Occupied Libraries

As a long time observer of our nation’s political  system and a sometime dabbler in elections (working on everything from Village Trustee to State Representative to Presidential), the rise of the Tea Party movement in last year’s election cycle and the rise, tenacity and success (at least in continuing to hold their place) in the Occupy Wall Street and the spin off Occupy Together movements this year don’t surprise me. People are never nearly as complacent as the pontificators, finger pointers, tub thumpers and mustache huffers of our Op Ed pages and cable news shows imply.

How will all of this will turn out? Well, this is a blog about magazines, books and print distribution, not politics, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. If you really want to know what I think, drop me an email or give me a call. We can kill a few a hours neither of us have.

What really struck me though, about the “kids” down in Zuccotti  Park was how quickly a print library popped up in their midst.

Within two weeks of the nascent movement starting, articles appeared marveling at their collection. As of this post, the collection contains more than 4400 volumes. Not bad for something totally volunteer, completely donated, free for all and less than two months old.

Hey, wait a minute! The Occupiers are mostly kids, right? Twenty something’s, college students and what Bosacks calls “Screenagers”. What they heck are they doing hanging out in the chill New York wind with a bunch of old moldy used books?

It’s not like this is a collection of Luddites marching in the streets, smashing their tablets, ripping the batteries from their smart phones and stomping on their routers. No, this movement is very connected with Twitter, Facebook, blogs and covering social media in all of it’s aspects.

Even the “People’s Library” has it’s own blog.

Source: peopleslibrary.wordpress.com/history

I think that Barbara Fister from  libraryjournal.com explained it best when she said,

It’s more a way to define the community through a culturally meaningful form of sharing, a physical impulse to pass books from one hand to another. It’s what you do when you come together: you pool your books so that they can be browsed and shared. Sharing books is communal nourishment, like breaking bread.

Are we at one of those wayside moments where we see the perfect intersection of digital and print? The Occupy movement needs digital to organize, attract followers through Facebook and Twitter. They use it deftly as only someone who feels technology as second nature can.

At the same time do people need to physically connect with something and feel some ownership in what they are working for? Is that what the library is for? That may be a part of what we see here.  There is pride in ownership. They’ve created a movement and it has a library. It gives them a place beyond the public spaces. While a library is public, it is a quiet and safe refuge.

Of course, you don’t “own” a library book. But there is something to be said, again, for being able to hold something solid that won’t die when the batteries run out  or the wifi  signal fades or network goes out.

For this generation, books, magazines, pamphlets and newspapers are still ubiquitous, familiar and easily accessible. If this movement popped up two generations from now? Who knows. It will depend on what happens to print over the next twenty to forty years. Maybe there would be some digital back lash movement where digital “magicians” and hackers create their own virtual space. Or maybe they will go all throwback and print their own literature.

Will you donate to the People’s Library? Do you think it’s worthwhile?

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