Monthly Archives: November 2011

OWS Library on the 1% in Publishing

Our sister librarian Mandy over at Occupy Wall Street has drawn back the curtain on how the 1% have gained control even over our educational and academic resources:

Like the banks, the publishing industry… has seen consolidation into the hands of a relatively few players.  More important than that even, the publishing industry has transformed into one dominated by multinational conglomerates.

The 99% are getting cut off from access to the scholarly output of the global community — content that should belong to everyone.  Read the whole article to find out who owns our scholarly heritage, and why providing a “digital library” is a struggle even for the largest university and big-city public libraries, let alone the People’s Libraries.  (Hint:  a single database subscription can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.)  Occupy the publishing industry!

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You Got Questions? We Got Answers.

If you’ve visited the library at camp, you’ve probably noticed a great abundance of books and a distinct absence of librarians.  Unfortunately, many of us can’t be there nearly as often as we’d like.  We’re going to try to start the occasional shift in the camp library, but in the meantime, never fear!  There are Occubrarians out there, ready to answer your questions!

Radical Reference is a great resource for questions about the issues the Occupy movement is addressing.

“Radical Reference is a collective of volunteer library workers who believe in social justice and equality. We support activist communities, progressive organizations, and independent journalists by providing professional research support, education and access to information. We work in a collaborative virtual setting and are dedicated to information activism to foster a more egalitarian society.”

Maybe you remember these guys from the G20 protests — the Pittsburgh collective put together a great information packet for activists, which folks may still find useful.

For general reference questions — not specifically Occupy-related — there is the Internet Public Library.  Not only do they have a vast collection of vetted online resources, they have an “Ask an ipl2 Librarian” feature staffed by hundreds of volunteer professionals.  Responses generally take a few days but tend to be quite thorough.

Living at camp and/or don’t have Internet access?  The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Downtown & Business branch is just a couple blocks away on Smithfield and open Monday through Friday.  With a library card, you can get free Internet access, as well as access to a number of research databases.  And you can have any item in the county-wide library system delivered to the branch of your choice.  Signing up for a card is free, too!

Got a question or comment about the People’s Library of Pittsburgh itself?  Want to volunteer as an Occubrarian?  Shoot us an email at occupypghlibrary@gmail.com.

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Introducing the People’s Library of Pittsburgh

It’s a soggy day at Occupy Pittsburgh.  A typical November afternoon in this city — a little chilly, a little rainy, altogether pretty grey.  But as I dash up the path into camp to do some cataloguing during my lunch break, I see a stalwart collection of folks milling around in the drizzle.  There’s always something going on here, and visiting always feels a little like coming home.

I survey the library area to make sure the assortment of tarps is adequately protecting the collection of books, magazines, newspapers, fliers, pamphlets, videos, and games underneath.  A few damp items here and there but people are pretty careful about replacing the plastic after browsing, often adding more coverings as the collection grows.  Poking around underneath, I discover — hurray! — a box full of newly donated books, complete with a love note from Eljay’s Used Books in the Southside.

love note from Eljay

I count a few dozen paperbacks ranging from history and politics to fiction.  Soon they’ll be added to the Occupy Pittsburgh Library catalog, hosted by LibraryThing, who graciously gifted us with a complimentary lifetime membership (thanks guys!).  Just a few weeks ago we also had the pleasure of meeting Bill from Copacetic Comics, who left us with two big blue bags full of literary treasures.  It is always encouraging to receive such moral and material support from local and independent businesses.  Not only do we get the warm-and-fuzzies but it reinforces the understanding that this movement extends far beyond the boundaries of the camp.

You know the old misquote, “If you build it, they will come”?  I often think about that as I watch our collection steadily expand.   A month or so ago we rescued an abandoned magazine rack and installed it at camp, conveniently located across from the kitchen.  Since then it’s been inundated with donated materials of every kind — dense academic works, creative nonfiction, literary classics, trashy pop fiction, children’s books, and an array of magazines, newspapers, and indie publications.  It is a challenge to keep track of all the new arrivals and add them to the catalog, but we love seeing what comes in!

One of my favorite contributions is a binder called “Check Your Privilege,” a collection of handouts created by the Marginalized Communities and Allies working group intended to educate people about the social privilege they may take for granted, be it color, gender, class, ability, etc.  It’s emblematic of the larger community the library is intended to serve:  a diverse group of people from all walks of life, united by a common purpose but nonetheless struggling to discard ingrained prejudices and interact effectively.  The library serves as a neutral space to foster that growth and understanding, a place to meet new people and chit-chat and absorb new ideas.

We’re all about new ideas here.  If you haven’t visited the Occupy Pittsburgh camp yet and you’re curious what it’s all about, come on down.  Grab a cup of coffee from the kitchen, grab a book from the library.  We’d love to talk to you and hear what you have to say, and we bet we can find some common ground.  And if you think our library collection is missing something, let us know — or heck, donate a copy!

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