The Washington Post

Library group denounces book destruction at Occupy Wall Street

The American Library Association has denounced the destruction of books at a library set up by Occupy Wall Street when New York police raided a park where protesters were staying earlier this month.

The ALA, the oldest and largest library association in the world, issued a release that said some of its members who had visited the site before the Nov. 15 raid in Zuccotti Park had praised the People’s Library for having a balanced, catalogued collection of materials that included works of different views.

The library maintained at the park had held more than 5,000 items and provided free access to books, magazines, newspapers and other materials. A reference service, often staffed by professional librarians, was offered.

“The dissolution of a library is unacceptable,” said a statement by ALA President President Molly Raphael. “ Libraries serve as the cornerstone of our democracy and must be safeguarded.

The association said witnesses reported that library materials were thrown in the garbage by police and city sanitation workers and that many of the materials are missing.

City officials had said the library materials had been safeguarded, but when librarians visited the garage where they had been taken, they found that most of the collection was missing or had been destroyed.

Last week the People’s Librarians of Occupy Wall Street rallied along with some of their allies and demanded that the New York City government take three steps, the Huffington Post reported: replace the missing and destroyed books, admit the police had wrongfully destroyed the People’s Library and find a new location for a rebuilt library.

The ALA release said longstanding ALA policy states:

“The American Library Association deplores the destruction of libraries, library collections and property, and the disruption of the educational purpose by that act, whether it be done by individuals or groups of individuals and whether it be in the name of honest dissent, the desire to control or limit thought or ideas, or for any other purpose.”

And this is Raphael’s full statement:

“The dissolution of a library is unacceptable. Libraries serve as the cornerstone of our democracy and must be safeguarded. An informed public constitutes the very foundation of a democracy, and libraries ensure that everyone has free access to information.

“The very existence of the People’s Library demonstrates that libraries are an organic part of all communities. Libraries serve the needs of community members and preserve the record of community history. In the case of the People’s Library, this included irreplaceable records and material related to the occupation movement and the temporary community that it represented.

“We support the librarians and volunteers of the Library Working Group as they re-establish the People’s Library.”

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Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.


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