The Occupy Wall Street Library: Librarians Display the Ruins

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Mike Bloomberg has already come under fire for just about every aspect of the late-night raid that cleared Occupy Wall Street out of Zuccotti last week. From reports of police violence, to keeping members of the press from observing the action, to disregarding a restraining order reopening the park, to the apparent damage and destruction of personal property seized at the park, the mayor has faced a lot of questioning over his handling of the eviction.

But one of the strongest issues to arise from the raid is the treatment of the 5,000-volume People's Library housed at the park. The Bloomberg administration originally claimed that the library was intact and ready to be reclaimed, but that assertion has unraveled, and it now appears that the self-proclaimed free-speech mayor is in the awkward position of having presided over the destruction of thousands of books.

Today, the volunteer librarians who presided over the collection -- all of it donated, many by authors of the works themselves -- held a press conference to display what remains of the library. It's a pretty sorry picture.

For many, the People's Library was one of the most remarkable institutions to arise from the occupation of Zuccotti Park. Its generous lending policy and catholic scope -- George Orwell shared space with Ayn Rand and J.K. Rowling -- made it one of the most tangible symbols of the sort of collaborative, open-source movement the occupiers were trying to build.

Only a third of the collection has been recovered from the city, and librarians and their lawyers assume the rest have been destroyed. Most of what has been recovered is damaged, about a third of them so badly that they're unusable.

Many of these were on display on a conference table at the press conference, and the profusion of mildew, snapped bindings, and crumpled, filthy pages made it seem entirely plausible that the entire library had been treated like trash.

Norman Siegel, a lawyer working with the librarians, clearly knows a good visual when he sees one. Prominent in the mess were damaged holy books, brutalized Bibles sharing space with wrecked copies of the Bhagavad Gita.

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Librarians, like the other occupiers, were given only 15 minutes notice before the eviction, and so didn't have time to remove the library. At the press conference, they told of rebuilding their library with new donations after the eviction -- only to have their new collection taken by police again, the books placed in the trash and smeared with old food.

The American Library Association has released a statement against the destruction of the library.

Like good librarians -- many of them have or are pursuing degrees in library science -- the volunteers maintained a thorough catalog of the collection, so they know exactly what they had and what's missing.

Librarians declined to put a monetary value on the missing and destroyed books.
"So many people have had so many things to say about how our movement lacks focus or the people down here don't really know how to say what it is they have to say or they're making ridiculous demands," said Daniel Norton, a library science student who has been volunteering at the People's Library. "And I think what this represented and what we were affording people was the literacy to articulate their criticism. So to place a dollar value on the physical books themselves would completely undervalue what it was that the library was affording people."

Instead of cash damages, the librarians are asking the city to replace books that have been lost or damaged. They're also asking for a promise that this sort of destruction of a working library will never happen again. Thirdly, and perhaps the greatest stretch, they're asking the city to provide a space for the library going forward.

And if the city doesn't comply? Siegel declined to answer questions about whether a lawsuit was imminent, saying only, "Anyone in this room who knows myself or [National Lawyers Guild NYC Chapter Head] Gideon Oliver standing here, what's Clint Eastwood's favorite line? 'Make my day.'"

Here are some more pictures of damaged books:

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[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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51 comments
PhiloSophia
PhiloSophia

21st Century Book Burning.  Wake up, people!

Swenson
Swenson

I would like to reiterate what has been said before, the privatization of US public libraries is a huge danger.

Scott Pfaffman
Scott Pfaffman

Put those books on ebay to raise money immediately, every library in American should have one in it's collection.

john
john

revolting.

destroying books is a message almost no one can fail to see. send this article to your mother. to everyone. 

hitori
hitori

I don't like seeing books destroyed, but doesn't NY have a public library already?

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

History is not kind to those who destroy libraries, suppress free speech, and bully the disenfranchised.  Bloomberg is trying for the trifecta...

John Duignan
John Duignan

Is this not the kind of blatent, gratuitus brutality that American elites critcised the USSR for back in the early eighties? Occupy is about the future of democracy, it is about the future of the spirit that formed the once great, the once proud, American nation.

Common Sense
Common Sense

you people are a bunch of lazy ignorant tools.  Was Steve Jobs born into the '1%'?  How about Warren Buffet?  How about Boll Gates?  Nope.  None of them were born wealthy, and yet, somehow, they all worked hard, made smart decisions, and made their fortunes.  Why should they hand it over to a bunch of filthy, lazy, stoned hacky sack playing dipshits?As far as the books, all it is is a bunch of crap left behind in a public park - the people charged with cleaning up the park throw garbage away.  End of story.  It's not about cops don't read, or hitler, or fascism, it's about public employees cleaning abandoned garbage up out of a public space.  Go get a job you whiney nitwits.

Allyson Harris
Allyson Harris

Oh, and another thing, "Common Sense" - those books and other property were not "abandoned."  They were separated from their owners by an elected official's orders to his city's police department.  A period of 15 minutes from Leave or we will evict you and confiscate your property to the actual deed doesn't leave much time to retrieve property.  Again, and I can't stress this enough, if you actually believe you have Common Sense, I suggest that perhaps you live in illusion.

Allyson Harris
Allyson Harris

Wow, THREE GUYS out of how many millions or billions of people who are not born to the 1%.  Amazing!  Common Sense, I suggest you get some.  You see, if you REALLY were knowledgeable about just who it is that is part of the Occupy movement, you would know, first hand, that most of the people protesting DO have jobs.  Go to a sporting event sometime - tickets paid for by people with jobs and see the GARBAGE that is left behind after the game!  Like I said, Common Sense, perhaps you should not only get some, but perhaps you ought to get out of your cave more often and see what the REAL WORLD is like!

Guest
Guest

ummmm...if you leave a book at a public park bench do you expect to come back and have it or even get it back in the same shape???

Dcsos
Dcsos

If you take a book out of the Library, you return it in the shape you got it...At least we OCCUPY WALL STREETERS do this.

Guest
Guest

We can be grateful for one thing: Many people recognize the horror of what has happened to those books, and some of those people have enough knowledge of history to compare this to what happened in Europe during the Second World War.  It's a legitimate comparison.  Individuals in power wanted to believe they were defending morality, when actually they were just abusing their own power.  Books reflect who we are.  If you destroy someone's books, it's a personal affront. 

Sidney Peck
Sidney Peck

Wow.  Will they stop at nothing?  Apparently not.  We must not tolerate this type of POLICE STATE any longer.  Obama and Congress should all be tossed out of office for allowing this to happen.  Books today, tomorrow Gestapos and encampments.  WAKE UP AMERICA!

Jvega16
Jvega16

Many people that knowme know how much I hate the mistreatment of books. If anything, the images andarticle are symbolic of how willing some people are to trample over excellentsources of culture, and entire cultures themselves, all for the sake of maintainingan unbalanced, hierarchical order of those that want, those that need, andthose that possess. Literature and the art of Language teach us to communicateour needs and demands, and give dimension to our ideas. Why must we use forceand destruction to remove an undesired element? Why do we not educate ourselvesto give explicit purpose and meaning to our demands? Why must those that arewilling to be educated suffer on behalf of those that are willing to jeopardizea source of knowledge?

purplepenquin
purplepenquin

Isn't there some sort of ancient prophecy about masked men with in gov't positions destroying the written words of the common folks? I think it is either Aztec or Inca...I always confuse the two.

Dancindave
Dancindave

If I'm understanding this right, the so called library was illegally started. Just like the OWSers are breaking the law. You can protest as long as its legal and doesn't hurt other peoples or property.

Allyson Harris
Allyson Harris

Dancindave, you've been dancin so long your brain must be deprived of oxygen.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. BROKE THE LAW and fought for the right of ALL people to be given the same Constitutional Rights, no matter what color, or race or CREED.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the other "founding fathers" about whom the ultra right seems to be so enamored BROKE THE LAW when they declared their Independence from their English "governors."  Jesus himself, if you believe the Bible, BROKE THE LAW when He overturned the money lenders' tables in the Temple!   Laws are not sacrosanct - if they are unjust, they need to be broken and then eliminated.  How can protest possibly be effective if nothing is risked?   No, those who have truly CHANGED the world for the better risked life and liberty by breaking laws, so that others might see how unjust those laws are. 

Betsy Toll
Betsy Toll

An illegal library? You might want to think that one through again -- an illegal library? Huh?

Fortunately Dr. King hadn't heard your idea about only protesting as long as its legal. Racist segregation was the law of the land. Nor did the suffragists who got women the right to vote. The freakin' Constitution said women and blacks were less than full humans - that was the "legal" situation in this country.  Glad the students whose protests stopped the American war against Vietnam missed that part, and Gandhi too, missed that cue about only protesting as long as it's legal. What do you think the Salt March was? 

Check a book out of library and look into this stuff. Lots to learn, for everyone!  Long live free people's libraries!

Marlena
Marlena

What if the laws hurt people and property? The people who write our laws are paid by our taxes, but are paid more by a few vastly wealthy people, so the laws are written to benefit them at our expense. Defying them may be illegal but it's not immoral. Destroying books shows not contempt for knowledge, but fear of it. Knowledge in the hands of the people is dangerous to despots. The Dark Ages Catholic Church did not want people to be able to read the Bible for themselves, Pol Pot executed teachers, doctors, etc., Hitler burned books, some today want to ban certain books and even rewrite history books... In any case, it is not illegal; the Constitution provides "the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances". Democracy isn't always pretty or convenient. 

binnenbuiter
binnenbuiter

Somewhat reminiscent of those Nazi book burnings. The road to fascism is always a familiar one.

TexasBirdGirl
TexasBirdGirl

This was NOT a real library...holy cow folks...who knows what shape this stuff was in before they were "evicted"? The rest of the occupy movement is filthy and disheveled, why would this be different?

Sun
Sun

TexasBirdGirl, you make ne ashamed to be a Texan! Please shut your moith before some more crap flies out of it.

msbpodcast
msbpodcast

You remind of a South African woman I knew (she immigrated to Canada when De Klerk decided that Apartheid was no longer a viable system.) 

She said that the blacks lived out in the boondocks because they LIKED it.

They rode on rickety over crowded trains commuting for hours from the townships because the LIKED it.

She blamed the VICTIMS until it looked like she was going to end up a victim herself, and them she got her despicable ass and bleached blond hair out of there. (South Africa's gain was Canada's loss.)

Let me clue you in little TexasBirdGirl...

The books are wrecked because cops don't read. They don't think you should either. Book are dangerous because they give people ideas.

The live like Guy Montag in Fahrenheit 451, before he wondered about the morality of burning all those books, before he put aside the comic book daily news and picked up a book and actually READ it.

The cops were kindred spirits to the vandals who sacked the Great Library of Alexandria and set fire to all the papyrus scrolls gathered from across the ancient world.

You only think that something that sits on a coffee table with pretty pictures is a book. Your idea of a library is of some place that you never set foot in anyway.

I'm sorry but there isn't a be-sequined "Barbie Edition" of the King James bible...

Cosmic_Surfer
Cosmic_Surfer

Just like the brutality committed in order to incite rioting committed in places as far as Seattle, Oakland, Denver and into the City of New York, the destruction of the People's Library and the People's Med tent and the PEOPLE'S kitchens across the country,as well as the theft of the PEOPLE'S STREETS, the PEOPLE'S PARKS, is symbolic of the PEOPLE'S VOICE that has been silenced across the planet.

BLOOMBERG as well as QUAN as well as HANCOCK, as well as CUOMO, as well as HICKENLOOPER, as well as ADAMS, as well as the other wholly owned subsidiaries of Wall Street, using the Police Departments as their own Al-Quds, attacking the PEOPLE for taking back their voice.  With our voice will be the power.

They are scared little brats who believe we are here to "steal their toys", refusing to comprehend that what they horde is NOT"their's" nor are they "toys."

Ted David
Ted David

Take heart.  We are at the end of an age.  Transations are never easy.  The Occupy movement will become the icon, the symbol of the new morality.  Those who have the most to lose in the transition to a new age are people with authority, power, wealth - and those whose greed is driving this new upheaval.  But it is just the tip of the iceberg.  Actions like those reperesented by this story, and all the other sickening events we've witnessed over the past few weeks to kill the Occupy movement are the desperate attempts by the old school to hold on against an impending onslaught of voices calling for an end to greed and the power-based control of society.  Take heart.  Take part.

Betsy Toll
Betsy Toll

Yes, dinosaurs don't go down easy, and this is a time when a mindset/worldview and system that is a dinosaur will inevitably go down. The power of the people's non-violent principles is mind-boggling. And because of it this movement is growing, emerging, evolving, as we begin to open space to imagine new forms, new systems and structures that are just, creative, compassionate, and won't kill the planet and everything on it. Yes take heart, take part. Metta.

pumabydesign001
pumabydesign001

I have no idea what everyone is kvetching about.  Michael Bloomberg treated New Yorkers during the invasion far worse than he treated those books.

Starling772
Starling772

Yes, he did. And books are replacable things, so you make a good point.

Yet, those books are symbols, too.

Those books were also a physical creation of the Occupy Movement--the same movement which has been attacked for not articulating its ideas clearly--and as books are, at their core--ideas, Bloomberg has rightly been called out for his distruction, disrespect, and undemocratic (small d) actions.

I have no doubt that these books will be replaced, and that Bloomberg's cowardly attacks on New York's Occupiers (and on this library) will ultimately facilitate the creation of a much more substantial library than the one he had destroyed, and a much larger, and more determined Occupy Movement, too by the way. That is inevitable.

In the meantime, though, I say Bloomberg is an obstructionist, a fascist (small f, perhaps, but that's no better and is perhaps worse) and a traitor. By no means is he the only traitor in his little troop, but I stand by my assessment of the smarmy little a$$hole. I'm just saying.

wall sharing
wall sharing

Jomwalloffers you the services like JomWALL Component, JomWALL Gallery Component , Article plugin comment box, facebook login,+ 9 Modules and various other. This is a great way of communication. in thistype of components we are easily work together and also communicate with them.

Starling772
Starling772

It is shocking to see such an array of books destroyed so senselessly--and I agree that part of the message of destroying these books is that the personal property of the Occupiers is viewed as worthless by Bloomberg.

But I also think that the primary message he intended to send is that the Occupiers and the consensus they are generating, as well as the life-affirming messages they express are themselves worthless. Destroying their things is entirely about telling the Occupiers that they are nothing, that their contribution to New York, to America, and to the world is not merely unwanted, it is an improvement to destroy it. He is wrong.

As one of the 1%, Bloomberg also needs to be reminded of one fact: "Tyrants always fall. Think about that. Always!"

Fortunately for all of us--the 1% and the 99% both--Occupy is not going anywhere. Occupy, which is all over the globe, is a harbinger that humanity--all 100% of us--is coming together.

I am not naive enough to claim that the change will be easy or without losses. But it is coming.The times, they are a'changing; and Bloomberg can either get out of the road, or lend a hand, or pick option three--as can all of the 1% and their hired minions. What they do is entirely up to them, but no one can stop the inevitable.

Ted David
Ted David

"Occupy is not going anywhere".  Assume, and hope you meant "Occupy is not going away".

Starling772
Starling772

Yes, that is *exactly* what I meant. Thanks for clearing up that somewhat ambiguous phrasing.

HermanJ
HermanJ

A government that destroys books will finally destroy people. Hitler had them burnt.

mjm
mjm

come election time, it would be a good idea to vote that sob Bloomberg out of office

Hellooooooooo!
Hellooooooooo!

1. He's not going to run for re-election (due to term limits, I think).2. Don't the Occupiers take the position that voting in elections in the U.S. is futile?

PayPaul
PayPaul

First he came for the Squirrels. Then it was the Pigeons. Now Bloomberg comes for the bookworms. Who's next?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/p...

Hawkes
Hawkes

First they came for the squirrels, and I did not speak up for I was not a squirrel.

Then, they came for the pigeons, and I did not speak up because I was not a pigeon nor one of those adorable elderly people who feed the pigeons at the park.

Finally, they came for me, a bookworm, and I said "woah there, I'm not done being angry at you for displacing all of those cute old people and squirrels. Let me at least finish Fahrenheit 451 before you go ruining anything else ".

Occupy Everywhere
Occupy Everywhere

Something that's been very much under the wire is the proposed privatization of US public libraries. Think about that.

spo1
spo1

“…if you’re ignorant, you’re scared of ideas…” unidentified young woman at Occupy Wall St, Zuccotti Park, NY, NY. interviewed by Geraldo Rivera at large

I’m not anti-police, I’m anti-abuse of power… but the video of police violating 1st Amendment rights of the Occupy Wall St/USA supporters is more than I can take. (I’ve got history, man…) I watched the video of the UC Davis cops using the industrial sized pepper sprayer on the student protestors and I have to ask myself: THIS IS THE USA?

Ok let me get this straight… According to Republicans/Conservatives, the Occupy Wall St/Occupy USA crowd are lazy, unemployed, trouble makers who need a bath, right? City Halls/police departments all over the nation have decided to STOP CONCERNED CITIZENS demanding ethics, responsibility and accountability from those who destroyed the US economy, right? In the “land of the FREE, home of the BRAVE” we have officers of the LAW who think it’s a good idea to use MILITARY grade pepper spray on STUDENTS, right? Does this sound RIGHT to any human being?

Please tell me a majority of the American PEOPLE find something VERY DISTURBING about this situation. What the f*** is University police departments doing with military grade anything?

Tell me please, WHO are you fat, dirty rotten fascist pig m’f***or’s protecting? Funny how we didn’t see law enforcement breaking in on all those corrupt, greed stricken, power mad, war profiteering con artists who almost destroyed the US economy.

Funny, how public sector workers such as police and corrections officers expect Americans to protect their job/pension/health care security from Republican/Conservative spending cuts (examples in Wisconsin and Ohio). But then the police union/association members pay us back by beating, gas, shoot with rubber bullets and wrongfully arresting Concerned Citizens demanding accountability from the Wall St con-artists who ruined our economy.  It seems the real criminals and true enemies of the USA have  police and secret service protection.

Y’know what the REAL problem is? Too many law enforcement agents believe that crap dished out by the Limbaughs & FOX news! Conservative wacko cult bias shouldn’t driving police policy. It‘s “protect and serve” remember? Not act like the strong-arm guys for Wall Street organized crime, ya bunch of fascist oinkers.

NOTE: FOX News and the AM radio Limbaughs want to divert attention away from these facts and ridicule/demonize the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Fox News is punk’n  Occupy Wall supporters… SETTING YOU UP for police abuse of power/brutality, (right, Gasperino & Crowder) The smartest thing protest radicals (with coines) could do is storm the FOX News building the next time Glenn Beck comes out of his bomb shelter to do the O’Reilly Show, lol.

And if you see Andrew Breitbart or James O’keefe… well, speaking for myself I’d knock these silver spoons @$$ OUT, just to be known as the guy who shut up these propagandists working for foreign special interests. You right-wing, dittohead morons might as well dig up Joe McCarthy, J Edger, Tokyo Rose, take a loyalty oath,  urine test and get in line with the REST OF THE SHEEP! I detest & despise you Republican voters for giving power to the real enemies of the USA!

The Class War has begun and the LAW better get out of the way. (like Egypt) The LAW has been very tough on Americans who can’t afford decent legal representation. The  Aristocrats and Ruling Class have spent a fortune of our tax dollars to set up a CONTROL by AUTHORITY legal system.

Back in the late 90’s while the Newt Gingrich, Phil Gramm and Tom Delay were busy selling out the American middle class for a very few silver spoon trust fund babies... I don’t remember the public sector union workers standing up for their private sector union brothers and sisters. Right cyberbitchslap2.blogspot.com

Atimm405
Atimm405

THOSE BOOKS WEREN'T HURTING ANYBODY. Go pick on someone your own size, Bloombooger.

Humanitari Leandro
Humanitari Leandro

Sad sad Blooomba

Lisanne!
Lisanne!

This is a total outrage. It shows contempt for knowledge, it shows that the city does not care about the property of others. The mayor and his minions are saying "All your stuff is crap". My stuff, your stuff, everybody's stuff. Maybe the mayor would like a new luxury hotel where the main branch of the New York Public Library stands facing Bryant Park. Forget eminent domain, that'll take years. So just raze the building in the middle of the night. Laws don't matter to our billionaire mayor. And books, especially not.

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