For those of us who have been to college lately — or maybe who haven’t been able to due to costs — this is no surprise.  It is particularly galling that some of the highest-ranked schools in the country are perpetuating these problems.  If they cared enough, these schools could be making the biggest dent, because they have the most money.  They could aggressively seek talented students from lower economic classes and fund those students’ educations.  These school can afford it.  Very few, though, truly step up to the plate.  Harvard had a $32 billion endowment in 2011.  Last year Harvard spent $160 million on scholarships, but the endowment grew by $4.4 billion; they could have spent twice as much on scholarships and hardly noticed the difference.  And doubling the amount given in scholarships would mean that an entirely different demographic — one with a lower income — could attend, without even compromising on supposed quality of student, because, as shown in the above Times article, those students are out there.  If Harvard wanted it to be so, they could do it.  Yale, by the way, follows up with the second-largest endowment, at $19.4 billion in 2011.  (Even my own alma mater, a women’s college with fewer than 3,000 students, has an endowment of over a billion dollars.  I, by the way, graduated college, with about $20,000 in student loans (admittedly not all from that institution, as I spent my first three semesters elsewhere).)

Some schools — including Harvard (I’m only a very little bit sorry for being so mean to Harvard) — have “no-loan” policies.  Which is nice of them.  But if the average student doesn’t really need that much, relatively speaking, in financial aid — only 60% of Harvard students receive aid — it’s kind of a bullshit policy.  It takes a pretty high family income to not receive any financial aid at all, well above the U.S. median family income.  The median household income, by the way, is currently about the same as, if not less than, the cost of some of these schools.  This is an historic novelty — in 1970, Harvard cost less than half the median household income.

Blah blah blah, investments, blah blah blah, earning interest, blah.  Non-profit colleges (for-profit colleges are another beast, and oh boy, don’t get me started) such as those we are talking about here spend very little of their endowments.  There are some complications, such as when donors allocate the funds they give to a specific area, be it scholarships or a building or library books or what-have-you, but the amount spent hovers around 5%, while growth is around 10%. Excess is reinvested.

It’s this reinvestment that’s the problem.  For an institution like Harvard, which has such a huge endowment, so far ahead of even the second largest university endowment (reminds me of the US’s military expenditures), what is the purpose of reinvesting and focusing so heavily on growing that already massive fund?  At my own undergraduate institution, when the endowment broke $1 billion, friends and I wondered what it was for, when so many institutions were perfectly functional on much less.  Why were we taking out student loans to fund our education, when our beloved college had so much money?

Let me wrap this up, and bring it back to the Occupation.  One of the things we do at the Occupation is to imagine ways in which the current structures, which are not working for so many people, could be recreated to serve us all better.  One of those structures is higher education.  There’s no reason why college and university endowments have to function the way they do.  They could spend more and reinvest less, and even still grow while doing it.  Top colleges and universities could recruit outstanding students from lower socio-economic classes, and so facilitate economic justice.  Fund managers, college presidents, boards of trustees, and other individuals and groups are empowered to think outside the box and make these choices.  That so few have yet to do so means only one thing: that they don’t want to.  As I always say, yes, this is class warfare, but we here at the Occupation sure didn’t start it.

2 Comments

Filed under Education, Jaime

This is Relevant to Our Interests

I love it when bits of information come together serendipitously.  This morning the ALA sent me an email and a friend made a Facebook post, and now you all have a (potentially) useful blog post about…

PRIVACY ON THE INTERNET!

Anyhow, the ALA alerted me to Choose Privacy Week, being held May 1-7.  They say,

We live in an age when knowledge is power. New technologies give us unprecedented access to information. They also facilitate surveillance, with the power to collect and mine personal information.

People enjoy the convenience of having information at their fingertips. But most people don’t realize the trade off. For example, citizens turn a blind eye to the fact that online searches create traceable records that make them vulnerable to questioning by the FBI, or that government agencies can track their phone calls, airline travel, online purchases, and more.

As political activists, we are probably a little more aware of these problems than the average citizenry, even if we don’t really know what to do about it.  Since some of our comrades have started getting visits from the authorities, maybe we should lend the issue a little more thought.

Anyway, there’s this: DuckDuckGo.  A librarian friend brought it to my attention this morning.  It’s a search engine that claims to offer pretty good privacy (friend says, “No saved and reported searches, no IP addresses, no sent and stored cookies, and no ads. Plus it’s adorable.”).  It also seems to return search results that are nearly as good as, if not as good as, Google’s.

Now, I don’t know how true these claims are, but my computer-y folks seem to think it’s pretty good — one programmer friend uses it as his default search tool, but notes that since large swaths of the rest of the internet uses Google Analytics or Ads, you still have to deal with being tracked from that end. A public librarian friend says she recommends it to patrons who are doing “sensative” or “potentially illegal” searching.

Anyway, I wanted to throw that out there and crowd-source a bit.  If you’ve never heard of it, give it a whirl.  Those who’ve used it, what do you think?  And, does anyone know of other, similarly useful tools?

3 Comments

Filed under Cops, Cyberspace, Education, Free Speech, Jaime, Reference, Technology

Discuss:

A small plot on the community link farm, this is passed along from one of my library school classmates. Sure sounds like what we’ve been up to, huh?

Hack Library School: New Librarianship

3 Comments

Filed under Education, Jaime, Scholarship

Today’s Action: Time Change!

For those who were planning to join us on our action this afternoon, we’ve had to change the meet time to 3pm, rather than 4pm.

This one’s totally on me. You’d think a librarian would have her shit together a little more.

So: meet at the red cube at 3pm today.

Deepest apologies for being a complete scatterbrain.

Love,
Jaime

1 Comment

Filed under Announcements

Working Group Meeting

Hi, all!

Library will be having its regular working group meeting on Sunday at 6pm, at 60 Wall St.

1 Comment

Filed under Announcements

Working Group Meeting

The Library will be having its regular working group meeting at 6:00 pm this Sunday, January 8, at 60 Wall St.

 

All are welcome.

1 Comment

Filed under Announcements, Jaime

Fun!

A couple weeks ago we got invited to the librarian social event of the season, Biblioball.  Aren’t we pretty?

 

4 Comments

Filed under Jaime, OccupyLibraries, Photographs

So, That Happened..

It seems to be the phrase of the Occupation, and especially apt in the past week or so.

There was the Law & Order set thing.  In case you missed it, dear readers, Law and Order: SVU built a fake occupy camp in Foley Square last week, as a set for an episode.  It had tents, a kitchen, a library, police presence, all that stuff.  Of course, the real occupiers found it, and, late on Thursday night, occupied it.  I ask you — did they think we wouldn’t?  You can find info on twitter and elsewhere about it under the hash tag #mockupy.  Mother Jones has a short article on it, with video featuring some of the real librarians from the People’s Library.

A while back we instituted an infrequently-used hand signal at library meetings to go with all the up-sparkling, down-sparkling, points of process, and so forth: the clarifying mustache.  You take the curved pointer finger part of the clarifying question signal and put it over your upper lip.  It means that things have gotten completely ridiculous, and we all need to take a Dada break.  With the mockupation, the universe seems to have gotten on board with it, no?

In amongst the absurdity is the former location of the People’s Library in Zuccotti Park.  In the first few days after the eviction last month, the people’s librarians were persistent in reopening the library.  Over and over and over again.  We were some of the first folks back in the park that morning — until we were kicked out again — and we’ve since had as much presence as the NYPD and Brookfield security dudes will allow on any given day.  Recently that hasn’t been much.

A couple weeks ago the security dudes put up some red cloth “Danger!” tape between the trees in the northeast corner of the park, blocking off the benches where the Library used to be.  The official reason was to protect the brand new ornamental cabbages that Brookfield had planted in the garden area above the benches.  Cabbages that they had to tear out the existing bushes to plant, let me add.  If you think that sounds completely ridiculous, take a moment to make the clarifying mustache signal with me.

After we spent some time scratching our heads, and occasionally disregarding the red tape — it was, after all, blocking off a good portion of the seating in the park — the absurdity increased.  We got this:

See, among us persistent librarians, there’s one particularly persistent librarian.  For the terrible crime of bringing books into the park he’s been bum rushed by a score of cops and nearly arrested, had some of the books confiscated, and, now, been banned from the park.  The above document is the result of the confiscation.  After those five very dangerous books were taken — we are told that one may not put books on the bench, because it prevents people from sitting there — the police delivered this kind note to the park.  Not to the Library or to a librarian, but just to the park, asking that it be passed along to Library.  Now, I know that’s more or less how it work here on the movement side of things, but I’m pretty sure the cops’ rules require them to be a little more diligent than that.

Since then, the red tape blocking off the former location of the People’s Library has been replaced by authentic yellow “Crime Scene Do Not Cross” cop tape.  (Someone should confiscate that, it’s preventing me from sitting on the bench.)  Do you have that clarifying mustache ready?  Because I know we joke a bunch about how the City has been making books illegal, but someone obviously lacks in the irony department; how else to explain the utter tone-deafness of this whole thing?

Anyway, for once the NYPL has taken good care of our confiscated stuff.  Which means we’ll surely be making the trip up to 1 Police Plaza to reclaim it shortly.  I hope you’ll join us.

In the mean time, at least the current Christmas light overkill on all the trees in Zuccotti throws off enough glow to read by?

8 Comments

Filed under Cops, Direct Action, Jaime, Literature, Process

Materials request

Was doing what we librarians do yesterday, cataloging and sorting new books.  Got to talking from some folks from other working groups about what the library is up to these days, how we are interacting with other groups.

Anyway, it was suggested to me that we rebuild our sections that help facilitate the work of other groups, in particular legal.  So, dear readers, if you are out there wondering what you can do for the library or what kind of materials we might want, here’s a suggestion:

Please send us current legal reference books.  Especially useful would be things pertaining to New York State or New York City laws, and topics that might help with the kinds of things the Occupation is involved with — civil rights, housing, finance, non-profits, etc.

1 Comment

Filed under Announcements, Donations, Jaime, Suggestions

Jail Notes

As some of you know, two of our librarians were arrested yesterday morning, when the NYPD invaded the park.

As of this writing — 4pm Wednesday — neither have been released yet.

Scales and Charlie, two of the live-in librarians, chose to remain with the library and the rest of the camp when the cops showed up. Though I haven’t spoken with them yet, I’m fairly confident in saying that they knew what they were doing.

We in the Library working group had previously discussed what to do in emergency situations (and, oh, the irony, we had planned to do some more training on it this weekend). We hammered out a plan after the attempted “clean-up” last month. We’d had discussions about arrestability — that is, who can afford to be arrested and under what circumstances. Some folks have low- or non- arrestability — they may not be citizens of the USA; they may have medical conditions that require constant monitoring or treatment; they may have work or family obligations that can’t be neglected; they may have identities that put them at risk (people of color, queers, or women, for example, are more vulnerable while in the system); or the work they are doing is vital to the rest of the movement. Some folks are highly arrestable; maybe they have few outside obligations, and they might be used to being arrested during political actions. Some folks are somewhere in between, and may be more or less willing to be arrested depending on the particular circumstances.

Anyway, two of our librarians decided to stay. We saw them on the livestream before it cut out.  They’d retreated to Kitchen (located in the center of the park) with the other remaining occupiers. It was estimated that 150 people were there. The cops gassed, beat, and arrested them all. That’s right, people, in order to protect the public from scary radicals like us, the cops attacked your librarians, your cooks, your medics, your sidewalk sweepers, and your neighbors. They hauled off the People’s Library, and they hauled off the librarians, too. We demand them back from the city, just as we demand our books back. As of this writing, we don’t even know where Charlie is. We found Scales yesterday afternoon, and he’s still in jail, waiting to be arraigned. We assume Charlie is, too.

***UPDATE, 4:15 PM — Scales just got out!

***UPDATE — I was at the park this evening, and Charlie showed up around 6:30, having come straight down after getting out. All the librarians are now accounted for.

9 Comments

Filed under Announcements, Jaime

Librarianing Theory

We all like theory around here, right?  That’s what draws many of us to the library — the dusty ideas in dustier books; considering Simone de Beauvoir  to be light reading (it wasn’t in the original French, ok?); spouting off lines of Ginsberg and then dressing down the privilege found in white, male Beat lives; quoting Hegel or Marx; fan-boying over Naomi Klein or Johanna Lawrenson or any of our other illustrious visitors.

Let me give you some library theory, then.

Maybe half of us in the working group are MLS-bearing librarians (that’s master’s degree in library science for the lay-folks) or are in library school.  Other folks can speak for themselves, but I’m probably not the only one who went into librarianing partially due to my intense need to organize stuff.  (I’m probably also not the only one who also did it as political praxis, either.)  I could catalogue all the live-long day, and some days I do, happily parked in front of our LibraryThing for hours on end.

That said, you may have noticed that the OWS Library is possibly the least organized library ever.  It lives in a bunch of plastic tubs, sorted by genre.  We do not use Dewey, Library of Congress, Cutter (you’ve heard of Cutter, right?), or any other call number classification system.  We don’t check books in or out in any formal way.  When asked if we have a specific title, the answer usually is, “I saw a copy a couple days ago,” and if asked where exactly a book might be, it’s, “Possibly over there in history, or maybe you could check the reference crates.”

Needless to say, since we’re in it for the organization, sometimes this drives certain librarians, present company included, around the bend a little.

Much of the disorganization arises from the specific issues facing the kind of library we run.  To quote a fellow librarian’s recent Facebook status, “To file under ‘problems I never imagined I’d have’: Trouble completing a make-shift tarp-shelter over an illegal outdoor library because Alec Baldwin kept getting in my way…”  We have an extremely limited amount of space, and we are outside at the mercy of the elements, deeply envious of Occupy Boston’s tents.  We have a very limited supply of power from generators and batteries, and a little bit of internet access.  The library is open from whenever people get up in the morning until it slows down in the evening and the live-in contingent of librarians set out their bedding for the night.  We have staff meetings to reach consensus on questions such as what to do if the cops forcibly evict the Occupation (answer: evacuate the archives, supplies, and electronics ahead of time, the books stay till the bitter end).

So then, to wend my way around to what I’m actually writing about today, what are any the guiding principles of the librarianing we do at the OWS Library?

Out in the normal library world, there are two basic elements of library work: cataloguing and reference.  Cataloguing, or arrangement and description for you archivist types, includes in-taking new materials, creating card or database catalogue entries, categorizing materials, assigning location identifiers, shelving, etc.  Reference work is connecting people and their needs to materials and information, answering questions, locating materials that are out there in the collection.  At the OWS Library, our work is a little different, but still falls into these two basic divisions — we intake books, catalogue them in LibraryThing, stamp or sticker or write on them to mark them as part of the collection, sort them out into genre and subject bins, resort things that have been returned, help people find the books they are looking for, make reading recommendations, answer endless questions about how the library works or when and where something is happening or, to mention two reference questions I’ve answered recently, find an out-of-towner the address of a benefit concert somewhere uptown and subway directions to it, and explain the meaning of “ecology” to a non-native English speaker.

The cataloging and sorting is not particularly intellectually taxing work, which means that we can explain the basics to new members of the working group in a couple minutes.  Since this is the People’s Library, we also allow more leeway in categorization than a traditional library would — librarians make autonomous decisions about where an item is shelved (or reshelved — in tidying up yesterday I found a Jean M. Auel novel in Kids & Young Adult and immediately moved it to general fiction; for those unfamiliar with her books, and if a survey of my friends is correct, they are pretty much every teenage girl’s first foray into erotica).

But, back to my question: how do we decide where things go, how do we arrange the books, how do we hold off the chaos?

My answer is always use.  Use, use, use, use.  How do our readers use the library?  If they were looking for a specific work, where might they think to look for it first?  Where might we put it that would make it easy to say, “ah, that’d be in the x section.”  If a reader is looking in a specific section, what books will they be delighted to find there?

This is why I’m mostly okay with the controlled chaos that characterizes the library most of the time.  Even though it grows every day, we have only about 3000 volumes in the park (the catalogue lists 3,344 at the moment, but some are out being read).  That sounds like a lot, and is vastly more than most people have in their own personal collections — I’m an unrepentant bibliophile, but my collection is only a third of that — but it’s not endless, and it doesn’t approach the holdings of most public libraries.  What I’m saying is that, sorted out into topics and genres as we have it now, and without specific call numbers and shelf locations, a person can still find what they want.  One can eyeball the whole of non-fiction in a few minutes.  There aren’t so many bins that if Religion is five feet away from where it was yesterday a reader or librarian won’t be able to find it.

A week or so ago, a young man asked me why all the non-English works were in the same bin.  My answer was that they all fit in the same bin.  Despite specifically asking for more material in a variety of languages, we still don’t have much.  Fiction and non-fiction, Spanish, French, Chinese — it’s all in the same bin.  The principle of use says that this currently works.  If a reader comes looking for book in a language other than English, we’ll always know where to direct them.  And then once they are at the bin, there are only twenty or thirty books in it, so that person will not need to spend much time at all looking through it for works in their language.  Especially because we have limited space, it doesn’t make sense to have mostly empty bins with only a few books in them, as would happen if we separated these books.  I assured my questioner that, when we’d gotten enough books to separate them into bins for fiction/non-fiction, or into different languages, we surely would separate them.  Because, again: use.  At that point ease of use would dictate that all the Spanish books go together, or all the fiction, so that we’d still be sending our readers to a single place for a single kind of book.

So, when an anxious, newly anointed People’s Librarian asks me where they might shelve a particular book, I shrug and tell them to put it where they think it might go, where they might expect to find it if they were looking for it.  Their opinion on the matter is as valid as mine; after all, you don’t need a master’s degree to be one of the People’s Librarians, and they are readers and users of the library just as much as I am.  We’ve democratized the work, direct-democratized it even, since to become a People’s Librarian you just show up and start sorting and cataloguing.

And, if one of the guiding principles that we can draw from the normal library world and repurpose for our own needs at the People’s Library is use, perhaps I should re-resort that Auel novel back into YA, since, as I said, it has an strong tradition of use among YA readers.

5 Comments

Filed under Jaime, Process, Reference, Scholarship