Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street Library

 As a life-long bookworm by choice and (sometimes) by trade, I am a fervent supporter of anything that promotes literacy and advocates for the production and distribution of literature. So when I first learned about the library that has blossomed to provide services for those participating in the Wall Street protest - or even those not - I was immediately fascinated by this self-named Occupy Wall Street Library (OWSL), or the People's Library. The People's Library subsists only on the donations of others, whether it be pamphlets, newspapers, magazines, books -- sometimes by the authors themselves, complete with signatures -- or monetary means. Yes, this grassroots library is built and run by actual librarians, even through the dead of night to protect its valuable resources. The library has even brought about an Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology.

While the whole Occupy movement is about much more than just this one library (others include one in Boston), I felt I needed to bring attention to a recent development in the short history of this library. On November 15th, the NYPD raided Zuccotti Park, where the People's Library is located, taking pretty much everything that was not strapped to a person's body and dumping it all in dumpsters, without regard to private property or even the Constitution. Two librarians were even arrested, and the library was comprised of over 5,000 books.

Mayor Bloomberg's response to the outcry regarding the destruction of the OWSL was a single photograph of the remaining books being housed at the 57th St. Sanitation Garage, along with the tweet “Property from #Zuccotti, incl #OWS library, safely stored @ 57th St Sanit Garage; can be picked up Weds”. This turned out to be a lie, as only 25 boxes of books were recovered, with the rest of the books destroyed beyond repair, as well as everything else belonging to the library. In addition, the mayor's office also gave this statement as a pathetic excuse for their actions: "thousands & thousands of people read books in New York City parks every day, but they don't leave stacks of their stuff - books or otherwise". Reading about this made me both very angry and very sad, as this kind of nightmare should never leave the pages of Fahrenheit 451 and other similar works to take place in reality.

One day later, the determined protesters reorganize and begin to rebuild this little library, only to be raided yet again by the NYPD, who specifically went after the small collection of books to destroy what was left.

I can't imagine that any lover of books would not be enraged by this aggressive destruction of a library, no matter how big or small the collection of literature. As the political commentator Keith Olbermann as said about this: "Supression always creates the opposite of the effect desired." While I know that these dedicated librarians will rebuild and rebuild again every time they are raided, these events are signs to me that the predictions of dystopian literature are not so far off.


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