Brief History of the People’s Library (In-Progress)
Occupy Wall Street began on September 17, 2011. Folks moved into the park. Soon thereafter, Jez started collecting books, but Jez got pulled into other projects.
Betsy showed up and kept collecting books, tagging books, organizing books and keeping them dry. She proposed taking responsibility for the library and got approval from the group at a General Assembly and became Librarian of the Occupy Wall Street Library. The library is entirely made up of donations.
As the week went on, more books and more people joined the library. The library collection grew exponentially. By the end of the week, a working group of more than 15 people was assembled for the organization, development and promotion of the library. These were the members of the library working group who made library decisions by consensus through the ongoing conversation held both online and on the ground.
On day 14 of the occupation, Janos and Michael began the process of dividing up the non-fiction books into categories and labeling the cardboard boxes. While making signs for the library, Michael decided to write “The People’s Library” not intending to create a new name, but to remind visitors that the library is open to everyone. On day 15, Mandy arrived from Indiana, bringing us our first plastic storage bins and much needed tarps. By the end of day 15, with some additional donations of bins, all of the cardboard boxes had been replaced with plastic bins. The Police have removed our tarps several times, and Eric (one of our most dedicated library volunteers) has engaged in ongoing negotiations with them about what forms of cover they will accept. We were asked to move them to the ground and cover them there by the police.
Once the physical collection started to be more secure from the elements, we began the process of cataloging the collection and archiving Occupy Wall Street materials (minutes, publications, press). After a generous donation of a lifetime membership from LibraryThing we began scanning and entering the incoming donations on LibraryThing. The first volume entered was Hakim Bey’s “T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone.”
On October 11th, Brookfield sent a letter to the NYPD asking them to remove the protesters so they could “clean the park.” On October 13th, the NYPD announced plans to clean the park on October 14th. A massive emergency campaign was undertaken to prevent this eviction. As part of the eviction resistance, half of the library collection was moved off-site and the remainder was bundled up to protect it. Stephen covered the bundle with signs, as seen below.
At some point during the night, Briar, Scales and Stephen were approached by a mob of hysterical volunteers who claimed to represent the NYC General Assembly. They began dismantling the library in the rain. As a result, an emergency call went out, and Steve responded by renting a truck and the remainder of the materials were moved to New Jersey for the night. The next morning, all that remained of the library was a corkboard.
In the days following the victory against Bloomberg’s eviction attempt, we began bringing the books back from the storage unit and from New Jersey and rebuilding the library. On Saturday October 15, the global day of action, we held our first official working group meeting.
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