The Harvard Library Occupation

The New Harvard Library Working Group led an autonomous action on Sunday Feb. 12, occupying Lamont Library during the last hour of the Students Occupy Summit. The New Library Occupation then connected with the Student Summit via livestream, to the enthusiastic support of the Summit participants, who marched to the library and chanted outside its windows.

For the next few days, the Occupation held Think Tanks that attracted students, library employees, and university officials. Think Tank discussions ranged from “What is a library?” and “Power and the University” to “Strategies for the Occupy [Harvard] Movement.” All were recorded and are available on Occupy Harvard’s website. Numerous actions were brainstormed in those discussions, including an initiative to document and archive library workers’ experience in the library. One of the think tanks was attended by a member of the Harvard Library Innovation Laboratory (an independent project of the Law Library) — he suggested a collaboration between students, library employees and the Innovation Lab to envision a restructuring of the library system that draws on the experience of employees and library users, instead of on (three!) outside consulting agencies.

A Think Tank of students and workers at the Library

The Occupation’s program also included skill shares and knowledge shares, a teach-in on challenging institutional hegemony, and a nonviolence training workshop. At night, Occupiers watched silent films, welcoming late-night library patrons to stop by and share food and films. The occasional Absurd Theater Workshop with university police was also a special treat. The Occupation was watched by as many as four city policemen and university guards at any given time,prompting some nonviolent resistance against spontaneous rules on sleeping “equipment.”

The Occupy Harvard Pink Bloc

While they occupied, students at times struggled to keep up with their demanding workload. Similarly, supportive university employees were concerned that they might jeopardize their position by visibly participating in the Occupy. Although the police presence was oppressive, many at the libraries recalled successful protests in Harvard’s history. In 1929, Corliss Lamont (who endowed the occupied library in his name) interfered on behalf of 19 scrubwomen who were fired by the Harvard Administration for demanding to be paid the Massachusetts Minimum Wage. On March 6, 1971 the International Women’s Day marchers occupied a building on the Harvard campus to turn it into the Harvard Women’s Center. Others also recall the Living Wage Campaign in Harvard’s recent history, as well as the numerous successful actions of the Student Labor Action Movement of Harvard.
This Valentine’s Day, to thank the Occupiers for their support, members of the Clerical Workers’ Union and non-unionzed employees presented them with a Valentine’s Day card.

Library employees present Occupy Harvard protesters a Valentine's Day card

On Thursday, workers, students, and alumni rallied to protest the university’s top-down, secretive approach to the restructuring of the library. Cambridge City Councillor Leland Cheung spoke at the rally, letting the protesters know that the City of Cambridge stood with them. Protesters decried Harvard’s plan to indiscriminately buy out long-time, older workers, calling against layoffs in Harvard’s libraries.

Rally against indiscriminate layoffs and lack of transparency at Harvard

This targeted occupation ends tonight, Friday, at 10pm. Before it leaves the library, Occupy Harvard is holding a phone-in to contact university donors and inform them about how their funds are being used by the Administration. The Occupy is also offering two Think Tanks, a nonviolence training, and a Library Assembly. Future actions are in the planning stages. To learn about what comes next, follow Occupy Harvard on their social media channels and see