CHICAGO -The People’s Library, a library constructed by the New York Occupy Wall Street movement, was seized in the early morning hours of Nov. 15, by the New York Police Department during a planned raid to evict Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park. The library held a collection of more than 5,000 items and provided free access to books, magazines, newspapers and other materials. According to ALA members who visited the site, the library reflected many of ALA’s core intellectual freedom values and best practices—a balanced, cataloged collection, representing diverse points of view, that included children’s books and reference service often provided by professional librarians.
City officials assured library staff that library materials would be safely transported to a sanitation depot, but the majority of the collection is still missing and returned items were damaged, including laptops and other equipment. The likelihood of recovering all library materials is bleak, as witnesses reported that library materials were thrown into dumpsters by police and city sanitation workers.
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.”
American Library Association (ALA) President Molly Raphael released the following statement regarding the destruction of the People’s Library:
“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.”
The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 60,000 members. Its mission is to promote the highest quality library and information services and public access to information.