People’s Library

Occupied: What Do You Think?

This was in Shelf Awareness’ news on Thursday and it ticked me off so much, I wanted to know if I’m the only one with this reaction.

The National Book Awards were held at the Cipriani Ballroom at 55 Wall Street, just a few blocks away from Zuccotti Park, where the Occupy Wall Street movement was still recovering from a raid by New York City police in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Damage from that raid included the roughly 5,000-volume “People’s Library,” although contributors began bringing more books down to the park almost as soon as it re-opened. By late Wednesday afternoon, volunteer librarian Hristo was standing guard over a few hundred titles, stored in several jumbo-sized Ziploc bags to protect them from rain. Contrary to claims by city officials that the library had been preserved during the raid, he said that the majority of the books had been damaged when seized by authorities. (His description was backed up by eyewitnesses at the reclamation center for the property seized during the raid.) He also mentioned that he and other librarians needed to maintain a constant vigil on the small stacks of books, as police had already threatened to seize it should it be left unattended.

An hour later, as guests began arriving at Cipriani for the pre-awards NBA reception, the NYPD returned to the park, providing a solid line of security for a Brookfield sanitation crew as they tossed the entire contents of the restored library into a Dumpster. News of this second seizure spread rapidly as people with access to Twitter began telling others at Cipriani, and some attendees (including myself) encouraged others to take the books displayed on every table to re-restock the library after the ceremony was over. I took two YA nominees to a now near-deserted park, where another volunteer named Anthony vowed that the “People’s Library” would rebuild again on Thursday, and we discussed an impromptu strategy: maybe this time, instead of stockpiling all the books in one place, every person taking part in the Occupation should carry a book or two, and people can ask each other what books they have, and if they can borrow them. The police can’t seize books from citizens’ hands, can they? –Ron Hogan

Considering the recent pepper spraying of peaceful student protesters, I think the police may be losing some self-control during these protests. I’m afraid Mr. Hogan may find he was naive in his last question.

What do you think? Are the police out of line? Does the destruction of books, however symbolic, light your fuse?