HackLibSchool on Occupy Wall Street: Part II

A few weeks ago we wrote about how libraries fit into the Occupy Wall Street movement.  In the comments there was a discussion of emergency plans so I wanted to write a bit of an update on what has happened with the Audre Lorde to Howard Zinn (A-Z) Library at Occupy Boston.  

On Wednesday, 12/7, the Judge in the Occupy Boston case ruled in favor of the City.  The City was asking to lift the restraining order that had been put in place and to deny the injunction which would prohibit the city from evicting the protesters.  I won’t get into the legality of everything because I am not a lawyer and that’s not really want I want to focus on here.

My focus is the librarians that have made the A-Z Library possible from the beginning.  When word started to trickle over Twitter and email that eviction may be imminent, the librarians of the A-Z Library mobilized.  Over the past few weeks there had been some discussion of possible emergency plans so that we had some sort of control over what happened to the books and archives in the case of a raid.  An emergency phone/email list had been set up that included people with cars who could come take books and people who had space to store the books in their apartments.  Beyond email and phone, a Twitter account had been set up with the sole purpose of sending out a message in the case of a raid (people could also sign-up to get SMS messages from this account).

Emails starting going out to the list-serv shortly after news started coming about the judge’s ruling and possible eviction.  The phone/email tree was activated.  There was a call asking for people with cars.  Before you knew it, people were emailing that they could be to Dewey Square shortly with their cars and could transport books.  Within a few hours the library had been lovingly packed up and driven to homes by some incredible volunteer librarians.  Within just a few hours!! A spreadsheet was made for who has what so we can keep track of items over the coming weeks.  And it was so well timed that one librarian had just finished cataloging the entire collection through LibraryThing!*

There is still lots of discussion to be had over how to transform the library into some possible mobile library that can still be of use to the Occupy Movement.  And I am sure that will evolve over time and will be flexible to the information needs that we are faced with.  And that’s what’s so amazing about how libraries have fit into this all.  They have adapted to the surroundings and to what has been needed.  I think that’s a lesson that all sorts of libraries can take in.  The Occupy Oakland library has already set up a mobile version of their library and they are literally going where they are needed.  Obviously, mobile libraries are not a new concept but it’s really neat to see, again, these Occupy libraries morphing into what serves its users best.

What I have learned from this all: Never underestimate the power of librarians to mobilize and organize.

*For an even further look at the life of the A-Z Library, check out this this great Phoenix article.  

13 replies

  1. Thank you for this post. It shows librarians can plan for and effectuate book removal so that the “library” is not discarded.

    Contrast this with the Occupy Wall Street “library” that took no such action and allowed the material to be discarded, then attacked the Mayor, NYC, etc., for discarding things OWSLibrary took no action to stop even when requested.

    I wish the OWSLibrary had acted in the manner that the OBLibrary did, and congratulations to them. Well done.


    • Hi Dan

      Thanks for your comment. I just wanted to clarify, though, that my post was by no means an attack on how the OWS Library handled the situation they were in. In Boston, we seemed to have a great deal more notice of the possible eviction so this allowed us some time to plan and make decisions. Additionally, we were in the unique position where we saw what happened in NYC so we were able to base our judgement off of that.

      I hope what everyone can bring away from all of the Occupy libraries is the ability that librarians have to bring information and knowledge to people no matter where they are located.


    • hey Dan, I’m one of the OWS librarians–I think if you speak to any one of us you’ll find that we took great efforts to protect the collection. The fact that the subways were shut down, that the streets were blocked off, that people were prevented from re-entering the park once leaving–those were all contributing factors to the destruction of our library that you may have overlooked. We also have email lists, emergency twitter feeds, a LT catalog etc.


      • Betsy, thanks for writing. There’s no denying you and your fellow OWS librarians are to be commended for what you have done regarding the “library.” (But not for your propaganda about the “library” or its removal, nor your unAmerican activity unrelated to the library.) There’s no denying protecting that “library” would have been a big task. Boston successfully protected theirs, however, but they were likely smaller and they learned from you how to prepare for quick takedown. If fact they said so. So I can’t really blame you for not getting the right takedown plan in place and not acting effectively on any plan that did exist.

        That said, you must not go further and sue anyone for your own failure that is obvious to everyone except those who think shouting a lie loudly enough makes it true. If you do, I will do what I can to participate in some way to increase the odds that not only the City succeeds, but it is awarded treble damages against you and the OWS slush fund for your bringing vexatious litigation or for bringing a SLAPP suit since you know you had the responsibly to takedown your “library” and you failed. The success of the OccupyBoston “library” in moving its “library” is Exhibit A in evidence that you failed. You left the garbage out to be collected. If you sue now, you will lose and only hurt your cause even more. Besides, most people believe the “occupy” movement is rapidly losing any legitimacy it once may have misled people into believing it had.

        By “you,” I mostly mean you and your fellow OWS librarians.

        Why am I involved? The ALA apparently has adopted you, so to speak. I like to show communities who the ALA supports and who supports the ALA. Communities need to know who is the ALA that they should let the ALA guide, in any way, policies that affect community libraries.


        • Dan, I’ve gone through your blog and I’ll admit I was intrigued because you offer a drastically different perspective than is often found on this blog. But I’m confused. What exactly do you stand against or for? This is not something that your blog made clear.


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