Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Occupy Libraries!

It’s been fascinating to watch the rise of libraries at the various Occupy sites around the world, particularly the impressively-large collection at Occupy Wall Street known as the People’s Library. We reached out and suggested a LibraryThing account for the collection, and the volunteer librarians in Zucotti Park responded enthusiastically.

The OWSLibrary catalog now includes more than 3,300 titles, and it’s quite a rich and varied collection (check out the tag mirror). We’ve got a Talk thread where members are posting the books they share with the library; as of this morning, I share 100 titles with them, everything from E.O. Wilson to Annie Dillard to Strunk & White. If you’re signed into LibraryThing, you can see what you share with the OWS Library here.

The OWSLibrary folks also have an active blog, Twitter, and Flickr presence (they’ve even got library stamps!). Many authors have visited to speak, lend support, and sign books, and there’s now even an Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology.

More than 1,300 writers have signed the Occupy Writers petition in support of the Occupy movement, including Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Junot Díaz and more.

You can read some good coverage of the Occupy library movement in American Libraries, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Wall Street Journal.

On Friday, local librarian JustinTheLibrarian, Tim and I went downtown on our lunch break and cataloged the Occupy Maine library, a small collection housed at Portland’s Spartan Grill restaurant (which also serves a very tasty gyro).

Occupy Sacramento’s library is also up on LibraryThing, and we’ve been in touch with various other Occupy libraries; if your city’s library joins up, we’d love to know about it!

While you may agree or disagree with the Occupy movement as a whole, we think what they’re doing with books and libraries is simply awesome. And we’re very happy to be a part of it.

Labels: cataloging, flash mob, flash-mob cataloging, libraries


  1. Thanks Jeremy! It was great fun cataloging the Occupy Maine with you and Tim. Also, I highly recommend the falafel at the Spartan Grill.

  2. Jason Hale says:

    You are quite foolish to associate and promote that association with this bunch. I am going to have to reconsider using this site now. What a shame.

  3. Poquette says:

    Now I’ve heard everything! Libraries are the very soul of order, and the Occupiers are basically anarchists or know-nothings or both. And you are dutifully cataloging books and encouraging them as though somehow you think that movement is as innocuous as a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. I just shake my head at such idiocy.

  4. Skyring says:

    What a fantastic story this is turning out to be! Reading the People’s Library blog, the volunteers are facing some unusual challenges. I’ve lifted your photo of the Maine site for my blog entry here and with luck some BookCrossing books will find their way onto the shelves soon.

  5. Leona Olaon says:

    I hate to see this site turn political.

  6. Sara Doherty says:

    I’m in the process of cataloging Occupy Lansing’s library; it’s small, but growing quickly!

  7. Dennis Johnson says:

    It’s very disappointing to see LibraryThing giving tacit support to the Occupy movement. Can you not keep your politics to yourselves?

  8. I’ll chime back in…I’d gladly help catalog the Tea Party or whoever’s library if I could…just happy to offer my services and catalog a library.

  9. Poquette says:

    The Tea Party is not anarchist. It is not trying to tear down our society. By all means, catalog away!

  10. Ismoon Maria Hunter-Morton says:

    Occupy Portland is now on librarything! We heart LT!


    In Solidarity,
    OP Librarians

  11. Kathryn G Havemann says:

    I am simply and overwhelmingly thrilled with all that LT has done to catalog the books of the Occupy movement. Cataloging books wherever and with whomever they reside is the primary intent and purpose of LT, not the political persuasions of the books or their owners and readers. LT is for all 100% of us. Those who would disparage LT because of these efforts are the true fools.

    What made me laugh out loud here is the very idea that the Tea Party is even literate, let alone owners of books they didn’t “write” themselves.

  12. Ismoon Maria Hunter-Morton says:

    PS Libraries are political. We believe in free speech and freedom of expression of all ideas, no matter how odious they might be to other library users. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to email me at ismoon.maria@gmail.com. I will be happy to discuss conservative concerns with OP activists using LibraryThing.

    Ismoon Maria Hunter-Morton MA MLIS
    Librarian, Clawson Library @ Q Center Portland, Oregon
    Public Librarian in Multnomah and Washington Counties
    (queer, feminist, femme, activist, volunteer, archivist)

  13. Greg says:

    >Libraries are the very soul of order, and the Occupiers are basically anarchists or know-nothings or both.

    Anarchists running libraries and book-fairs all around the world might be quite interested to hear that… And not only libraries are political, everything is.

  14. monarchi says:

    I’m so glad to hear Thingamabrarians are helping catalogue the Occupy libraries. One of the most exciting things about this movement is the sharing of knowledge that I’m hearing about, and I find the idea of organically springing-up libraries absolutely beautiful.

    I don’t care if LibraryThing gets explicitly political. It’s Tim’s company and he can do what he wants with it. But regardless of political ideology I think that grassroots library-building (Occupy-style) has a lot in common with grassroots cataloguing (LibraryThing style), and it makes perfect sense to capitalize on those connections. How is this different from flashmob cataloguing the classic library of some deceased political thinker you may disagree with?

    The point beautifully illustrated here is that Thingamabrarians are everywhere!

  15. elaine says:

    Two things –

    One: this article is about a library and this website is about libraries. If you object it’s because you are injecting YOUR POLITICS into the discussion.

    Two: the occupy movement in the US is anti-corruption, not anarchist. If you believe it’s anarchist, it’s because you are allowing others to inject FALSE INFORMATION into your mind without fact-checking. The movement is also PRO-1st Amendment – actively testing whether the rights guaranteed have been limited – and I can’t imagine REAL librarians being against the 1st Amendment.

    READ MORE! Catalog more…

  16. Helen says:

    We have our Occupiers here in several sites in NZ, but I’m not sure any have Libraries – must find out and offer to catalogue!

  17. James Green says:

    Dear Occupy Librarians and Publishers,

    And anyone else who likes to read! Here is a link to a new forum that has been created for the purpose of supporting discussion between everyone in the occupy movement involved with books, magazines, newspapers and even online publications. It is a new initiative
    started by Occupy Magazine from Occupy Nova Scotia, in Canada. Sign in, introduce yourself, and let us know what you`re doing and what your vision is for this movement so that we can coordinate our activities and provide an antidote to the main stream propaganda

    James Green


  18. Jane says:

    Protesters also threw concrete chunks, metal pipes, lit roman candles and molotov cocktails, police said.

    The far-flung movement of protesters challenging the world’s economic systems and distribution of wealth has gained momentum in recent weeks, capturing the world’s attention by shutting down one of the nation’s busiest shipping ports toward the end of a daylong “general strike” that prompted solidarity rallies across the U.S.

    Several thousands of people converged on the Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth-busiest harbor, in a nearly five-hour protest Wednesday, swarming the area and blocking exits and streets with illegally parked vehicles and hastily erected, chain-link fences afterward.

    Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said evening operations had been “effectively shut down.”

    The above remarks were in the New York Post…enough said, we need to somehow stop such illegal activity in our nation. When people who have jobs are trying to hold things together and work even harder to improve the economy, we see pictures of outright violence. The country is even more divided today than ever, so why can’t our leaders try to bring us together and improve our country. Both the extreme left and the extreme right haven’t helped our society! The country needs new more moderate leaders, now.

  19. Cody says:

    I am a staunch conservative, and the few times I’ve voted for a Democrat, I’ve regretted it.


    …if left-wingers want to catalog their collection of the writings of Marx, so be it.

    …if right-wingers want to catalog their collection of the federalist and anti-federalist writings, so be it.

    Question: if the LT blog were to help a church catalog its library, would that imply any sort of endorsement of that church’s religious beliefs? Of course not. So why should we think that this post endorses OWS?

  20. Nicole says:

    Thank you for sharing the information about the Occupy Libraries. I think EVERYONE deserves to read books.

    Activism is patriotic.

  21. Alexa says:

    @Cody, Thank you for being reasonable about this. Just as LT catalogs a variety of historical figures’ Legacy Libraries, acknowledging Occupy Libraries as being of cultural interest and raising their profile is not necessarily endorsing their politics. LT is just supporting libraries.

    Had the Tea Party movement had their own libraries, I would not have been offended if LT had blogged about them. Indeed, I would have perused their catalogs with interest–even if I disagreed with most of the books in them.

  22. Karen says:

    If you’re on Flickr and you’ve got photos of your local Occupy camp’s library, please add them to my pool for OCCUPY LIBRARIES:

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