Libraries, Archives, Technology, Impending Doom
In case you didn’t know, your dear captains were once some of the librarians at the Occupy Wall Street People’s Library in Liberty/Zuccotti and its later manifestations as a transient entity. It’s been quite some time since we’ve had space to house a collection (which makes having a library kind hard, y’all). Even now, though, we occasionally get an email or blog comment asking us if we’re taking books. Now, I don’t speak for all of us, but if you want my opinion, no, we are not taking books, please don’t send them to us. This may change in the future, but for now we have a hard enough time with what we’ve got.
That doesn’t mean you have to let your books go to seed.
Up in Holyoke, Massachusetts, there’s Library 451. Their mission & vision, from their Facebook page:
Library 451 aims to nurture inquiry, learning, critical thought, and community building among Holyoke residents in order to better understand and challenge our perceptions of history and current social constructs. We believe knowledge and information should be in the hands of the people, not the institutions.
To provide literature to our community by setting up bookshelves in community rooms, cafes, barber shops, etc. throughout the city. Our books will be available at no cost and on the honor system.
451 has a list of suggested donations — though they will accept any book — on Amazon. We here at the Shipwreck, however, suggest you don’t use Amazon; rather, use Powell’s or your local book store (if you have one).
In Oakland, California, there is Biblioteca Popular Victor Martinez. I am terribly envious of these folks on a near-daily basis. Located at 1449 Miller Ave in Oakland, BPVM has been squatting on the city land around an actual closed library since last summer. On their Facebook page, they say about reclaiming the space:
…the building was one of seven branch casualties of budget cuts in the late seventies, severing vital library life-lines in poor and working communities. Since then, the “Latin American Branch” library building located at the corner of Miller and 15th st. has mostly sat empty, despite the fact that the next nearest library is miles away, and increasingly difficult to access in a city like Oakland with an increasingly expensive transit system. With its eroding chain link fence and decaying, armored exterior, the building is much more than an eyesore; the unused, but inaccessible, space creates a life-draining dark vacuum of stability that serves at best as a convenient place for the unscrupulous to dump their old mattresses, couches and assorted garbage.
This morning, a group of activists opened this building again for use as a library. Inside is the modest seed for a library and community center—hundreds of books donated by people who envision the rebirth of local, community-owned libraries and social and political centers throughout Oakland. We’ve named the building after recently deceased author, Victor Martinez, who overcame a young life of hard agricultural work to become a successful writer in the Bay Area. His semi-autobiographical novel, Parrot in the Oven, has become a seminal work of the Latino experience. Martinez died last year at 56 of an illness caused by his work in the fields.
That was last August, and though they’ve been denied the building they are somehow still there on the grounds. Temperate climate and relatively tolerant cops and city officials, I guess, which are things we lack in NYC.
Aside from the books and other regular library stuff, the community has been building a fabulous garden. Makes a girl want to up and move to California. After books, dirt and vegetables are some of my favorite things. If you happen by, you can drop off books in their donation crates. I don’t know about mailing them, but where there’s a will there’s probably a way.
Of course, there are plenty of other things to do with books. Little libraries have popped up here and there, or you can always start something yourself. The “real” libraries will usually take donations; they often sell those at book sales to raise much needed funds and the buyers (like myself, I’m a library book sale rockstar) are super happy to have them, so don’t get indignant if your volume doesn’t end up on the shelves. In any case, you probably shouldn’t send them to us until further notice.