Monday, October 24, 2011

The People's Library in my library

Occupy Wall Street (specifically NYC) has many facets that bear discussion but one of the things that has stood out to me is the fact that they have a library. You can check out the library's web page here the official title of which is The People's Library. What's interesting about this setup is that there are no, as far as I can tell, ebooks, databases or otherwise digital media in, or part of, this library. There is available internet connectivity but there is not, as far as I've read, any subscriptions to library vendors or databases.
What really intrigues me is this people's library exists as a library of necessity and purposeful in scope. The books chosen seem to be based around the ideas of free speech, response to government, etc. (Check out the related links below for additional info on how people are picking books.)
   While there has not been a particularly well-stated set of specific goals of those doing the occupying, there seems to be a perception that the library's provided sources of information is needed/interesting/pointedly relevant in order to help those protesting to do so better or more intelligently, or help inform about how the nation got to the point it's at, biography of national leaders, etc.
Why does a protest movement need a library? It's hard to tell not actually being there but my own, from-a-distance-personal conjecture follows. Here goes: many of these books have all been available for a while (Zinn's a People's History of the United States is a good example) but it's not until these reader's need have changed that these resources are now recognized as important or helpful. The importance of the object is elevated relative to the current need of the user. Libraries are supposed to exist to meet need(s) but  one of the challenges is trying to figure out or identify exactly what drives patrons/users to act on their information needs or to realize that there is a resource that meets a need that was previously unvoiced or less urgent. 
This library has comes to the protestors directly. It has arisen out of the gathering of people to meet a specific need and is therefore valued because it is need-based.
 The tradition of acadmeic libraries is that they are developed to meet a specific need but because there are other immediately available sources.
The People's Library exemplifies the five quote unquote laws of library use codified by S. Ranganathan.
Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader.
Save the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.

I wonder if patrons of The People's Library may actually have an easier time of selecting resources because there is a specifically limited focus and reaourxes which they are concerned.
Location also matters. 

im tempted to decamp parts of the collection into a rolling cart and haul it around campus.Recently I brought three books over to a colleague in Student Development who had requested some "interesting stuff". Another staff member happened to overhear our conversation, expressed interest in one of the books and ended up walking away with it. This is an individual who is very unlikely to engage with the library resources on a regular basis. But presenting them with a manageable chunk of a resource in a subject area they were interested in, piqued their interest.
How do I, then, turn my library into a people's or in this case, a student's library? Or better inform users what is in the stacks? I want my student users to have the same sense of purpose, relevance and excitement that the OWD have about their books. What are additional ways to increase the transparency of what's in the stacks?The other, more difficult bit, is to highlight the importance of the works both for for its own sake as well as for its potential applicability to a particular research or information-gathering project.

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