Having a bit of a news junkie evening here at Like Fire headquarters, between squeezing coverage of the Wall Street protesters out of the Internet—once again, when it comes to breaking news that’s not being covered elsewhere, Twitter earns its stars—and the not-unexpected but still sad news of Steve Jobs’ death.
Occupy Wall Street is a good example of how 16 miles can feel like hundreds in a city like New York; I might as well have spent the past few weeks in another part of the country. But I’m feeling the pull, if only because I have several perfectly serviceable large waterproof plastic tubs in the attic, and The People’s Library is in need of such things. Man is a pack animal, and when you get large numbers of people in contained spaces they immediately designate areas: for sleeping, for eating, for garbage. And, apparently, for books. Within a week and a half of the occupation’s beginnings, a dedicated library sprung up—originally several rows of books on plastic tarps covering a stone bench, currently a full-fledged entity with two librarians, a series of volunteers, and its own blog.
The first librarian, Betsy Fagin, came to the protest as an observer and ended up organizing a haphazard pile of books into something resembling an actual lending library. The second, Mandy Simmons, drove all the way out from Indiana with her husband to help get the ball rolling:
If these brave young people (and not so young people) were asking for members of my profession to come and help build and maintain a library, how could I refuse? If my professional skills could do some good for people sleeping outside in the cold and rain to affect the kind of change I want to see, why wouldn’t I go? What excuse did I have?
And there are others picking up the slack, which now includes an effort to archive the various circulating materials. This is, after all, history in the making, however it plays out. The fact that it’s populated by people who understand the value of documenting the process is a very good thing. From the People’s Library blog:
Right now need many different kinds of donations. We need books of resistance and people’s history. We need economics and finance books. We need contemporary philosophy and ecology. We need DIY books. We especially need non-English books and materials for low literacy readers. Print outs of free stuff from the web are valuable to us– I personally handed out at least two copies of Citizens United on Saturday before the march. Also, we’re a free lending library operating on the honors system, so our materials come and go rather rapidly; multiple copies are always welcome. On that note, we need as many copies of A People’s History of the United States by Zinn as possible. We simply can’t keep a copy in stock as there are so many people who want to read it.
On a practical note, we are an outside library so we have some operational challenges. We are using plastic boxes and tarps to protect our materials. However, our collection is growing by leaps and bounds each day and we need more boxes and more tarps to protect our materials. Any you can send us would be welcome and put to good use.
Donations can be sent to:
Occupy Wall Street/Library Committee
118A Fulton St. #205
New York, NY 10038
And I will get myself down there with my large plastic tubs, because 16 miles is not very far at all.
In honor of Steve Jobs, I leave you with a video that’s been floating around online for years, but which is always, for what it’s worth, apropos. The more things change, the more they stay the same, and we can thank Mr. Jobs for a lot of the “change” part of that equation (via HiLobrow).