Let's Build a Library Together!
Workshop 2

Photo: Tomislav Medak

Photo: Tomislav Medak

Public Library/Memory of the World (Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak, feat. Femke Snelting)
29 May - 02 June 2017, IZK Graz
 
This is a time of crisis and struggles for public libraries. We want to build a library together.
 
This transdiscplinary research workshop combines media theory, (practice of an amateur) librarianship, political activism, design and architecture in dialogue with the real physical and institutional/educational conditions of IZK. It will be the first activity in a line of workshops and projects at IZK that explore the spatial and organizational transformation of institutions formative for public and society.
 
The main promise of the bourgeois revolution was that modern society will recognize people as equal, and that this society will be built for all of us. It took many years of struggle to recognize that without possession we had only labour to sell in order to survive, that women ended up less equal than men, that people of all races where discriminated in so many ways. Those struggles are far from over but one vision was there from the beginning: the bare minimum on which we should build our equality is the intergalactic access to knowledge. The Public Library was an institution dreamed and established already in those early days. From then on, a network of libraries and librarians developed in every nation, every country and we never stopped dreaming about "Free Schools and Free Libraries for every soul"[0].
 
The arrival of the Internet made this dream look finally realizable. Unfortunately, its emergence took place precisely when an institutional crisis — one with traumatic and inconceivable consequences — had also begun. While librarians started to work on making the dream of intergalactic access imaginable for many, which meant providing access to knowledge enclosed behind pay-walls and firewalls of prestige publishers and/or universities, intellectual property regimes tightened and public institutions were being severely defunded. These days the struggle of our brave amateur librarians has become even more tough as all of them are getting prosecuted: the case against Aaron Swartz happened only a few years ago[1], Alexandra Elbakyan (Science Hub)[2], the Russian hackers behind Library Genesis[3] and the enthusiasts behind Aaaaarg.org are being sued at this very moment. The same happened earlier to Gigapedia/Library.nu or back in the 00's to Textz.com[4].
 
Public Library/Memory of the World[5] first of all wants to make a case for the institution of public library and the principle of intergalactic access to knowledge (activism, articulation, advocacy). Secondly, Public Library/Memory of the World explores and develops distributed internet infrastructures for amateur librarians. This includes software production, aggregated catalogues of digital books[6], documentation, curriculum development and education. The project has been invited into and exhibited at several international art and academic institutions such as Museo Reina Sofía, 98weeks, Impakt Festival, Transmediale, The New School, and Kunstverein Stuttgart.
 
The workshop will be based on Amateur Librarian – A Course in Critical Pedagogy[7], a proposal for a curriculum in amateur librarianship. Drawing from a historic genealogy of public libraries as institutions for access to knowledge, the proletarian tradition of 'really useful knowledge' and the amateur agency driven by technological development, this curriculum covers a range of topics, from immediately applicable workflows for scanning, sharing and using e-books, over politics and tactics around custodianship of online libraries, to applied media theory implicit in the practices of amateur librarianship.
 
"Let's build a library together" invites designers, artists, theoreticians, hackers, librarians and activists to join forces during an intense week of discussion, collective prototyping and exchange on the future of Public Libraries in the digital age. The workshop pools together skills, tools and knowledges available to the group and will concretely test out the spatial, technical and institutional conditions for Public Library today. What materials need to be included? How can we maintain the collection? Where will it be and when? What infrastructure? Who has access? Who takes care?
 
[0] Melvil Dewey (diary entry, December 10, 1872)
 

The workshop is related to the lecture "Memory of the World/Public Library" by Marcell Mars at Graz Architecture Lectures 2016.

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