In 2007, Christian Zabriskie founded Urban Librarians Unite (ULU) to foster communication among employees in New York City’s three giant library systems. It started as get-togethers over drinks and tacos but soon turned into a recession-fighting machine. Zabriskie, assistant coordinator of young adult services at the Queens Library (QL), used ULU to launch “Save NYC Libraries,” an advocacy group that galvanizes the community and employs high-visibility protests to fight budget cuts.
In 2010, energized by an endorsement from Queens City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer, Zabriskie launched an initial postcard campaign followed by a 24-hour read-in, at the Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch, featuring 90–100 readers and some 1400 attendees. That Halloween, he coordinated a zombie march across the Brooklyn Bridge to convince Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “stop turning our brains to mush,” as Thomas W. Galante, QL president and CEO, puts it. In 2011, Zabriskie helped organize a children’s rally in Queens, led another Brooklyn read-in, orchestrated a massive library hug—200 people joining hands around New York Public Library’s main branch—and raised $1000 for libraries damaged by Hurricane Irene. “We went to hearings, posted polemics, pushed on Facebook, reached out to the local blogging community, and generally screamed our heads off to anyone who would listen,” he says.
Since ULU is “outside the official library systems,” he adds, “we can go out on a limb with what we say. ‘You can close libraries when you step over our cold beaten bodies chained to the door’ works for us but would get a library director fired.”
Galante agrees, noting, “Elected officials notice his stuff.” That’s true guerrilla warfare—library style.