Wanted: your books in Brooklyn, today, to rebuild a new "People's Library"

Image: Cory Doctorow. The OWS library on Nov. 14, one day before NYPD destroyed it.

Brooklynites, do you have books to contribute to a new "People's Library"? Maria Popova [you should follow her on Twitter] writes,

Hey Xeni, thanks to your BoingBoing piece on the #OWS library, my friend Liz Danzico (@bobulate) and I are doing an impromptu #OWS Bookmobile tour to help rebuild the library. We're starting with our own book from our piles of press copies and making several stops across Brooklyn starting at 1pm today to pick up other donations, then dropping all the books off at the #OWS library.

Here's more from Maria, and here is the map, with pickup times, today.

Take a stand against bibliocide, Brooklyn!


  1. I just want to say that Boing Boing has consistently had some of the best coverage of OWS out there and that I appreciate the hell out of you guys.  Keep up the great work!!!

  2. Here’s a map with hours to a library nearby.  How about supporting that library instead of setting one up in a park?  http://goo.gl/bEJ9W

    1. The neighborhood where the OWS encampment was located has a nearby public library which is not accessible to all of the community (closure hours, etc.).  Many of the people living in the neighborhood applauded the establishment of the OWS library even if they were not in support of the protests themselves.  But you make an important point — we should all use and support our local public libraries!  We should press for funding for staffing that keeps them open and available to the community that pays for them. 

      In addition, the rebuilding of the People’s Library makes an important symbolic point; it is also supported by the American Library Association, which strongly condemned the actions of the NYPD which dismantled and at least partially destroyed the holdings:  http://ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pr.cfm?id=8568

      1. The local library isn’t accessible to all of the community because public libraries only open during the day?  Are the people in the park not able to walk down the street in the daylight?  Are they vampires? 

  3. It looks like I’m going to have to take a trip on the LIRR to drop off my copy of ‘Common Sense’.

  4. I wish the OWS “librarians” had removed the library when requested instead of abandoning it to be cleaned up with the rest of the garbage. http://safelibraries.blogspot.com/2011/11/occupied-ala-ignored-cuban-librarians.html

      1. What percentage of 5000 books would *you* be able to move in 10 minutes with police hovering over you? Or even in an hour, if you believe the police statements claiming that much notice was given? It’s not like the librarians had an on-call moving van that they would’ve been allowed to use.

        1. It’s not about percentages, it’s about principles. The entire library could not be saved, but each book rescued is one less book (and the ideas in it) lost. 

    1. It’s not “concern trolling” to notice that the idea of a “people’s library” is rather redundant given that public libraries *are* the people’s library. Their entire purpose is to put books in the hands of readers (or now, even in the memories of their e-readers) for free. It doesn’t *get* any more progressive than that.

  5. I agree with y’all on many things, I love books, I grew up steeped in Western Mass/Northampton political proactivity BUT! I will never understand certain things about OWS. Is it a passive “Here we are” sort of thing, or is it the manifestation of populist rage against corruption? That balding gentleman in the photo, casually thumbing through a copy of Zinn or Chomsky or whatever is not enraged over anything.
    This is not America’s Jasmine Autumn. We aren’t, collectively, as angry as we should be. I’ve been down to OWS, and while I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment, I also couldn’t less impressed by the drum circles, incense, weed, middlin’ far left idealism and…why yes…need for a goddamned LIBRARY. A library which (again, adore the sentiment) is just a cop magnet for cops who want to break shit to try to break spirits, and a good excuse for said middlin’ idealists to prattle on about while they should be busy stating their valid case.

  6. Just can’t imagine Gandi or Martin Luther King spending their time and space maintaining a library at the protest site…If one is protesting, then protest…or bring your Kindle along with you to read… :-)

    1. Maybe…but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. Some are here 24 hours a day and, while some understand something is wrong, many do not understand what this country is built upon. 

      Considering that even Thomas Jefferson is being banned in certain schools, the more reading the better.

      1. I doubt anyone (any non-cop, that is) considers it a bad thing. Just slightly pointless, especially given the NYPD’s proven enthusiasm for kicking it over.

  7. I’ll be over here, donating my books to my local programs to help with this nation’s very real illiteracy problems. 

  8. Downtown and Williamsburg are not stops “across” Brooklyn. I don’t expect them to go out to Coney Island, but seriously, no Bed-Stuy, Windsor Terrace, Kensington, Greenpoint, or Ditmas Park? And only one stop remotely in Park Slope? I’m sure the streetbooks from there alone would have held them.

      1. I don’t have to donate books to you. No one has to donate books to you. The point of the bookmobile is to make it easier for people to donate books to you. You talk about accessibility, about bringing ideas to the people, but right now, you just seem interested in attacking people for their lack of understanding or commitment.

        1. Hi Kris – Not at all. Anyone who would like to engage in this leaderless movement is welcome to do so in any way they see fit. If you don’t like the stops that the bookmobile is making – make your own bookmobile, but sitting on the sidelines and complaining about it doesn’t do you, or us, or anyone any good. The folks who decided to do this are taking action, thank them for it if you like, but don’t criticize them unless you’re prepared to do something. You can always visit our blog, get our address and mail us books if you like. -Michael

          1. It wasn’t meant as a complaint–as I noted, I don’t have to donate books to you–but merely as a suggestion. To reach more people, traveling to more neighborhoods is more effective, just as the events on Thursday were organized across all five boroughs.

  9. I’m Michael with the Library Working Group – and I can only speak for myself here, not the library.

    There are quite a few comments here describing the library as pointless  because the police will destroy it. Think about that long and hard and see if you still want to make that statement. By replacing the library and insisting that we have every right to offer a selection of books to people on a bench in a park, we draw attention to the structural powers that are always there, always insisting on private property as the only option. These structural issues emerge to the surface and become visible in response to the library. They are given a physical form in the books and in the police seizing the books. The police say that someone must own the books that are in the park or they will be thrown away. If an “owner” doesn’t step forward and claim them and remove them, they trash them. They are enforcing the idea that there can’t be such a thing as collective property. And that just scratches the surface in the ways that the books serve to expose structures all around us that are normally invisible or that we don’t normally pay attention to.Also, this argument that the library is pointless because there are NYPL branches nearby isn’t any more rational. The entire community of professional librarians has no only endorsed what we’re doing in the library but is actively supporting it with all their power, and for good reason. If you wonder why, ask a librarian. See: http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/news/10182011/library-occupies-heart-occupy-movement and http://ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pr.cfm?id=8568.On the final point, that we should have moved the library – consider for a moment that the reporting by the city might not be entirely accurate. First, we were not given warning, second what “health and safety” risk was posed by the library? Because that was the claimed justification for Bloomberg’s order to the NYPD and DSNY to throw all of the books and the library infrastructure into dumpsters. Third, we all have every right to assemble in the public plaza and engage in participatory democracy, engage in debate and discussion and decision-making processes. That is a fairly ephemeral thing, the words we speak are hard for the police and the city to capture, to remove – but they can remove physical objects that make those processes manifest. And that’s what they’ve done here. And we continue to insist on the right of anyone to bring some books to a park, to sit down and say: Here, this is a People’s Library – take a book, let’s have a conversation, get to know your neighbors and talk about ideas. And if we continue to do that, again and again – and the police continue to come and seize those books – you should be horrified at their actions, not ours.Try it for yourself right now. Go down to Liberty Plaza and set 10 books on a bench and sit next to them. Police will come and form a line around the books with their batons out and will then wheel over a trash can and throw the books away. If that doesn’t tell you about which side you’re on, no amount of explaining will.

  10. Cool – you meant to give a friendly suggestion to these great folks who have spontaneously decided to volunteer their time and help us, but instead you wrote a snarky complaint. It happens to the best of us, and there is an edit button if you care to rephrase. Alternatively, you could offer to set up your own pick up location in Brooklyn and meet them at one of theirs. But that would mean that you actually want to help, but I suspect you don’t. But please, prove me wrong! :)

    1. It seems like you’re so used to being under attack that you’re reading snark where none existed. I wanted to help, but you’ve been very rude and condescending to me, and proving someone wrong is not a good reason to get involved with a movement. So you’re absolutely right, I’m not going to set up a pick up location and meet the bookmobile at one of their locations–mostly because their last pickup is in 15 minutes, which is not enough time to gather donations from myself and others and bring them up to Williamsburg. I still have books to donate though, but they’ll probably just go to someone else who needs them (probably Housing Works).

      1. That’s awesome – Housing Works is an amazing group, they’re helping the People’s Library out with donations and tons of other stuff. Personally, I donated my entire library to them a few months ago – about 200 books. AIDS and homelessness are incredibly important causes and it’s honorable of you to help them.

  11. BTW: as I made crystal clear in my first post – I’m speaking for myself – no one can speak for the library or any other part of OWS, it doesn’t work that way. And I never hesitate to call out trolling. I followed Kris N.’s name to her twitter feed and based on her tweets about OWS, it’s clear she wasn’t actually interested in helping out or making ‘suggestions.’

    1. I’m speaking for myself – no one can speak for the library or any other part of OWS, it doesn’t work that way.

      I just wanted to point out that my mind is reeling from the amount of crazy contained in this sentiment (oblig. wiki link).  Look, OWS needs to stop hiding behind gleefully senseless post-rationalizations of its own rudderlessness and either come up with a coherent story now, or just go home and save us all the trouble of having to keep up with all of its latest pointless-but-angsty antics.

      1. It’s a challenging transition for many people to make. I showed up at the library after the first week and, like most people would, I asked people what I should do, who was in charge, etc. – I looked for hierarchy. It wasn’t there and I learned the ethos of autonomous action, of horizontal organization. It’s literally a revolutionary approach and that process is exactly what the movement is about – the process is the message. Neither GIFtheory nor stayzuplate get that – and I know that’s because they haven’t participated, because if you have – you learn it. In the meantime, how convenient that both of their posts come after my link to the description of Concern Trolling  and serve to provide such lovely examples. “you’re doing it wrong…” . Seriously, both of you, if you’re in NYC just come and join the meetings of a working group – and participate constructively. It’s incredibly easy to do. The working groups are all listed here: http://www.nycga.net/groups/

  12. This seems SO peripheral to what OWS is about.  I fully support OWS but can’t help seeing this library as the detritus of the scenesters at the hipster end of Zucotti park.  Is there some benefit the library gives the movement toward getting our message out and reducing the power the 1% has over our government and economy?  All this energy snipping about bookmobile routes could be better spent articulating the goals of OWS in a tangible way that the rest of the 99% understand and support.  Get over this library shit already…

    1. here’s one opinion, but there’s plenty out there – if you really want to read many arguments about why the OWS library matters, a google search will give you hundreds: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/11/2011111681642279467.html

      1. Being one weapon in an arsenal does keep this from being a total sideshow issue.  You haven’t really addressed my point that the library is PERIPHERAL to the OWS cause.  I still think this library issue has virtually no impact on addressing the control corporations have over our government and economy.

        1. See what you think of these answers to that question and if you still feel like those don’t answer the question for you, try reading through posts on our blog: http://peopleslibrary.wordpress.com and googling for some more opinions – and if that doesn’t satisfy, feel free to email us (address is on the blog) and you can get responses from anyone involved who chooses to reply. Also, reach out to people around you and ask them if they think the library matters in the struggle against corporate domination, see what they have to say.


  13. I’m sure this was already stated above but… With all the libraries across the country closing why not give them a few bucks for a yearly membership there? Did reading only suddenly become valuable when we live on tents in the street?

    Edit: yeah, I guess I was really late to the party. Oh well.

    1. Great idea – come up with a list of libraries that need money from individual donations and spread it around. Personally, I’m interested in addressing the larger structural issues that lead to defunding libraries and universities, etc.

  14. This thread has got to be the lousiest bit of concern trolling I’ve ever seen; it’s vaguely embarrassing.

    Points! :

     – A People’s Library is not counter-productive to promoting the existence of brick-and-mortar libraries, any more than cooking a meal while on a camping trip will destroy restaurants.
     – Talking about how the librarians allowed the books to be removed (in the depressingly usual, distancing passive voice terminology) is flat-out victim blaming. Really. Come on.
     – You know what else isn’t ultra-literally, directly related to the movement? Sleeping, jerks! Why are we even using tents, when every waking second could be used for direct action?

  15. Hey Ianny,  I’m not a movement. I’m Michael. Lots of folks like to sit back and tell OWS what to do, I hear it ALL DAY. In my opinion that’s just straight up bullshit. Bottom-line it. You want it done differently, get involved and make it happen, don’t sit on the side-lines and pontificate. The movement is not ‘for’ everyone, it IS everyone. So, if you want to reach out to lots of neighborhoods take a cue from the amazing folks who decided to do this book collection drive and do it. Or skip the library – help out the kitchen, they’re organizing a huge thanksgiving dinner. Or just go down to the park and occupy. Or go to your local park and start an occupation, or go online and engage in outreach. Do something, don’t tell other people to do what they’re doing differently.

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