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.
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!