"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Books In A Dumpster (or who's afraid of OWS?)

"With rebellion, awareness is born." ~ Albert Camus

I first heard of the Occupy Wall Street library on NPR a few weeks ago when they interviewed a school teacher from Wisconsin who was driving to NY on her weekends to help set it up. It struck me at first as whimsical. A library in a park? Out in the open? In a tent? What if it rains? Who keeps track of the books? Who catalogues them? Come on....how could this possibly work?

I've since found out that there is a long history of libraries springing up around progressive movements. The intuition of the Occupy Movement to build libraries resonates with the history of progressive change. It's a democratic impulse that has taken off like wildfire, and libraries have sprung up at Occupy sites around the country, driven by volunteers donating books and cataloging them.


These libraries all have one thing in common: their generous lending policy. You can return a book or you can pass it on to somebody else to read, whatever you see fit, and they are available to anyone.

I would love to donate a bunch of books to the Occupy library. What good are they doing on my shelf collecting dust?


I would love to get one back some day with an OWS stamp on the inside cover. What could be more exciting than to be part of this historic movement that is not going away anytime soon?

As of a month ago, the Occupy Wall Street Library had 5000 books catalogued on Library Thing. But at 2:30 am on November 15th the library was destroyed by the NYPD under the direction of the mayor of New York. Police in riot gear raided the park, seized everything in it and threw it all into garbage trucks. According to the Village Voice, librarians, like the other occupiers, were given only 15 minutes notice before the eviction, and so didn't have time to remove the library.

A college professor who was working at the site as a volunteer when the raid went down reported in The Nation that there were many, many college textbooks destroyed.


"For many," the Village Voice goes on to say, "the People's Library was one of the most remarkable institutions to arise from the occupation of Zuccotti Park. Its generous lending policy and catholic scope -- George Orwell shared space with Ayn Rand and J.K. Rowling -- made it one of the most tangible symbols of the sort of collaborative, open-source movement the occupiers were trying to build."

Of the 5000 donated books that made up the people's library, only about 1,000 were recovered and most of those were unsalvagable.


The good news is that they opened back up the next day with a donation of one. They have since regrouped and are now housed in three mobile units staffed by librarians, which they can take anywhere they want.

What would you think if you ever came across a used book that had a OWS stamp on the inside cover?

11 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

I hate to hear about books being destroyed! How sad

I'm not surprised people started it right back up again though! Love it :)

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hi Jemi!
Thanks for commenting. I was beginning to feel a little lonely here....surprised this didn't strike a cord in more people. I could never bring myself to deliberately destroy a book, even one I didn't like. Heck, I even feel bad when I throw away a magazine.

Joanne said...

What a shame. It's too bad they couldn't come up with an alternative to destroying them. But the books always rise up again, don't they?

Suzanne Casamento said...

Like, you, I think it would be pretty cool to have a book with that stamp on it.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Joanne,
The human spirit will always rise to the occasion. Thanks for commenting! I appreciate it.

Suzanne,
I know. Wouldn't that be awesome?
Thanks a bunch.

Brian Miller said...

ugh i can not imagine burning a book...and would not mind having one with a stamp..smiles.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Nazis always destroy books it seems no matter the uniform they wear. Sigh, Roland

Jo Schaffer said...

That is NOT cool. Like Faranheit 451 by Ray Bradbury-- for sure!

Thanks for visiting my blog.Hey-- I have five sisters too. Yay us!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Brian,
Hi! I'm with you on that. The very idea gives me the shivers.

Roland,
What you say gives me pause. So true, to do what we're told, regardless of what it is-our capacity to do that is sobering.

Thanks for commenting.

Jo,
It does have a Bradbury ring to it. Where would we be without our sisters? Thanks.

Ed Pilolla said...

i didn't know about this. thank you for sharing. roland is right. nazis burn and destroy books. no one else. the textbooks our kids use in schools have no mention of so many labor strikes that made a difference in creating worker rights. a book is a powerful symbol, and practical tool, of course.

i'd love to have an ows stamp on a book. the movement is regrouping. and so are the elite. since the movement began, we've been informed on the corporate news stations that the faa will soon approve drone for police use within the continental us, for example.

the struggle of ordinary people for the right to live their lives without the elite stealing from them is the struggle of the human race since we civilized 5,000 years ago.

it's easy to dislike the movement. a lot of the members are pot smokers and rag tag, but this sort of criticism is universal among the people's movement. broad-based movements always attract fringe people. it's easy to be turned off by it. but the ows is the only movement saying publicly what needs to be said about the direction of this world.

thanks so much for this post. i know i will be thinking of the bookstore today:)

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hey Ed,
thanks so much for contributing to this discussion. I'm glad you brought up the glaring omissions in the new K-12 textbooks. There was controversy 3-4 few years ago because the Texas Board of Education was demanding changes in history textbooks. Because of their buying power, they got their way. There are only a couple of companies that print all our school text books, so American kids are basically learning what the Texas Board of Education wants them to know. There is no mention anymore of the labor heros who gave us the 40-hr. work week, Reagan has been reinvented to hero stature while Roosevelt, Kennedy, Truman have been diminished. Scary, the power of men to rewrite history.

The idea of police drones being used in our own country would have been unheard of even a few years ago. Doesn't that sound like something out of "The Giver"? And what's with all these internment camps that the Army has been building on bases around the country? What's going on?

I like what you said about the movement, how easy it is to dislike them because they attract fringe people. That is the beauty and the power of the movement.