Occupy Wall Street and the myth of technological death of the library

  • Jessa Lingel Rutgers University
Keywords: protest, library, DIY, digital media


Within a week of the emergence of Occupy Wall Street, a library surfaced in the midst of the protest. Staffed by volunteers and comprised entirely of donated materials, the People’s Library offers books and media to the public, provides basic reference assistance and includes a fully-searchable digital catalog. In this article, I analyze the People’s Library in terms of larger discussions of libraries, technology and activism. Drawing on personal experiences volunteering at the Library as well as text from the Library’s blog, I argue that the People’s Library offers two counter arguments to conventional claims about the public library: first, that libraries are being existentially threatened by the emergence of digital technologies and second, that a library’s activist ethics are located solely or predominantly in the content of its collection. Using the People’s Library as a kind of conceptual case study, I explore the connections between public libraries, digital technologies and activist ethics.
How to Cite
Lingel, J. (2012). Occupy Wall Street and the myth of technological death of the library. First Monday, 17(8). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v17i8.3845