Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

The Confused Occupy the Uninterested

Perhaps the oddest somewhat library-related event last week was the Occupy Wall Street Library party at the New York City nightclub Works in Progress. The OWS partiers occupiers set up a library, which was supposed to “serve as outreach for the movement to a heretofore untapped demographic, while soliciting book donations for its collection,” according to the account in the Village Voice.

The OWS website promoted the party. “DJ Spooky is throwing a party at W.i.P. (work in progress) and asked the People’s Library to come set up a mobile unit so you can take a book or leave a book while you dance. Finally, libraries and nightclubs getting together! 2012 really is the year!” It turns out that 2012 might not really be the year.

I was unfamiliar with “DJ Spooky,” who apparently “has built a career on self-consciously remixing and re-purposing archival material.” It sounds like he’d be a perfect convert for the religion of Kopimism.

Since the OWS people are all about vilifying the 1% in the name of the 99%, it was strange in the first place to host a party in a trendy Manhattan nightclub divided into VIP table areas and charging $13 for well drinks with a $50 credit card minimum. That’s not outrageous by NYC standards, but it’s not exactly the kind of place the 99% go to booze up, or at least not 90% or so of the 99%, and probably none of the people who spent weeks in Zuccotti Park.

The “heretofore untapped demographic” was untapped for a reason.

The Voice account is a tale of woe for the OWS folks. Supposedly, “more than 50 library supporters were kept outside in the pouring rain and ultimately turned away as bouncers determined they didn’t fit the look the club was going for.”

What look was the club going for? That’s not made entirely clear, but it was pretty clear what look the club wasn’t going for: the look of people who “haven’t taken a shower and smell and look homeless.” The club met one of its own heretofore untapped demographics, and decided to leave that demographic untapped.

After that, the “librarians” were told to move the books they’d set up to somewhere less visible, which reminded one of the “librarians” of their treatment by the police. Personally, I’d rather deal with a police officer than a nightclub manager any day of the week. The club didn’t want the books distracting from the stripper, and one can sympathize.

Before beginning his set, DJ Spooky gave a “shout out to the People’s Library” and asked who had brought books to donate, but “the audience barely looked up from their cocktails” and “the last occupiers pushed past the bouncers and out into the rain.”

The occupiers were naturally disappointed, and I ran across some rather rude comments on the Internet as I was reading about this. Ahh, the naivete of youth.

One of the disappointed occupiers said, “We had an understanding. Our name and our imagery are all over the flyers for this event, we promoted it, and now they’re not letting us in. We feel used.”

Given that nobody brought books or paid attention to the OWS library at all, one has to wonder what sort of publicity the OWS really brought to Works in Progress. It seems like most of the people who showed up because of the OWS promotion weren’t even let into the club.

The club’s “creative director” wasn’t any happier. He seems to have been under the impression that the club was bringing attention to OWS rather than the other way around. “I did them a favor, and it wasn’t the favor they wanted, so they threw a little fit. A bunch of them tried to get in, and they probably hadn’t showered in days. All of a sudden I’m supposed to change my rules for them? It’s a night club!”

Why exactly would a club trying to attract people with lots of money to spend promote the OWS library at all? I’m thinking maybe the creative director didn’t know what he was getting into. Maybe he’d managed to live in NYC the last few months without knowing what the OWS was really about.

That’s the best way to explain another of his quotes, where he’s “not about dividing people into the 99 and the 1 percent,” but thinks “the Wall Streeters inside are a lot nicer than those guys, and at least they pay some of my bills.”

If you’re not about dividing people into the 99 and the 1 percent, then why exactly would you allow the OWS to set up their ragtag library in your club? Similarly, if you’re angry at rich people, why try to throw a party in a club trying to attract rich people? Irony abounds.

I thought after the initial destruction of the library by the police, which the ALA protested on the ridiculous notion that the “People’s Library” was a “cornerstone of democracy,” that the OWS might give up on their pointless library, but apparently not.

Instead of engaging in some sort of directed political action, they’re still carting books around the city giving people access to the information they already had access to through their public libraries, the big difference being that public libraries make it easy to locate exactly where a book is at any given time.

No one outside the OWS movement seems to know exactly what the OWS people want to accomplish. After reading about this “People’s Library”  nightclub debacle, I’m not sure even they know what they want to accomplish, except maybe to feel good about themselves. Oh well, it’s cheaper than drugs or therapy, I guess.



  1. I found this phrase in the article insightful: “the library has become a sort of talisman of virtue and martyrdom”.

  2. Walt Lessun says:

    “The club didn’t want the books distracting from the stripper”
    Uh, that would never happen. True, I take my kindle with me, but I only read it between sets.

  3. I love the AL. This post is just the latest reason why.

    (The link under “ridiculous notion” is bad and needs to be changed to )

  4. The Librarian With No Name says:

    I guess that’s fair. After all the people we’ve thrown out of libraries for being drunk, why would librarians think they’re allowed to do library stuff in a bar?

    It’s the classic toilet/pool dichotomy at work.

    • @The Librarian With No Name: That’s interesting. Should you ever wish to write anonymously about details of “all the people we’ve thrown out of libraries for being drunk,” I would be happy to give you a guest blog post on SafeLibraries.

  5. “We feel used.”

    Too funny for words.

  6. AL, I’m disappointed. I would think (hope?) that the “most successful, respected, and desirable librarian of her generation” would be better informed – or would have done some research – before writing.

    “No one outside the OWS movement seems to know exactly what the OWS people want to accomplish.”

    After all the news coverage…all the commentary…all the writing and videos…this meme just won’t die, will it?

    Wikipedia’s page about “Occupy Wall Street” has an entire section dedicated to OWS’s goals. There have been numerous infographics and collections of charts and graphs.

    And perhaps most importantly, at the end of September of last year, the New York City General Assembly (of the occupation) put out a Declaration. There is also a separate 99% Declaration. There’s a popular Tumblr blog where people submit their stories – some of which are truly awful.

    Even if you don’t support OWS, I would hope that librarians would be able to find and produce information about it instead of making blanket statements.

    • This is the old New Left diversion– talking about political change you “want” instead of things you, you yourself want to accomplish with your life.

    • Avery, I don’t think your comment is a relevant reply.

      My primary point – seeing as how this is a library/librarian blog – was that the Annoyed Librarian didn’t do sufficient research before writing this entry. OWS / 99% movement has been fairly clear about the problems they want addressed – problems that cannot be addressed simply by “accomplishing more.”

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