Silence in the Library
If you are following Full Stop on Twitter, you already know that when the NYPD cleared Zuccotti Park two nights ago, they confiscated the People’s Library, consisting of approximately 5,000 books, magazines, newspapers and other materials that have been, according the People’s Library’s WordPress site “donated, collected, gathered and discovered during the occupation.”
After reading an account of the evening on the People’s Library’s blog, librarian Raina Bloom wrote an essay/how-to-protect-your-library guide on her personal blog: Rainabloom.tumblr.com. “If your library is located in any sort of contested area,” Boom writes, “someone is coming for it.”
Bloom respects the bravery of the librarians working at the Occupy Wall Street People’s Library, but stresses the need for a predetermined evacuation plan to protect libraries in other contested Occupy areas, to prevent the full-scale confiscation of these collections. Bloom helpful outlines such a plan in six steps – some of which seem self-evident, but having a coherent and universal plan spelled out is incredibly useful.
I will paraphrase her plan here, but her post is still worth a complete read, for specific advice on how to carry out each step:
- Have the collection stored in such a way that it will be ready to travel on a moment’s notice.
- Recognize that you may not be able to save everything.
- Have volunteers to help move books.
- Use your time effectively.
- Have a safe house – public libraries might work, especially if you contact a librarian in advance.
- Ask yourself in advance if you are willing to be tear-gassed or pepper-sprayed (don’t feel ashamed even if your answer is no!) and plan accordingly.
Of all the things I am, one of them is a full-on library nerd and I earnestly mourn the destruction of any free, public collection of literature. Luckily, and contrary to early on-the-ground reports from the People’s Library twitter account, the People’s Library appears to be safe. The New York City Mayor’s office tweeted, with a picture, that the library is safely stored at the 57th Street Sanitation Garage and will be available for pickup on Wednesday.
Update, 10:30 am: It looks like much of the library is not available for pickup. Librarians at the People’s Library report: “There are only about 25 boxes of books; many of the books are destroyed. Laptops here but destroyed. Can’t find tent or shelves.” The People’s Library also has a partial list of missing items, which includes:
- Between 2,000 and 4,000 books (we’ll know if it looks right when we see it ), this includes five boxes of “Reference” materials many of which were autographed by the authors;
- Our custom made “OWS library stamps;”
- 5 (4?) laptop computers;
- Our wifi device;
- Approximately 60 plastic tubs/bins of varying sizes (most small, but several big);
- archival materials (I was starting to collect some stuff in the library);
- posters (including many original posters created by OWS participants);
- periodicals/newspapers/zines (not counted in our book total);
- personal belongings of librarians;
Mayor Bloomberg must account for the whereabouts of these items. — Alex Shephard
Update, 1:30 pm: Freelance writer Melissa Gira Grant live-tweeted a visit to the Sanitation Garage where the remains of the People’s Library is being reclaimed by protesters. She is reporting that only a fraction of library’s original collection is at the garage and 4 out of 5 of the aforementioned laptops are there, but destroyed. She is also reporting that a Reuters photographer asked to enter the garage to shoot photos and a police officer she identifies as Officer Cunningham said press is not allowed to enter. No cameras are allowed in the main sanitation room. — Catie Disabato