#OccupytheLibrary

2011/10/13

Over the last few days Patti and I have been hacking around ideas for a library panel/session/workshop/teach in on the OccupyBaySt (or Wall St or where-ever) movement.  For each possible session we consider timeliness and social relevance – but also what about the issue is relevant to information literacy and/or the democratic values we see animating librarianship (for instance … knowledge, sharing, common space).  So we’ve been asking ourselves the question… what is the information issue here?

A few thoughts.

1. Media literacy … the lack of coverage of the protest initially, except via blogs, twitter etc. How does one discover what’s going on when mainstream press isn’t covering it?  Or does this protest show us that mainstream press coverage is not so important any more?

2. What is this thing about? It is a very different kind of movement/protest with no single message. It is not a rally or a march but an occupation. What does that mean? Why is the movement being attacked on both sides of the political spectrum? So that’s a basic information question we could try and answer … what is this thing about? I think maybe it’s about an opening up of public discourse on a very broad level – and of course this is one of the aims of our series as well. So could we get all meta and run a session on the opening up of public discourse by opening up some public discourse in our library? Get someone to talk about Habermas and public discourse? Get someone else to come in and talk about social movements and how this is different?

3.The People’s Library. What is it and why is it there? The role of libraries/librarians not only as knowledge sharers but as archivists… who are preserving the written and oral history of the movement. Obviously we wouldn’t have a whole session re the library – but we could fold it into the above panel somehow, remembering that advocacy for libraries IS information literacy.

4. The information sharing purposes of social protest … often people think a protest has failed because it didn’t change a law or an action of the state. But there are multiple purposes of social protest, some of which are creating space for sharing information, self-education and meeting people from diverse backgrounds and forming coalitions.

5. We need the tumblr We are the 99 Percent floating in the background perhaps. Or at least on our guide. Our guide would link out to the various occupy pages, the libraries, places with good media coverage?

6. Space. Common space. What does it mean to occupy a space? What does it mean to occupy Wall St? Who owns Wall St? Opportunity to talk about common space, importance of it for democracy, how to reclaim it, and of course… importance of libraries as common space.

It also suddenly occurs to me that in inviting panelists in to speak on these issues – we are connecting with and building a network of scholars and librarians interested in these issues on campus, and building solidarity amongst them as well.

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3 Responses to “#OccupytheLibrary”


  1. And, on that last point about common space…hosting this conversation in the library, making “space” for it to happen and devoting energy to the planning, however it ultimately shakes out, is part of the advocacy that you mention. The act in itself is the advocacy, maybe even more so than the IL angle(s) that will emerge. For while libraries/librarians are indeed knowledge sharers and archivists, they are also participants — not in a partisan/taking sides on the issue sort of way (though that may be a part of it), but in the sense that they are part of the creation of the very record we are preserving — making the library space more than just the venue for the unfolding of the historical record. This doesn’t need to be articulated in any specific way as part of the events, but it might help to ground us in purpose — and maybe start to help us form better, deeper responses to the academic libraries under attack rhetoric that abounds. And I feel the need to justify my use of the term ‘rhetoric’ here — I don’t want to be dismissive about the threat, I just think that our collective response has to be more about why libraries matter rather than just why librarians matter.

  2. Lisa Sloniowski Says:

    Yes. Although as a side note, I think support for libraries is strong these days. It’s support for librarians or rather for the things that I think librarians support/believe in/do that falters.


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