Occupy Wall Street’s Library

This made me smile so hard!  I just had to put it on my blog, so I can look at it whenever I want.




Occupy Wall Street’s Library Keeps Growing

By Shelley M. Diaz 
October 20, 2011

childrenslibraryOWS(Original Import)
Photo by: Steve Syrek

It’s not the sort of place you’d expect to see Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas(Random, 1957) or J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series (Scholastic). But visitors to the northeast corner of New York City’s Zuccotti Park can find several dozen children’s books neatly stacked in plastic containers among the close to 2,000 other titles that make up the People’s Library.

Roughly two weeks after the Occupy Wall Street(OWS) protests began on September 17, Betsy Fagin, the first OWS librarian, started a small collection, which soon turned into a makeshift library organized by genres like gender studies, law, and history.

One would think that political manifestos and pamphlets on economic theory would make up the bulk of the books, but fiction titles are just as popular. Protestors can check out books and return them at their own convenience, and are asked to sign out a title only if they plan to keep it. It’s a 24/7, no-fines, no due-dates library that operates on the honor system. After all, doesn’t information belong to everyone, the organizers say.

The kids’ book collection began after a former children’s librarian donated the first batch, and just like its adult counterpart, the collection has steadily grown as publishers, volunteers, and those who support the cause continue to add to it. Although you won’t see many kids and teens at the People’s Library, the books are mostly intended for the children of volunteers and protestors who visit Zuccotti Park in support of the social and economic inequality movement.

vicente_ows (2)(Original Import)
Photo by: Vicente Revilla

The books range from perennial favorites such as the “Calvin & Hobbes” series, Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit (Press of A. Colish, 1974), and Esphyr Slobodkina’s Caps for Sale (W.R. Scott, 1947) to modern classics like Lois Lowry’s The Giver (Houghton, 1993)Even newer titles like Chris Moriarty’s The Inquisitor’s Apprentice (Houghton Harcourt, 2011) are there. Aptly, Howard Zinn’s The Young People’s History of the United States(Seven Stories, 2009) can also be found in the catalog. The library’s collection and catalog is so loosely organized that there’s still no way of knowing how many juvenile titles are available.

“Is it possible that a new world may begin at the library?” asked Daniel Norton in a recent post to the People’s Library website. Norton, a library science student at the University of Maine, is one of a dozen or so volunteers that maintains and works at the grassroots library and decided to join the effort after reading our sister publication’s article.

OWS3_Vincente revilla_final(Original Import)
Photo by Vicente Revilla

The bustling library faces continuous challenges, like inclement weather, and especially, lack of space. Most books are stored in plastic bins and volunteer Steve Syrek says that it’s difficult to figure out “how best to use the limited space we currently have, storing excess books offsite, and delivering/shipping books to other occupation libraries around the country.” The People’s Library faced another challenge just last week, when volunteers had to dismantle the library because of an evacuation threat, and then reassemble it once the coast was clear.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “I cannot live without books,” and it seems like the same could be said about the growing movement. Libraries have a strong presence in similar demonstrations being held in major cities around the country—and around the world. #OccupyBoston#OccupyLA ,#OccupyPortland , #OccupySeattle , #OccupySF all boast burgeoning information centers and libraries. In the coming weeks, Syrek, a PhD. student of literature at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, plans to visit some of these other protest sites to offer help and surplus books. Even the Acampada Sol Library, formed during the May 2011 occupation of Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, Spain, has sent a letter of solidarity to the growing library.

OWS2_Vincente revilla_final(Original Import)
Photo by: Vicente Revilla

Donations keep poring in from protestors and publishers like Random House and Chelsea Green Publishing. Even celebrities and authors such as Jesse James, Alec Baldwin, and Chris Hedges have dropped by to show their support. Most importantly, librarians are giving their time to bring awareness to the cause. Zachary Loeb, a young adult public programs librarian for New York Public Library, and middle-school librarian Rachael Myers, who also chairs the Teens Top Ten Committee of the Young Adult Library Services Association, are just some of the librarians you’ll see at the park lending a helping hand.

Donations can be made to:

The UPS Store
Re: Occupy Wall Street
Attn: The People’s Library
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038

The People’s library can be reached at: email:owspeopleslibrary@gmail.com

Facebook: Occupy Wall Street Library
Twitter: #OWSLibrary
YouTube: The People’s Library


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s