Thursday, November 17, 2011

OWS library destroyed, site created

Last night we were offered the vain hope that the materials that made up Occupy Wall Street's public library had been preserved by the police. It turns out that the police actually destroyed most of the library. Thanks to Kevin Hicks for posting the link to this article in American Libraries about the destruction and re-birth of the OWS library. Christian Zabriskie writes:
Library staff were assured that they would be able to recover their materials from a city sanitation depot. Indeed, the firestorm of public hue and cry that followed the clearing of the park, the destruction of the library was the only aspect of the action to which the city directly responded. However, when library staff attempted to collect the library’s property on the morning of November 16, they found the laptops smashed, much of the collection missing, and many of the books that were recovered damaged beyond recovery. The damage to the library’s archives of zines, writings, art, and original works is devastating and irreparable.

Protesters were allowed back into Zuccotti Park less than 24 hours after they were cleared out, following a variety of legal decisions. The library was immediately restarted with a half a dozen paperbacks. Within two hours the collection was up to over 100 volumes and the library was fully functioning—cataloging, lending, and providing reference services. “The library is still open” was repeated like a mantra. “This is why I became a librarian, this is why I went to library school,” Library Working Group member Zachary Loeb said of the rebuilding. He was also quick to point out that, while he had helped to build and maintain the collection knowing full well that the park would probably be cleared eventually, the manner in which it was done hit him hard.

Tents and tarps are strictly forbidden in Zuccotti Park now. During the reoccupation on the evening of November 15, it started to rain so library staff put a clear plastic trash bag over the collection. Within minutes a detail of about 10 police descended and demanded that the covering be removed because they deemed the garbage bag to be a tarp. There were a few tense minutes as staff tried to convince them otherwise, but ultimately it was removed—leaving the collection open to the elements. As the police withdrew, scores of people chanted “BOOKS … BOOKS … BOOKS … BOOKS.” There was still concern that the park might be cleared again that night, and one officer made it clear that “unclaimed property will be removed and disposed of” in reference to the collection. Library staff quickly set up umbrellas over the bulk of the books and began sending librarians home with bags of books to keep the collection safe in remote locations.

Nonetheless, the library remains open.
Zabriskie's article contains a link to Occupy Educated, a site created by the OWS Practical Change Working Group as an emergency response to the library's destruction. According to the creators of the Occupy Educated site:
If you are curious about why Occupy Wall Street has turned into Occupy Everywhere, if you want a basic understanding of the problems in the system that make this stand necessary, these are the books to start with, in no particular order.

Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein
Debt: The First 5000 Years - David Graeber
End of Growth – Richard Heinberg
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Griftopia – Matt Taibbi
I don't know if this is the same five books I would pick. I do know that I think I picked a good time to start library school.

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