I was just looking again at photos of when the OWS library went mobile on November 17, and at the recent OWS bookmobile, and I went immediately to my primary source files certain that I remembered something similar. (Why yes, I am a nerd and a graduate student. How did you know?)
I finally found what they remind me of, a bit: another moment when a mobile library, linked—if more tenuously in this case—to a social movement, crowded the streets of New York City.
In this case, pictured above, a Queens bookmobile was used by to reach patrons—especially youth—who had been previously neglected by the library. It was a city program, of course, and so had a rather different posture toward government and state power than the OWS library seems to.
But the “Library in Action” had a number of intriguing features. It sought, for example, to ally itself with community organizations—like the Jamaica Community Corporation and Qualicap—dedicated to anti-poverty and pro-equality activism. And its staff training included reading E.U. Essien-Udom’s Black Nationalism: The Search for an Identity in America. The program thus seemed less wedded to the more troubling aspects of late-1960s liberalism (though it still certainly drew on them) than other similar programs.
Run by an interracial staff seemingly devoted not just to promoting the library but making it available more broadly to the people of the city, the Library in Action can offer a partial—though certainly limited—genealogy of the sort of work now taken up by the OWS libraries, among other organizations and institutions.
Images and information from: Library in Action: A Teenmobile Project focused on Disadvantaged Areas of Queens County, N.Y.C., Summer-1968