Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fire and Rain

Courtesy of Huffingpost Post
Occupy Wall Street Library prior to destruction by N.Y.P.D.
Tent was donated by rock legend Patti Smith and dubbed, "Fort Patti."

American Libraries reports a horrific scene in the wee hours of Tuesday morning when Bloomberg's police department descended upon Occupy Wall Street, and, the Occupy Wall Street Library

As blogged earlier, the library has been an important element of the Occupy Encampment, with a weekly poetry assembly widely considered one of the greatest open mic reading series NYC has ever fostered [video of poetry reading viewable at blog post].  Steven Boyer, a librarian at the Occupy Wall Street Library, had been collecting poetry for the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology.

Poet Reads With People's Mic
Friday Night Poetry Assembly at Occupy Wall Street

Christian Zabriskie, founder of Urban Libraries Unite, and writing for American Libraries, reports an sci-fi Bradbury-like scene beginning around 1 A.M. whereby the library was ripped apart and destroyed by the authorities in the middle of the night:
[...] its books, laptops, archives, and support materials [...] thrown into dumpsters by armed police and city sanitation workers. Numerous library staff were arrested, and, in one case, a librarian strapped the notebooks of original poetry from the library’s poetry readings to her body before lending aid to comrades who had been pepper-sprayed.

Prior to its destruction, the library had reached new levels of growth with laptops, a Wi-Fi hub, and a tent donated by author and rock legend Patti Smith and dubbed “Fort Patti.” The library also had thousands of circulating volumes. Library staff rightfully prided themselves on their collection, the entirety of which was donated by private citizens and corporations for the general public good. The collection included the holy books of every faith, books reflecting the entire political spectrum, and works for all ages on a huge range of topics. These were thrown into dumpsters amidst tents, tables, blankets, and anything else on the Zuccotti Park site.

Library staff were assured that they would be able to recover their materials from a city sanitation depot. Indeed, the firestorm of public hue and cry that followed the clearing of the park, the destruction of the library was the only aspect of the action to which the city directly responded. However, when library staff attempted to collect the library’s property on the morning of November 16, they found the laptops smashed, much of the collection missing, and many of the books that were recovered damaged beyond recovery. The damage to the library’s archives of zines, writings, art, and original works is devastating and irreparable.

Courtesy of Litmus Press
A portion of Occupy Wall Street Library
prior to its destruction by N.Y.P.D.

 Librarians tweeting through the havoc reported 5,554 books destroyed

Within 24 hours, the library was restarted with about 6 paperbacks.  Within 2 hours, they had over 100 books, and were fully functioning with cataloguing, lending, and reference services.  It started to rain, however, and tents and tarps were no longer permitted, so staff covered titles with a clear plastic trash bag.  Christian Zabriskie writes:
Within minutes a detail of about 10 police descended and demanded that the covering be removed because they deemed the garbage bag to be a tarp. There were a few tense minutes as staff tried to convince them otherwise, but ultimately it was removed—leaving the collection open to the elements. As the police withdrew, scores of people chanted “BOOKSBOOKSBOOKSBOOKS.”

Courtesy of The Millions
Photographer:  Bill Morris
Scores of people using the Occupy Wall Street Library
prior to its destruction in the middle of the night by N.Y.P.D.
The Occupy Wall Street Library website is located here.

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