In September 2011, Occupy Wall Street activists took over New York’s Zuccotti Park. Within a matter of weeks, the encampment had become a tiny model of a robust city, with its own kitchen, first aid station, childcare services—and a library of several thousand physical books. Since that time, social movements around the world, from Nuit Debout in Paris to Gezi Park in Istanbul, have built temporary libraries alongside their protests. While these libraries typically last only a few weeks at a time and all have ultimately been dismantled or destroyed, each has managed to collect, catalog, and circulate books, serving a need not being met elsewhere.
Libraries amid Protest unpacks how these protest libraries—labor-intensive, temporary installations in parks and city squares, poorly protected from the weather, at odds with security forces—continue to arise. In telling the stories of these surprising and inspiring spaces through interviews and other research, Sherrin Frances confronts the complex history of American public libraries. She argues that protest libraries function as the spaces of opportunity and resistance promised, but not delivered, by American public libraries.