But all the adversity paid off. "We encourage each other to take on different tasks," McCann said. Before it disappeared, it had everything any other library would have.
"The library gets used all day and into the night — it's used not just for books," McCann said. Occupiers used it as a communal space to work on their computers, to have meetings, to hang out and read. "Just like a real library," McCann said.
Although most libraries have a disaster plan in case of fire or flood, few post instructions on what to do in the instance of a police assault. In addition to civil-disobedience training, the librarians had to plan against the fate of the People's Free Library upon the eviction of Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park, when thousands of books were confiscated by the NYPD and many were lost or destroyed.
The A-Z Library's emergency-preparedness plan had contingencies based on the manner of evacuation, from an eviction notice to a raid. They devised a phone tree in order to notify librarians quickly in case of a bust. The contacts would swoop in to break down shelving units, load up their cars, and store the collection in their houses.
"We'd like to keep the collection together because it's become an amazing collection," McCann said. "For the right group, it could be something really awesome to have."
The call went out to the A-Z librarians at 11 am on the morning of December 8: the eviction notice was set for midnight. It was time to go.
Shortly thereafter, the librarians arrived on the scene. Heather McCann and Brandeis Rose Art Museum collections manager Kristin Parker led the campaign. They dismantled the tent, grabbed the milk crates full of books, and stacked them in a series of neat piles on the General Assembly stage. Two station wagons and an SUV pulled up on Summer Street and popped their trunks. Using two hand trucks, the librarians and a few volunteers filled up the cars, and away they went. As planned, the books will live with six librarians until they find the whole collection a permanent home. Nobody's quite sure where that home will be.
McCann, Parker, and Anna Rothman helped John Ford load books and library supplies into Ford's truck. McCann handed out gold A-Z Librarian lapel pins to her colleagues. The library itself dwindled to an overhead projector and a few boards resting in a puddle of mud.
>> READ: Occupy Bookstores: Trotsky at the Train Station <<
By 3 pm, all but five crates of books and a library stool were gone.
"The library's done!" Ford announced, smiling wryly as he got behind the wheel. The librarians stood together, arms crossed, watching as Ford's truck pulled away.
They didn't stand around for long. Parker put her colleagues to work. They strolled through the camp looking for important documents that might have been left behind.
"I saved some random pieces of paper in the library," she said. "They were going to throw them out, but I knew they weren't trash because I'm an archivist."
A loop around the park yielded a fire safety sign and a map of the occupation, which Parker took home with her. The librarians returned to the General Assembly stage, seeming at loose ends.
"I'm a little sad and a little relieved," Rothman said. "But this isn't the end."