public library in Bodo 2015

is everywhere.” – Marcell Mars,
I have spent the last few months in various libraries visiting - a library. I spent countless hours in the
modest or grandiose buildings of the Harvard Libraries, the Boston and Cambridge Public Library
systems, various branches of the Openbare Bibliotheek in Amsterdam, the libraries of the University of
Amsterdam, with a computer in front of me, on which another library was running, a library which is
perfectly virtual, which has no monumental buil

ary, 2013). This approach is
from among the more conservative ones, still relying on the hope that libraries can offer something
unique that no one else is able to provide. Others, working at the Association of Research Libraries are
more like their public library counterparts, defining the future role of the research libraries as a “convener
of ‘conversations’ for knowledge construction, an inspiring host; a boundless symposium; an incubator;
a 3rd space both physically and virtually; a scaffold for ind

public library in Constant 2016

◦ EN Introduction
◦ FR Préface
◦ NL Inleiding
• Embedded hierarchies
◦ FR+NL+EN A radiating interview/Un entrevue irradiant/Een irradiërend gesprek
◦ EN Amateur Librarian - A Course in Critical Pedagogy TOMISLAV MEDAK &
MARCELL MARS (Public Library project)
◦ FR Bibliothécaire amateur - un cours de pédagogie critique TOMISLAV MEDAK


A bag but is language nothing of words MICHAEL MURTAUGH
A Book of the Web DUSAN BAROK

ans différentes
régions du monde. »


7. Marcel Dieu dit Hem Day

Tomislav Medak & Marcell Mars (Public Library project)

A proposal for a curriculum in amateur librarianship, developed through the
activities and exigencies of the Public Library project. Drawing from a historic
genealogy of public library as the institution of access to knowledge, the
proletarian tradition of really useful knowledge and the amateur agency driven
by technological development, the curriculum covers a range of segments from
immediately applicable workflows for scanning,

and tactics around custodianship of online libraries, to applied
media theory implicit in the practices of amateur librarianship. The proposal is
made with further development, complexification and testing in mind during the
future activities of the Public Library and affiliated organizations.

Public libraries have historically achieved as an institutional space of exemption from the
commodification and privatization of knowledge. A space where works of literature and

the granting of universal suffrage.” Development of radical “curricula and pedagogies”
formed a part of the arsenal of “political strategy as a means of changing the world.”[6]

This is the context of the emergence of the public library. A historical compromise between a
push for radical pedagogy and a response to dull its edge. And yet with the age of
digitization, where one would think that the opportunities for access to knowledge have
expanded immensely, public libraries find th



No wonder that over the last 6-7 years we have seen self-education, shadow libraries and
amateur librarians emerge again to counteract the contraction of spaces of exemption that
have been shrunk by austerity and commodity.
The project Public Library was initiated with the counteraction in mind. To help everyone
learn to use simple tools to be able to act as an Amateur Librarian – to digitize, to collect, to
share, to preserve books and articles that were unaffordable, unavailable, undesirable in the
troubled corners of the Earth we hail from.
Amateur Librarian played an important role in the narrative of Public Library. And it seems
it was successful. People easily join the project by 'becoming' a librarian using Calibre[7] and
[let’s share books].[8] Other aspects of the Public Library narrative add a political articulation
to that simple yet disobedient act. Public Library detects an institutional crisis in education,
an economic deadlock of austerity and a domination of commodity logic in the form of
copyright. It conjures up the amateur librarians’ practice of sharing books/catalogues as a
relevant challenge agains

libraries have to pay for subscriptions. It is thus here that
the amateur librarianship attains its poignancy for a
critical pedagogy, inviting us to closer formulate and
unfold its practices in a shared process of discovery.

Public library is:
• free access to books for every member of society,
• library catalogue,
• librarian.

The curriculum in amateur librarianship develops aspects
and implications of this definition. Parts of this curriculum
have evolved over a number of workshops and talks
previously held within the Public Library project, parts of
it are yet to evolve from a process of future research,
exchange and knowledge production in the education
process. While schematic, scaling from the immediately
practical, over strategic and tactical, to reflexive registers
of know

d Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth
Centuries,” The Journal of Economic History 69, No. 02 (June 2009): 409–45, doi:10.1017/S0022050709000837,
particularly Tables 1-5.
2. For the social history of public library see Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (Random House, 2014) chapter 5:
“Books for all”.
3. For this concept we remain indebted to the curatorial collective What, How and for Whom/WHW, who have presented the
work of Public Library within the exhibition Really Useful Knowledge they organized at Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid,
October 29, 2014 – February 9, 2015.
4. “Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, June 25, 2015, https://


9. Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (Bloomsbury Academic, 2011), 5.



- un
cours de
Tomislav Medak & Marcell Mars (Public Library project)

Proposition de programme d'études de bibliothécaire amateur développé à
travers les activités et les exigences du projet Public Library. Prenant pour
base la généalogie historique de la bibliothèque publique en tant qu'institution
permettant l'accès à la connaissance, la tradition prolétaire de la connaissance
réellement utile et la puissance de l'amateur motivée par le déve

ibliothèques en ligne, en passant par la théorie médiatique appliquée qui est
implicite dans les pratiques du bibliothécaire amateur. La proposition est plus
amplement développée, complexifiée et sera testée durant les futures activités
de Public Library et des organisations affiliées.

Historiquement, les bibliothèques publiques sont parvenues à être un espace institutionnel
exempté de la marchandisation et de la privatisation de la connaissan

pt dernières années, nous avons vu l'apprentissage
autodidacte, les bibliothèques de l'ombre et les bibliothécaires amateurs émerger pour contrer
la contraction des espaces d'exemption réduits par l'austérité et la commodification. Le projet
Public Library a été initié dans l'idée de contrer ce phénomène. Pour aider tout le monde à
apprendre l'utilisation d'outils simples permettant d'agir en tant qu'Amateur Librarian :
numériser, rassembler, partager, préserver des livres, des articles onéreux, introuvables ou
indésirables dans les coins mouvementés de notre planète.
Amateur Librarian a joué un rôle important dans le système narratif de Public Library. Un
rôle qui semble avoir porté ses fruits. Les gens rejoignent facilement le projet en « devenant »
bibliothécaire grâce à l'outil Calibre[7] et [let’s share books].[8] D'autres aspects du narratif de
Public Library ajoutent une articulation politique à cet acte simple, mais désobéissant. Public
Library perçoit une crise institutionnelle dans l'éducation, une impasse économique
d'austérité et une domination de la logique de commodité sous la forme du dr

bliothécaire amateur développe
plusieurs aspects et implications d'une telle définition.
Certaines parties du programme ont été construites à
partir de différents ateliers et exposés qui se déroulaient précédemment dans le cadre du
projet Public Library. Certaines parties de ce programme doivent encore évoluer s'appuyant
sur un processus de recherche futur, d'échange et de production de connaissance dans le
processus éducatif. Tout en restant schématique en allant de la pratique immédiate, à l

que publique, voir Matthew Battles, Library: An Unquiet History (Random House,
2014) chapitre 5 : “Books for all”.
3. 3. Pour ce concept, nous sommes redevables au collectif de curateurs What, How and for Whom/WHW, qui a présenté le
travail de Public Library dans le cadre de l'exposition Really Useful Knowledge qu'ils ont organisée au Museo Reina Sofía à
Madrid, entre 29 octobre 2014 et le 9 février 2015.
4. 4. « Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, » Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Jui

public library in Dockray 2013

lection of all files - which on the one hand exceeds the storage capacity of
any one person’s technical hardware, is on the other hand entirely available to every personcomputer. If the files were books.. then this collective collection would be a public library.

In order for a system like this to work, for the inputs and the outputs to actually engage with one
another to produce action or transmit data, there needs to be something in place already to enable
meaningful couplings. Before there is any interac

property in the new economy and lease, rent, or charge an
admission fee, subscription, or membership dues for its short-term use.”

Thinking again of books, Rifkin’s description gives the image of a paid library emerging as the
synthesis of the public library and the marketplace for commodity exchange. Considering how, on
the one side, traditional public libraries are having their collections deaccessioned, hours of
operation cut, and are in some cases being closed down entirely, and on the other side, th

public library in Hamerman 2015

the Stop Online Piracy Act,
which was defeated in 2012. Swartz’s actions and the fight around SOPA
represent a benchmark in the struggle for open-access and anti-copyright
practices surrounding the digital book.

Aaaaaarg, Monoskop, UbuWeb and Public Library are representative cases of the
pirate library because of their explicit engagement with archival form, their
embrace of ideas of the _[digital commons]( within current left-leaning thought, and their li

universal library, radically extending
enlightenment-era conceptions of democracy. Through democratizing the _tools
of librarianship_ – book scanning, classification systems, cataloging,
information – it promises a broader, de-institutionalized public library.

In __[Public Library: An
Essay]( , Public Library’s organizers frame p2p libraries as
“fragile knowledge infrastructures built and maintained by brave librarians
practicing civil disobedience which the world of researchers in the humanities
rely on.” This civil disobedience is a politically mo

rgence of the internet…
librarianship has been given an opportunity… to include thousands of amateur
librarians who will, together with the experts, build a distributed peer-to-peer network to care for the catalog of available knowledge.”

Public Library frames amateur librarianship as a free, collaboratively
maintained and democratic activity, drawing upon the language of the French
Revolution and extending it for the 21st century. While these practices are
democratic in form, they are not necessari

ist sense;
rather, they focus on bringing high theoretical discourses to people outside
the academy. Accordingly, they attract a modest but engaged audience of
critics, artists, designers, activists, and scholars.

The activities of Aaaaaarg and Public Library may fall closer to ‘ _[peer
preservation]( ’
than ‘peer production,’ as the desires to share information
widely and to preserve these collections against shutdown ofte

itiqued, updated, shared, supplemented, revised, re-ordered,
reiterated and reimagined.” These projects allow us to re-imagine both
archival practices and the digital book for social networks based on the gift.

Aaaaaarg, Monoskop, UbuWeb, and Public Library build a record of critical and
artistic discourse that is held in common, user-responsive and networkable.
Amateur librarians sustain these projects through technological ‘hacks’ that
innovate upon present archival tools and push digital preserva

public library in Liang 2012

he same time this same
sense of awe is often accompanied by an almost debilitating sense of what it
means to encounter finitude as it is dwarfed by centuries of words and
scholarship. Yet strangely when I think of libraries it is rarely the New York
public library that comes to mind even as I wish that we could have similar
institutions in India. I think instead of much smaller collections—sometimes
of institutions but often just those of friends and acquaintances. I enjoy
browsing through people’s bookshe

down and if it were ever possible to experience what the burning of the
library of Alexandria must have felt it was that collective ache of seeing the
closure of [](

What brings together something as monumental as the New York public library, a
collective enterprise like []( and Mecca stores if not
the word library? As spaces they may have little in common but as virtual
spaces they speak as equals even if the scale of their imagination may differ.
All of them partak

public library in Mars & Medak 2019


ices of maintenance and custodianship. In their
illegal acts of reversing property into commons, commodification into care, we detect a
radical gesture comparable to that of the historical avant-garde. To better understand how
the university and the public library ended up in this crisis, we re-trace their development
starting with the capitalist modernization around the turn of the 20th century, a period of
accelerated technological innovation that also birthed historical avant-garde. Drawing on
Perry Anderso

claim, the radicality equivalent to the avantgarde is to divest from the disruptive dynamic of innovation and focus on the repair,
maintenance and care of the broken social world left in techno-capitalism’s wake.
Comparably, the university and the public library should be able to claim the radical
those gesture of slowdown and custodianship too, against the imperative of innovation
imposed on them by policymakers and managers., the first letter
On 30 November, 2015 a number of us shadow li

art Brand, the Whole
Earth Network, and the rise of digital utopianism. Chicago: University of Chicago
Vaneigem, R. (2012) The revolution of everyday life. Oakland: PM Press.
Wark, M. (2015) ‘Metadata punk’, in T. Medak and M. Mars (eds.) Public library.
Zagreb: What, How; for Whom/WHW & Multimedia Institute.

article | 367

Wigglesworth, R. and E. Platt (2016) ‘Value of negative-yielding bonds hits
$13.4tn’, Financial Times, 12 August. [

av Medak is a doctoral student at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry
University. Medak is a member of the theory and publishing team of the Multimedia
Institute/MAMA in Zagreb, as well as an amateur librarian for the Memory of the
World/Public Library project. His research focuses on technologies, capitalist
development, and postcapitalist transition, particularly on economies of intellectual
property and unevenness of technoscience. He authored two short volumes: ‘The Hard
Matter of Abstraction

public library in Mars & Medak 2019

cessed October 28, 2015. http://

es within these peripheries quickly filled
the gap, it was only through an unlikely set of circumstances that
they were able to do so, let alone continue to exist in light of the
legal persecution they now also face.


The starting point for the Public Library/Memory of the World
project was a simple consideration: the public library is the institutional form that societies have devised in order to make knowledge
and culture accessible to all their members regardless of social or
economic status. There’s a political consensus that this principle of
access is fundamental to the

index card catalog did we center the
Public Library/Memory of the World around the idea of the catalog.
Eric von Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation (2005) taught us how end
users could become empowered to innovate and accordingly we
have built our public library as a distributed network of amateur
librarians acting as peers sharing their catalogs and books. Sven
Spieker’s The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (2008) showed us the
exciting hybrid meta-­space between psychoanalysis, media theory,
and concep

ath would
have been impossible if not for our reading of Cybernetic Revolutionaries (Medina 2011), Imagine No Possessions (Kiaer 2005), or Art
Power (Groys 2008).

Our Road into Schizophrenia, Commodity
Paradox, Political Strategy
Our vision for the Public Library/Memory of the World resonated
with many people. After the project initially gained a large number



of users, and was presented in numerous prominent artistic
venues such as Museum Reina Sofía, Transmediale, Württembergischer Kunstverein, C

academic publishing: in return for our contribution and transfer
of our copyrights, we would receive no compensation: no right to
wage and no right to further distribute our work.
Only weeks later our work would land us fully into schizophrenia:
the Public Library/Memory of the World received two takedown
notices from the MIT Press for books that could be found in its
back then relatively small yet easily discoverable online collection
located at, including a notice
for one

culture. . . . With enough of us, around the world, we’ll not just send
a strong message opposing the privatization of knowledge—­we’ll
make it a thing of the past. Will you join us?” (Swartz 2008).


We initially named our project Public Library because we have developed it
as a technosocial project from a minimal definition that defines public library
as constituted by three elements: free access to books for every member of
a society, a library catalog, and a librarian (Mars, Zarroug and Medak, 2015).
However, this definition covers all public libraries and shadow libraries
complementing the work

Stefanie Haustein, and Philippe Mongeon. 2015. “The Oligopoly of
Academic Publishers in the Digital Era.” PLoS ONE 10, no. 6. Accessed January 2,
2018. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127502.
Mars, Marcell, Marar Zarroug, and Tomislav Medak. 2015. “Public Library (essay).” in
Public Library, ed. Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak. Zagreb: Multimedia Institute
& What, how & for Whom/WHW.
Marx, Karl. 1867. Capital, Vol. 1. Available at: Accessed April 9, 2017.

public library in Mars, Medak & Sekulic 2016

cation and
the class struggle in order to achieve the
establishment of the institution of public
libraries financed by taxes, and the right
thereby for access to knowledge and culture for all members of society.

Public library as a space of exemption from
commodification of knowledge and culture
is an institution that complexifies the unconditional and formulaic application of
intellectual property rights, making them
conditional on the public interest that all
members of

public library in Mattern 2014

structure," _Places Journal_ , June 2014.
Accessed 09 Jun 2019.

nfrastructures can embody the epistemological, political, economic and
cultural values that we _want_ to define our communities. 5

[![Hammond, Beeby and Babka, Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Public
Library. \[Photo by Robert Dawson, from Public Library: An American
Beeby and Babka, Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Public Library.
\[Photo by Robert Dawson, from Public Library: An American
content/uploads/2014/06/mattern-library-infrastructure-4x.jpg) Hammond, Beeby
and Babka, Harold Washington Library Center, Chicago Public Library. [Photo by
Robert Dawson, from _[Public Library: An American
commons/)_ ]

## Library as Social Infrastructure

Public libraries are often seen as “opportunity institutions,”

who have been left behind in today’s economy, have failed to
reach their potential in the city’s public school system or who simply need
help navigating an increasingly complex world.” 7

The new Department of Outreach Services at the Brooklyn Public Library, for
instance, partners with other organizations to bring library resources to
seniors, school children and prison populations. The Queens Public Library
employs case managers who help patrons identify public benefits for which
they’re eligible. “These are all things that someone could dub as social
services,” said Queens Library president Thomas Galante, “but they’re not. … A
public library today has information to improve people’s lives. We are an
enabler; we are a connector.” 8

Partly because of their skill in reaching populations that others miss,
libraries have recently reported record circulation and visitation, despite

ponsibilities? The library’s
broad mandate means that it often picks up the slack when other institutions
fall short. “It never ceases to amaze me just what libraries are looked upon
to provide,” says Ruth Faklis, director of the Prairie Trail Public Library
District in suburban Chicago:

> This includes, but is not limited to, [serving as] keepers of the homeless …
while simultaneously offering latch-key children a safe and activity-filled
haven. We have been asked to be voter-registration sites, warm

e-queens-museum.html?_r=1) as the city’s new
Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. A former president of the Queens Museum,
Finkelpearl oversaw the first phase of a renovation by Grimshaw Architects,
which, in its next phase, will incorporate a Queens Public Library branch — an
effective pairing, given the commitment of both institutions to education and
local culture. Similarly, Lincoln Center houses the New York Public Library
for the Performing Arts. As commissioner, Finkelpearl could broaden support
for mixed-use development that strengthens infrastructural ecologies. The
[CUF/Architectural League project](

, the [library
plaza]( features an artist co-op, a radio
station, a community writing center, the Library Store, and a few cafes — all
private businesses whose ethos is consistent with the library’s. The New York
Public Library has [recently announced](
that some of its branches will serve as “learning hubs” for Coursera, the
provider of “massive open online courses.” And many libraries have classrooms
and labs where they offer regular technical training courses.

[![Moshe Safdie, Salt Lake City Public Library. \[Photo by Pedro
Safdie, Salt Lake City Public Library. \[Photo by Pedro
content/uploads/2014/06/mattern-library-infrastructure-8x.jpg)Moshe Safdie,
Salt Lake City Public Library. [Photo by [Pedro

These entrepreneurial models reflect what seems to be an increasingly
widespread sentiment: that while libraries continue to serve a vital role as
“opportunity institut

g an arena for social
interaction, …a distinctive civic icon that helps build a sense of common
identity.” This kind of social infrastructure serves a vital need for an
entire community.

[![Stacks at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library.
\[Published in a 1911 issue of Scientific
at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York Public Library. \[Published in
a 1911 issue of Scientific American\]](
library-infrastructure-10x.jpg)Stacks at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building,
New York Public Library. [Published in a 1911 issue of _Scientific American_ ]

## Library as Technological-Intellectual Infrastructure

Of course, we must not forget the library collection itself. The old-fashioned
bookstack was [at the center of the recent
over the proposed renovation of the New York Public Library’s Schwartzman
Building on 42nd Street, which was
abandons-plan-to-revamp-42nd-street-building.html) last month after more than
a year of lawsuits and protests. This storage i

gnificance of the stacks, and engineers argued that they are critical to the
structural integrity of the building.

The way a library’s collection is stored and made accessible shapes the
intellectual infrastructure of the institution. The Seattle Public Library
uses [translucent acrylic
/You-re-not-going-crazy-Library-book-stacks-ARE-cool) made by Spacesaver — and
even here this seemingly mundane, utilitarian consideration cultiva

he instruction includes everything from tech classes, to
incubator projects for female tech entrepreneurs, to [business pitch

Last year, the Brooklyn Public Library, just a couple blocks from where I
live, opened its [Levy Info
Commons](, which
includes space for laptop users and lots of desktop machines featuring
creative software suites; seven reserveab

where patrons can use a print-on-demand bookmaking machine, a 3D printer, and
a co-working space known as the “Dream Lab,” or try out a variety of e-book
readers. The Chicago Public Library partnered with the Museum of Science and
Industry to open [a pop-up maker lab](
/3d-printing-for-all-inside-chicago-librarys-new-pop-up-maker-lab/) featuring
open-source design software, laser cutters, a milling machine, and (of course)
3D printers — not one, but _three_.

[![Chattanooga Public Library, 4th Floor. \[Photo by Larry
Public Library, 4th Floor. \[Photo by Larry

content/uploads/2014/06/mattern-library-infrastructure-20x.jpg)Screenshot of
the library’s fully digital collection. [Photo by Bexar BiblioTech]

In libraries like BiblioTech — and the [Digital Public Library of
America]( — the collection itself is off-site. Do _patrons_
wonder where, exactly, all those books and periodicals and cloud-based
materials _live_? What’s under, or floating above, the “platform”? Do they
think about the alg

(January 2013): 3.
8. Quoted in Katie Gilbert, “[What Is a Library?](” _Narratively_ (January 2, 2014).
9. Real estate sales are among the most controversial elements in the New York Public Library’s much-disputed Central Library Plan, which is premised on the sale of the library’s Mid-Manhattan branch and its Science, Industry and Business Library. See Scott Sherman, “[The Hidden History of New York City’s Central Library Plan](http://

ry 2020: Today’s Leading Visionaries Describe Tomorrow’s Library_ (Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2013): 96-7.
15. The Seattle Central Library was a focus of [my first book](, on public library design. See _The New Downtown Library: Designing With Communities_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).
16. Personal communication with Marcellus Turner, March 21, 2014.
17. Marcellus Turner in _Library 2020_ : 92.
18. Ken Worpol

raries-should-be-next-great-startup-incubators/4733/),” _Atlantic Cities_ (February 19, 2003).
28. Stephen Abram in _Library 2020_ : 46; Courtney Greene in _Library 2020_ : 51.
29. See my “[Resonant Texts: Sounds of the Contemporary American Public Library](,” _The Senses & Society_ 2:3 (Fall 2007): 277-302.
30. See David Harvey, _A Brief History of Neoliberalism_ (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
31. Zadie Smith

public library in Mars & Medak 2017

2016). Tomislav writes and talks
about politics of technological development, and politics and aesthetics.
Tomislav and Marcell have been working together for almost two decades.
Their recent collaborations include a number of activities around the Public Library
project, including HAIP festival (Ljubljana, 2012), exhibitions in
Württembergischer Kunstverein (Stuttgart, 2014) and Galerija Nova (Zagreb,
2015), as well as coordinated digitization projects Written-off (2015), Digital
Archive of Praxis and the K

Film Festival. In order to articulate, formulate and document years of practical
experience, we aim to strengthen our focus on research and writing about cultural
policy, technological development, and political activism. Memory of the
World/Public Library project will continue to develop alternative infrastructures
for access, and develop new and existing networks of solidarity and public
advocacy for knowledge commons.

PJ & AK: Your interests and activities are p

idered in a conceptual
setup of hybrid institutions, conferences, forums, festivals, (curated) exhibitions
and performances – and all of that at once! The Multimedia Institute was an active
part of that history, so it is hardly a surprise that the Public Library project took a
similar path of development and contextualization.
However, European hacker communities were rarely hanging out with critical
digital culture crowds. This is not the place to extensively present the historic
trajectory of different hac

, to raise our
voices. Share your writing – digitize a book – upload your files. Don’t let our
knowledge be crushed. Care for the libraries – care for the metadata – care
for the backup. (, 2015)

PJ & AK: Started in 2012, The Public Library project (Memory of the World,
2016a) is an important part of struggle against commodification of knowledge.
What is the project about; how did it arrive into being?
MM & TM: The Public Library project develops and affirms scenarios for
massive disobedience against current regulation of production and circulation of
knowledge and culture in the digital realm. Started in 2012, it created a lot of
resonance across the peripheries of an uneven

ly, various alternatives from
deep semi-periphery have quickly filled the gap. However, it is almost a miracle
that they still continue to exist in spite of prosecution they are facing on everyday



Our starting point for the Public Library project is simple: public library is the
institutional form devised by societies in order to make knowledge and culture
accessible to all its members regardless their social or economic status. There is a
political consensus across the board that this principle of access is fundament

the object itself is revoked (Greenfield, 2012). The case of
academic journals is even worse. As journals become increasingly digital, libraries
can provide access and ‘preserve’ them only for as long as they pay extortionate
subscriptions. The Public Library project fills in the space that remains denied to
real-world public libraries by building tools for organizing and sharing electronic
libraries, creating digitization workflows and making books available online.
Obviously, we are not alone in this effort. There are many other platforms, public
and hidden, that help people to share books. And the practice of sharing is massive.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) is a part of
a wider global movement based, amongst other influences, on the seminal work of
Aaron Swartz. This movement consists of various projects including but not
limited to Library Genesis,, UbuWeb, and others. Please situate The
Public Library project in the wider context of this movement. What are its distinct
features? What are its main contributions to the movement at large?
MM & TM: The Public Library project is informed by two historic moments in
the development of institution of public library The first defining moment
happened during the French Revolution – the seizure of library collections from
aristocracy and clergy, and their transfer to the Bibliothèque Nationale and
municipal libraries of the post-revolutionary Republic. The seco

w profile. At this moment Library Genesis provides access to books,
and its sister project Science Hub provides access to academic journals. Both
projects are under threat of closure by the largest academic publisher Reed
Elsevier. Together with the Public Library project, they articulate a position of civil
PJ & AK: Please elaborate the position of civil disobedience. How does it
work; when is it justified?
MM & TM: Legitimating discourses usually claim that shadow libraries fall
into the catego

annot be easily changed because of entrenched power
passed down from the old models of publishing and their imbrication with
allocation of academic prestige. Therefore, the continuous existence of this model
commands civil disobedience.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) operates
in various public domains including art galleries. Why did you decide to develop
The Public Library project in the context of arts? How do you conceive the
relationship between arts and activism?
MM & TM: We tend to easily conflate the political with the aesthetic.
Moreover, when an artwork expressedly claims political character, this seems to

ency and
plausibility. Whereas activism generally leaves less room for unrestricted
articulation, because it needs to produce real and plausible effects.
With the generous support of the curatorial collective What, How and for Whom
(WHW) (2016), the Public Library project was surprisingly welcomed by the art
world, and this provided us with a stage to build the project, sharpen its arguments
and ascertain legitimacy of its political demands. The project was exhibited, with
WHW and other curators, in some of th

ing a different social imaginary can be gained
from that venturing aspect of contemporary art. Having said that, art does not need
to be political in order to be relevant and strong.




PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) is essentially
pedagogical. When everyone is a librarian, and all books are free, living in the
world transforms into living with the world – so The Public Library project is also
essentially anti-capitalist. This brings us to the intersections between critical
pedagogy of Paulo Freire, Peter McLaren, Henry Giroux, and others – and the
hacker culture of Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Steven Lévy, and othe

critical theory always insists on class analysis.
Yet, imbued in the Californian ideology (Barbrook and Cameron, 1996), the hacker
culture is predominantly individualist. How do you go about the tension between
individualism and collectivism in The Public Library project? How do you balance
these forces in your overall work?
MM & TM: Hacker culture has always lived a double life. Personal computers
and the Internet have set up a perfect projection screen for a mind-set which
understands autonomy as a pursuit

endeavour of commonizing is being eclipsed by the
capacity of the few crypto-savvy tricksters to avoid government control.
Obviously, we strongly disagree with the individualist, privative and 1337 (elite)
thrust of these developments.
PJ & AK: The Public Library project (Memory of the World, 2016a) arrives
very close to visions of deschooling offered by authors such as Ivan Illich (1971),
Everett Reimer (1971), Paul Goodman (1973), and John Holt (1967). Recent
research indicates that digital technologies offer some fresh opportunities for the
project of deschooling (Hart, 2001; Jandrić, 2014, 2015b), and projects such as
Monoskop (Monoskop, 2016) and The Public Library project (Memory of the
World, 2016a) provide important stepping-stones for emancipation of the
oppressed. Yet, such forms of knowledge and education are hardly – if at all –
recognised by the mainstream. How do you go about this problem? Should t

versions of the mainstream,
or both? Why?
MM & TM: We are currently developing a more fine-tuned approach to
educational aspects of amateur librarianship. The forms of custodianship over
knowledge commons that underpin the practices behind Monoskop, Public Library,
Aaaaarg, Ubu, Library Genesis, and Science Hub are part and parcel of our
contemporary world – whether you are a non-academic with no access to scholarly
libraries, or student/faculty outside of the few well-endowed academic institutions
in the Gl

er, class and geography. By building own knowledge infrastructures, we
build different bodies of knowledge and different forms of relating to our realities –
in words of Walter Mignolo, we create new forms of epistemic disobedience
(2009). Through Public Library, we have digitized and made available several
collections that represent epistemologically different corpuses of knowledge. A
good example of that is the digital collection of books selected by Black Panther
Herman Wallace as his dream library for po

: Your work is probably best described by John Holloway’s phrase
“in, against, and beyond the state” (Holloway, 2002, 2016). What are the main
challenges of working under such conditions? How do you go about them?
MM & TM: We could situate the Public Library project within the structure of
tactical agency, where one famously moves into the territory of institutional power
of others. While contesting the regulatory power of intellectual property over
access to knowledge, we thus resort to appropriation of

erless, institutional vs. tactical. Our space of agency is much more complex
and blurry. Institutions and their employees resist imposed limitations, and
understand that their spaces of agency reach beyond institutional limitations.
Accordingly, the Public Library project enjoys strong and unequivocal complicity
of art institutions, schools and libraries for its causes and activities. While
collectively building practices that abolish the present state of affairs and reclaim
the dream of universal access to kn

public library in Medak, Mars & WHW 2015

Commons Attribution–ShareAlike 4.0
International License. ❧

Public Library

may • 2015
price 50 kn

s available from the
National and University Library in Zagreb under 000907085

With the support of the Creative Europe Programme of the
European Union

ZAGREB • ¶ May • 2015

Public Library

Marcell Mars, Manar Zarroug
& Tomislav Medak


Public Library (essay)
Paul Otlet


Transformations in the Bibliographical
Apparatus of the Sciences
(Repertory — Classification — Office
of Documentation)
McKenzie Wark


Metadata Punk
Tomislav Medak
The Future After the Library
UbuWeb and Monoskop’s Radical Gestures


Marcell Mars,
Manar Zarroug
& Tomislav Medak

Public library (essay)

In What Was Revolutionary about the French Revolution? 01 Robert Darnton considers how a complete collapse of the social order (when absolutely
everything — all social values — is turned upside
down) would look. Such trauma happens often

es, both for good and
evil, for raising a utopia and for falling back into
The revolution bootstraps itself.
01 Robert H. Darnton, What Was Revolutionary about the
French Revolution? (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press,
1996), 6.
02 Ibid.

Public library (essay)


In the dictionaries of the time, the word revolution was said to derive from the verb to revolve and
was defined as “the return of the planet or a star to
the same point from which it parted.” 03 French political vocabulary spread n

elvil Dewey, A Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a
Library (1876), Project Gutenberg e-book 12513 (2004),
07 Snow, “Melvil Dewey”.

Public library (essay)


His dream came true. Public Library is an entry
in the catalog of History where a fantastic decimal08
describes a category of phenomenon that—together
with free public education, a free public healthcare,
the scientific method, the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, Wikipedia, and free software, among
others—we, the people, are most proud of.
The public library is a part of these invisible infrastructures that we start to notice only once they
begin to disappear. A utopian dream—about the
place from which every human being will have access to every piece of available knowledge that can
be collected—look

10 Jeremy Greenfield, “What Is Going On with Library E-Book
Lending?”, Forbes, 22 June 2012,

Public library (essay)


access to all existing knowledge that they embody
are losing, in every possible way, the battle with a
market dominated by new players such as Amazon.
com, Google, and Apple.
In 2012, Canada’s Conservative Party–led government cut f

st More than 200 Libraries in 2012”,
The Guardian, 10 December 2012, http://www.theguardian.


M. Mars • M. Zarroug • T. Medak

ket-based entrepreneurship. Some have even suggested that the public library should become an
open software platform on top of which creative
developers can build app stores13 or Internet cafés
for the poorest, ensuring that they are only a click
away from the catalog or the Google
search bar. But these proposals overlook, perhaps
deliberately, the fundamental principles of access
upon which the idea of the public library was built.
Those who are well-meaning, intelligent, and
tactfull will try to remind the public of all the many
sides of the phenomenon that the public library is:
major community center, service for the vulnerable,
center of literacy, informal and lifelong learning; a
place where hobbyists, enthusiasts, old and young
meet and share knowledge and skills.14 Fascinating. Unfortunately, for purely tactical reasons, this
reminder to the public does not always contain an
explanation of how these varied effects arise out of
the foundational idea of a public library: universal
access to knowledge for each member of the society produces knowledge, produces knowledge about
knowledge, produces knowledge about knowledge
transfer: the public library produces sociability.
The public library does not need the sort of creative crisis management that wants to propose what
13 David Weinberger, “Library as Platform”, Library Journal,
4 September 2012,
14 Shannon Mattern, “Library as Infrastructure”, Design
Observer, 9 June 2014,

Public library (essay)


the library should be transformed into once our society, obsessed with market logic, has made it impossible for the library to perform its main mission. Such
proposals, if they do not insist on universal access
to knowledge for all memb

ng disappearance of the public
library from the historical stage. Sociability—produced by public libraries, with all the richness of its
various appearances—will be best preserved if we
manage to fight for the values upon which we have
built the public library: universal access to knowledge for each member of our society.
Freedom, equality, and brotherhood need brave librarians practicing civil disobedience.
Library Genesis,, Monoskop, UbuWeb
are all examples of fragile knowledge infrastructures
built and maintained by brave librarians practicing
civil disobedience which the world of researchers
in the humanities rely on. These projects are re-inventing the public library in the gap left by today’s
institutions in crisis.
Library Genesis15 is an online repository with over
a million books and is the first project in history to
offer everyone on the Internet free download of its
entire book collection (as of this wri

equested by 17 Publishers,” Huffington Post, 15 February 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.
17 “The Public School”, The Public School, n.d.,

Public library (essay)


UbuWeb18 is the most significant and largest online
archive of avant-garde art; it was initiated and is lead
by conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith. UbuWeb,
although still informal, has grown into a relevant
and recognized critical inst

line catalog of curated titles (at the
moment numbering around 3,000), and, as with
UbuWeb, it is becoming more and more relevant
as an online resource.
Library Genesis,, Kenneth Goldsmith,
and Dušan Barok show us that the future of the
public library does not need crisis management,
venture capital, start-up incubators, or outsourcing but simply the freedom to continue extending
the dreams of Melvil Dewey, Paul Otlet19 and other
visionary librarians, just as it did before the emergence of the int

given an opportunity, similar to astronomy and the project SETI@home21, to
include thousands of amateur librarians who will,
together with the experts, build a distributed peerto-peer network to care for the catalog of available
knowledge, because
a public library is:
— free access to books for every member of society
— library catalog
— librarian
With books ready to be shared, meticulously
cataloged, everyone is a librarian.
When everyone is librarian, library is

20 “Tools”, Memory of the World, n.d.,
21 See
22 “End-to-End Catalog”, Memory of the World, 26 November 2012,

Public library (essay)


Paul Otlet

in the Bibliographical Apparatus
of the Sciences [1]
Repertory — Classification — Office
of Documentation
1. Because of its length, its extension to all countries,
the profound harm that it has created i

l practices, in and on and of the ruins. ❧

Metadata Punk



public library


Tomislav Medak

The Future After the Library
UbuWeb and Monoskop’s
Radical Gestures

The institution of the public library has crystallized,
developed and advanced around historical junctures
unleashed by epochal economic, technological and
political changes. A series of crises since the advent
of print have contributed to the configuration of the
institutional entanglement of the public library as
we know it today:01 defined by a publicly available
collection, housed in a public building, indexed and
made accessible with a help of a public catalog, serviced by trained librarians and supported through
public financing. Libraries today embody

ries, hoping
that the access to literature and edification would
ultimately hegemonize the working class for the
benefits of capitalism’s culture of self-interest and
The Avant-gardes in the Library
As we have just demonstrated, the public library
in its epistemic and social aspects coalesced in the
context of the broader social transformations of
modernity: early capitalism and processes of nation-building in Europe and the USA. These transformations were propelled by the advancement of

o the exponential expansion of administrative records documenting the
social world and to the historicist impulse to capture the material traces of past events. Overlaying
the spatial organization of documentation; rules
06 For the social history of public library see Matthew Battles,
Library: An Unquiet History (Random House, 2014) chapter
5: “Books for all”.

The Future After the Library


of its classification and symbolic representation of
the archive in reference tools, they tried to provide
a fo

tions of the steerablity of society,
then the endlessly recombinant relations and affiliations between cultural objects threaten to overflow
that recurrent epistemic framework of modernity’s
barbarism in its cybernetic form.
The institution of the public library finds itself
today under a double attack. One unleashed by
the dismantling of the institutionalized forms of
social redistribution and solidarity. The other by
the commodifying forces of expanding copyright
protections and digital rights management,

, Amsterdam:
Elsevier, 1990: 148–156. ❧
format / size
120 × 200 mm
Agrippina 120 g • Rives Laid 300 g
Printed by
Tiskara Zelina d.d.
Print Run
50 kn
May • 2015

This publication, realized along with the exhibition
Public Library in Gallery Nova, Zagreb 2015, is a part of
the collaborative project This Is Tomorrow. Back to Basics:
Forms and Actions in the Future organized by What, How
& for Whom / WHW, Zagreb, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm
and Latvian Center for Contemporary Ar

public library in Medak, Sekulic & Mertens 2014

Python script of Hacker Space Bruxelles scanner:

e post-processing. Hence, in this introductory chapter we'll
focus on two camera designs where the camera lens stands relatively parallel to the page. However,
with a bit of adaptation these instructions can be used to work with any other setup.
The Public Library scanner
In the focus of this manual is the scanner built for the Public Library project, designed by Voja
Antonić (see Illustration 1). The Public Library scanner was built with the immediate use by a wide
community of users in mind. Hence, the principle consideration in designing the Public Library
scanner was less sophistication and more robustness, facility of use and distributed process of
The board designs can be found here: The current iterations are using two Canon 1100 D cameras with the kit lens
Canon EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS. Cameras are auto-charging.

Illustration 1: Public Library Scanner
The scanner operates by automatically lowering the Plexiglas platen, illuminating the page and then
triggering camera shutters. The turning of pages and the adjustments of the V-shaped cradle holding

the book are manual.
The scanner is oper

printed book
I. Getting the image files ready for post-processing
III. Transformation of source images into .tiffs
IV. Optical character recognition
V. Creating a finalized e-book file
VI. Cataloging and sharing the e-book
A step by step manual for Public Library scanner
This manual is primarily meant to provide a detailed description and step-by-step instructions for an
actual book scanning setup -- based on the Voja Antonić's scanner design described above. This is a
two-camera overhead scanner, currently

e of free software for image editing, optical character recognition
and finalization of an e-book file. It was initially developed for the HAIP festival in Ljubljana in
2011 and perfected later at MaMa in Zagreb and Leuphana University in Lüneburg.
Public Library scanner is characterized by a somewhat less automated yet distributed scanning
process than highly automated and sophisticated scanner hacks developed at various hacklabs. A
brief overview of one such scanner, developed at the Hacker Space Bruxelles, is also included in
this manual.
The Public Library scanning process proceeds thus in following discrete steps:

1. creating digital images of pages of a book,
2. manual transfer of image files to the computer for post-processing,
3. automated renaming of files, ordering of even and odd pages, rotation of images and upload to a
cloud storage,
4. manual transformation of source images into .tiff files in ScanTailor
5. manual optical character recognition and creation of PDF files in gscan2pdf
The detailed description of the Public Library scanning process follows below.
The Bruxelles hacklab scanning process
For purposes of comparison, here we'll briefly reference the scanner built by the Bruxelles hacklab
( It is a dual camera design too. With some differences in hardware functionality
(Bruxelles scanner has automatic turning of pages, whereas Public Library scanner has manual turning of pages), the
fundamental difference between the two is in the post-processing - the level of automation in the transfer of images
from the cameras and their transformation into PDF or DjVu e-book format.
The Bruxelles sca

art of the scanning process is creating digital images of the
pages of a printed book. It's a process that is very different form scanner design to scanner design,
from camera to camera. Therefore, here we will focus strictly on the process with the Public Library
Operating the Public Library scanner
0. Before you start:
Better and more consistent photographs lead to a more optimized and faster post-processing and a
higher quality of the resulting digital e-book. In order to guarantee the quality of images, before you
start it is necessar

d) Collating images into a single batch
Once you're done with the renaming and rotating of the files, you want to collate them into the same
folder for easier manipulation later.

Getting the image files ready for post-processing on the Public Library scanner
In the case of Public Library scanner, a custom C++ script was written by Mislav Stublić to
facilitate the transfer, renaming, rotating and collating of the images from the two cameras.
The script prompts the user to place into the card reader the memory card from the right came

his can be done in Calibre ( by
converting the PDF into an ePub, where it can be further tweaked to better accommodate or remove
the headers, footers, footnotes and pagination.
Optical character recognition and PDF export in Public Library workflow
Optical character recognition with the Tesseract engine can be performed on GNU/Linux by a
number of command line and GUI tools. Much of those tools exist also for other operating systems.
For the users of the Public Library workflow, we recommend using gscan2pdf application both for
the optical character recognition and the PDF or DjVu export.
To do so, start gscan2pdf and open your .tiff files. To OCR them, go to 'Tools' and select 'OCR'. In
the dialog box select the T

nteer.3F ), Wikibooks ( ) or
If the work is still under copyright, you might explore a number of different options for sharing.

0. Before you start:
- loosen the book binding by opening it wide on several places
- switch on the scanner
- set up the cameras:
- place cameras on tripods and fit them tigthly
- plug in the automatic chargers

- save the file

For more information on the book scanning process in general and making your own book scanner
please visit:
DIY Book Scanner:
Hacker Space Bruxelles scanner:
Public Library scanner:
Other scanner builds:
For more information on automation:
Konrad Voeckel's post-processing script (From Scan to PDF/A):

public library in Sekulic 2018

n to
the inequalities and exclusions [digital] technologies start to reproduce”
some technologies used by corporations to enclose can be used to liberate
knowledge and make it accessible. The existence of projects such as Library
Genesis, sci-hub, Public Library/Memory of the World,, monoskop,
and ubuweb, commonly known as shadow libraries, show how building
infrastructure for storing, indexing, and access, as well as supporting
digitization, can not only be put to use by the periphery, but used a

it can be downloaded



(1) For more on the project Herman’s House. Accessed 6 April 2018.

(2) Public Library is a project which has been since 2012 developing and
publicly supporting scenarios for massive disobedience against the current
regulation of production and circulation of knowlde and culture in the digital
realm. See: ‘Memory of the World’. Acc

public library in Sollfrank & Mars 2013

uge resource
is having a Public Library like that – and what’s the huge harm that we don’t
have it. [22:32] But still we need to play dummy, I need to play the artist’s
role, you know.

easy to share
your local library which you have on your laptop with the world. [01:30] So we
also provide... When I say ‘we,’ it's a small team, at the moment, of
developers who try to address that problem. [01:38] We don't need to reinvent
the public library. It's invented, and it should be just maintained. [01:47]
The old-school public libraries – they are in decline because of many reasons.
And when it comes to the digital networks, the digital books, it's almost like
the worst position. [01:59] For

r a lot of
librarians where they can meet with their readers or among themselves, and
talk about the books which they love to read and share. [07:23] It’s mostly
like a social networking around the books, where we use the idea and tradition
of the public library. [07:37] In order to get there I needed to set up a
server which only does routing. So with my software I don’t know which books
are transferred, anything. It’s just like a router. [07:56] You can do that
also if you have control of your router,

 It’s just one of these complimentary tools. So it’s not
really that Calibre and Let’s Share Books is the only way how you can today
share books.


What we do also has a non-hidden agenda for fighting for the public library. I
would say that most of the people we know, even the authors, they all
participate in the huge, massive Public Library – which we don’t call Public
Library, but usually just trying to hide that we are using that because we are
afraid of the restrictive regime. [12:20] So I don’t see a reason why we
should shut down such a great idea and great implementation 

nnects the hash files, the MD5 hashes,
with the Open Library ID. And we try to contribute to Open Library as much as
possible. [13:10] So with very few people, around 5 people, we can improve it
so much that it will be for a billion of users a great Public Library, and at
the same time we can have millions of librarians, which we never had before.
So that’s the idea. [13:35] The goal is just to keep the Public Library. If we
didn’t screw up the whole situation with the Public Library, probably we’d
just try to add a little bit of new software, and new ways that we can read
the books. [13:53] But at the moment [it’s] super important actually to keep
this infrastructure running, because this super important infrastructure for
the access to knowledge is now under huge threat.


I just think that it’s completely inappropriate – that copyright law is
completely inappropriate for the Public Library. I don’t know about other
cases, but in terms of Public Library it’s absolutely inappropriate. [14:29]
We should find the new ways of how to reward the ones who are adding value to
sharing knowledge. First authors, then anyone who is involved in public
libraries, like librarians, software engineers – so ever

e – great, let’s have a

Civil Disobedience

In the possibilities of civil disobedience – which are done also by
institutions, not just by individuals – and I think that in such clear cases
like the Public Library it’s easy. [16:17] So I think that what I did in this
particular case is nothing really super smart – it’s just reducing this huge
issue to something which is comprehensible, which is understandable for most
of the people. [16:31] There is no one really who doesn’t understand what
public library is. And if you say to anyone in the world, saying, like hey, no
more public libraries, hey, no books anymore, no books for the poor people. We
are just giving up on something which we almost consensually accepted through
the whole world. [16:55] And

of projects – by having that acceptance it
becomes the issue, it becomes the problem of the whole arts establishment.
[20:10] So I think that if I do this in this way, and if there is a curator
who invites this kind of projects – so who invites Public Library into their
exhibition – it’s also showing their kind of readiness to fight for that
issue. [20:27] And if there are a number of art festivals, a number of art
exhibitions, who are supporting this kind of, lets say, civil disobedience,
that also

deal with all the complexity…” [20:57] There
is no real complexity here. That complexity is somewhere else, and in some
other step we should take care of that. But this is an art piece, it’s a well
established art piece. [21:11] If you make a Public Library, I'm fine, I’m
sacrificing for taking the responsibility. But you shouldn't melt down that
art piece, I think. [21:26] And I feel super stupid that such a simple concept
should be, in 2013, articulated to whom? In many ways it’s like playing dum

had tools – visualisations of that, a reader of Wikipedia which can embed any
page which is referred, as a reference, a quote. [22:17] It was immediately
obvious for anyone there and for anyone from the outside what a huge resource
is having a Public Library like that – and what’s the huge harm that we don’t
have it. [22:32] But still we need to play dummy, I need to play the artist’s
role, you know.

public library in Stalder 2018

The first
issue incited a complex legal battle that, in 2013, was decided in
Google\'s favor by a judge on the United States District Court in New
York.[^13^](#c2-note-0013){#c2-note-0013a} At the heart of the second
issue was the question of how a public library should look in the
twenty-first century.[^14^](#c2-note-0014){#c2-note-0014a} In November
of 2008, the European Commission and the cultural minister of the
European Union launched the virtual Europeana library, which occurred
after a number of Europe

ums contain more than 220 million
natural-historical and more than 260 million cultural-historical
objects. In the United States, discussions about the future of libraries
[]{#Page_65 type="pagebreak" title="65"}led to the 2013 launch of the
Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which, like Europeana,
provides common access to the digitalized holdings of archives, museums,
and libraries. By now, more than 14 million items can be viewed there.

In one way or another, however, both the private and the public projects
of this sort have been limited by binding copyright laws. The librarian
and book historian Robert Darnton, one of the most prominent advocates
of the Digital Public Library of America, has accordingly stated: "The
main impediment to the DPLA\'s growth is legal, not financial. Copyright
laws could exclude everything published after 1964, most works published
after 1923, and some that go back as far as

billion. See Nick Poole, *The Cost of Digitising Europe\'s Cultural
Heritage: A Report for the Comité des Sages of the European Commission*
(November 2010), online.

[16](#c2-note-0016a){#c2-note-0016}  Richard Darnton, "The National
Digital Public Library Is Launched!", *New York Review of Books* (April
25, 2013), online.

[17](#c2-note-0017a){#c2-note-0017}  According to estimates by the
British Library, so-called "orphan works" alone -- that is, works still
legally protected but whose right holder

public library in Tenen & Foxman 2014

er. For example, one reader wrote on *TorrentFreak*:

> I live in Macedonia (the Balkans), a country where the average salary
> is somewhere around 200eu, and I'm a student, attending a MA degree in
> communication sci. \[...\] where I come from the public library is not
> an option. \[...\] Our libraries are so poor, mostly containing 30year
> or older editions of books that almost never refer to the field of
> communication or any other contemporary science. My professors never
> hide that they use sites lik


Yet, *Aleph* is also patently a library. Its work can and should be
viewed in the broader context of Enlightenment ideals: access to
literacy, universal education, and the democratization of knowledge. The
very same ideals gave birth to the public library movement as a whole at
the turn of the 20th century, in the United States, Europe, and
Russia.^[50](#fn-2025-50){#fnref-2025-50}^ Parallels between free
library movements of the early 20th and the early 21st centuries point
to a social dynamic that r

y C. Bowker. "How to Infrastructure." In
*Handbook of New Media: Social Shaping and Social Consequences of ICTs*,
Updated Student Edition., 230--46. SAGE Publications Ltd, 2010.

Stuart, Mary. "Creating a National Library for the Workers' State: the
Public Library in Petrograd and the Rumiantsev Library Under Bolshevik
Rule." *The Slavonic and East European Review* 72, no. 2 (April 1994):

---------. "'The Ennobling Illusion': the Public Library Movement in
Late Imperial Russia." *The Slavonic and East European Review* 76, no. 3
(July 1998): 401--40.

---------. "The Evolution of Librarianship in Russia: the Librarians of
the Imperial Public Library, 1808-1868." *The Library Quarterly* 64, no.
1 (January 1994): 1--29.

Timpanaro, J.P., T. Cholez, I Chrisment, and O. Festor. "BitTorrent's
Mainline DHT Security Assessment." In *2011 4th IFIP International
Conference on New Technologies, Mobility a

49. [Benkler *The Wealth of Networks*, 60.
50. [On the free and public library movement in England and the United
States see Thomas Greenwood, *Public Libraries: a History of the
Movement and a Manual for the Organization and Management of Rate
Supported Libraries* (Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, 1890);
Elizabeth Akers Allen and James Phinney Baxter, *Dedicatory
Exercises of the Baxter Building* (Auburn, Me: Lakeside Press,
1889). To read more about the history of free and public library
movements in Russia see Mary Stuart, "The Evolution of Librarianship
in Russia: the Librarians of the Imperial Public Library,
1808-1868," *The Library Quarterly* 64.1 (January 1994): 1--29; Mary
Stuart, "Creating a National Library for the Workers' State: the
Public Library in Petrograd and the Rumiantsev Library Under
Bolshevik Rule," *The Slavonic and East European Review* 72.2 (April
1994): 233--58; Mary Stuart "The Ennobling Illusion: the Public
Library Movement in Late Imperial Russia," *The Slavonic an

public library in Thylstrup 2019

zed the program “Google Print,” a project that consisted of
a series of partnerships between Google and five English-language libraries:
the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Stanford, Harvard, Oxford (Bodleian
Library), and the New York City Public Library. While Page’s and Brin’s
announcement was surprising to some, many had anticipated it; as already
noted, advances toward mass digitization proper had already been made, and
some of the partnership institutions had been negotiating with Google sin

. To this end, the Dutch National
Library made deals with Google Books and Proquest to digitize 42 million pages
just as it entered into partnerships with cross-domain aggregators such as
Europeana.40 Finally, it is imperative to mention the Digital Public Library
of America (DPLA), a national digital library conceived of in 2010 and
launched in 2013, which aggregates digital collections of metadata from around
the United States, pulling in content from large institutions like the
National Archives and Records

arx, and
John Palfrey from Harvard University; Paul Courant of the University of
Michigan; Carla Hayden, then of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library and
subsequently the Librarian of Congress; Brewster Kahle; Jerome McGann; Amy
Ryan of the Boston Public Library; and Doron Weber of the Sloan Foundation.
Key figures in the DPLA have often to great rhetorical effect positioned DPLA
vis-à-vis Google Books, partly as a question of public versus private
infrastructures.41 Yet, as the then-Chairman of DPLA John Palfrey conceded,
the question of what constitutes “public” in a mass digitization context
remains a critical issue: “The Digital Public Library of America has its
critics. One counterargument is that investments in digital infrastructures at
scale will undermine support for the traditional and the local. As the
chairman of the DPLA, I hear this critique in the question-and-answer period
of n

n 2011. 41. Robert Darnton, “Google’s Loss: The
Public’s Gain,” _New York Review of Books_ , April 28, 2011,
. 42.
Palfrey 2015, __ 104. 43. See, for example, DPLA’s Public Library
Partnership’s Project, partnerships>. 44. Karaganis, 2018. 45. Sassen 2008, 3. 46. Coyle 2006; Borghi
and Karapapa, _Copyright and Mass Digitization_ ; Patra, Kumar, and Pani,
_Progressive Tr

s. The rationale for choosing these
libraries has no doubt been to partner up with cultural memory institutions
that preside over as much material as possible, and which are therefore able
to provide more pieces of the puzzle than, say, a small-town public library
that only presides over a fraction of their collections. Yet, while these
libraries provide Google Books with an impressive and extensive collection of
rare and valuable artifacts that give the impression of a near-universal
collection, they neverthe

nalization methods, became a preferred infrastructure for mass
digitization projects, who took advantage of Twitter’s lack of personalized
search to create whimsical bots that injected randomness into the user’s feed.
One example was the Digital Public Library of America’s DPLA Bot, which grabs
a random noun and uses its API to share the first result it finds. The DPLA
Bot aims to “infuse what we all love about libraries—serendipitous
discovery—into the DPLA” and thus seeks to provide a “kind o

ated across mass digitization projects. One example
was the “serendipity engine,” Serendip-o-matic, which first examined the
user’s research interests and then, based on this data, identified “related
content in locations such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA),
Europeana, and Flickr Commons.”80 While this initiative was not endorsed by
any of these mass digitization projects, they nevertheless featured it on
their blogs, integrating it into the mass digitization ecosystem.

Yet, while m

iya, Antoine Isaac, Hugo Manguinhas, and Valentine Charles
(eds.), _Europeana Search Strategy_ , May 23, 2016,
77. “DPLAbot,” _Digital Public Library of America_ , .
78. “Q&A with EuropeanaBot developer,” _EuropeanaPro_ , August 20, 2013,
. 79. There
are of course many other examples, some of which off

public library in WHW 2016

and endow them with
political content that produces “marks of distinction”,5 which capital then
exploits for the enhancement of its own reproduction.
The two projects visited in this text both work toward building truly
accessible public spaces. Public Library, launched by Marcell Mars and
Tomislav Medak in 2012, is an ongoing media and social project based on
ideas from the open-source software movement, while Autonomy Cube, by
artist Trevor Paglen and the hacker and computer security researcher Jacob App

are suffering from a kind of “mission drift” under pressure to align their
practices and structures with the profit sector, a situation that in recent
decades has gradually become the new norm.6 By working within and with
art institutions, both Public Library and Autonomy Cube induce the institutions to return to their initial mission of creating new common spaces
of socialization and political action. The projects develop counter-publics
and work with infrastructures, in the sense proposed by Keller East

networks but shared standards and ideas that constitute
points of contact and access between people and thus rule, govern, and
control the spaces in which we live.7
By building a repository of digitized books, and enabling others to do this
as well, Public Library promotes the idea of the library as a truly public institution that offers universal access to knowledge, which “together with
free public education, a free public healthcare, the scientific method, the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Wikipedia, and free software,
among others – we, the people, are most proud of ”, as the authors of the
project have said.8 Public Library develops devices for the free sharing of
books, but it also functions as a platform for advocating social solidarity
in free access to knowledge. By ignoring and avoiding the restrictive legal
regime for intellectual property, which was brought about

and a new commons – Public
Library can be seen as part of the broader movement to resist neoliberal
austerity politics and the commodification of knowledge and education
and to appropriate public spaces and public goods for common purposes.
While Public Library is fully engaged with the movement to oppose the
copyright regime – which developed as a kind of rent for expropriating the
commons and reintroducing an artificial scarcity of cognitive goods that
could be reproduced virtually for free – the proj

m” and its celebration of the

See Brown, Undoing the Demos.
Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space, Verso, London and
New York, 2014.
Marcell Mars, Manar Zarroug, and Tomislav Medak, “Public Library”, in Public Library,
ed. Marcell Mars, Tomislav Medak, and What, How & for Whom / WHW, exh. publication, What, How & for Whom / WHW and Multimedia Institute, Zagreb, 2015, p. 78.
See Matteo Pasquinelli, Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, NAi Publishers, Rotterda

of production, the information economy is a parasite on the material
economy and therefore “an accurate understanding of the common must
be always interlinked with the real physical forces producing it and the material economy surrounding it.”10
Public Library emancipates books from the restrictive copyright regime
and participates in the exchange of information enabled by digital technology, but it also acknowledges the labour and energy that make this possible. There is labour that goes into the catalogu

ecial scanner that makes it easier to scan
books; also, the scanner needs to be installed, maintained, and fed books
over hours of work. This is where the institutional space of art comes in
handy by supporting the material production central to the Public Library
endeavour. But the scanner itself does not need to be visible. In 2014, at
the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, we curated the
exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, which dealt with conflicts triggered by
struggles over access to knowledge and the effects that knowledge, as the
basis of capital reproduction, has on the totality of workers’ lives. In the
exhibition, the production funds allocated to Public Library were used to
build the book scanner at Calafou, an anarchist cooperative outside Barcelona. The books chosen for scanning were relevant to the exhibition’s
themes – methods of reciprocal learning and teaching, forms of social and
political organization, the history of the Spanish Civil War, etc. – and after
being scanned, they were uploaded to the Public Library website. All that
was visible in the exhibition itself was a kind of index card or business card
with a URL link to the Public Library website and a short statement (fig. 1):
A public library is:
• free access to books for every member of society
• library catalog
• librarian
With books ready to be shared, meticulously cataloged, everyone is a
librarian. When everyone is librarian, the library is everywhere.11
Public Library’s all

cultural capital both for the general demand to free books from copyright
restrictions on cultural goods and for the project itself – such cultural capital could be useful in a potential lawsuit. Simultaneously, the presence and
realization of the Public Library project within an exhibition enlists the host
institution as part of the movement and exerts influence on it by taking
the museum’s public mission seriously and extending it into a grey zone of

Ibid., p. 29.
Mars, Zarroug, and Medak, “Publ

of the “autonomy” of art, which is not supposed
to assert any power beyond the museum walls. By taking art’s autonomy
at its word, and by testing the truth of the liberal-democratic claim that
the field of art is a field of unlimited freedom, Public Library engages in a
kind of “overidentification” game, or what Keller Easterling, writing about
the expanded activist repertoire in infrastructure space, calls “exaggerated
compliance”.12 Should the need arise, as in the case of a potential lawsuit

the parochial capitalist imagination that restricts their free circulation, the
institution becomes a complicit partner. The long-acknowledged insight
that institutions embrace and co-opt critique is, in this particular case, a
win-win situation, as Public Library uses the public status of the museum
as a springboard to establish the basic message of free access and the free
circulation of books and knowledge as common sense, while the museum
performs its mission of bringing knowledge to the public and support

to the strategic game of not exposing too much, it is directed less
toward the watchful eyes of the copyright police than toward the exhibition
regime of contemporary art group shows in which works compete for attention, the biggest scarcity of all. Public Library flatly rejects identification
with the object “our beloved bookscanner” (as the scanner is described on
the project website13), although it is an attractive object that could easily
be featured as a sculpture within the exhibition. But its efficacy and use
come first, as is also true of the enigmatic business card–like leaflet, which
attracts people to visit the Public Library website and use books, not only to
read them but also to add books to the library: doing this in the privacy of
one’s home on one’s own computer is certainly more effective than doing
it on a computer provided and displayed in the exhibition amon

quired by reading and not as immaterial
capital to be frantically exchanged; the undeniable pleasure of downloading and hoarding books is, after all, just one step removed from the playground of interpassivity that the exhibition site (also) is.
But Public Library is hardly making a moralistic statement about the
virtues of reading, nor does it believe that ignorance (such as could be
overcome by reading the library’s books) is the only obstacle that stands
in the way of ultimate emancipation. Rather, the pr

“an unstable and malleable social relation between a particular self-defined social group and those aspects of its actually existing or yet-to-becreated social and/or physical environment deemed crucial to its life and
livelihood”.17 Public Library works on the basis of commoning and tries to
enlist others to join it, which adds a distinctly political dimension to the
sabotage of intellectual property revenues and capital accumulation.
The political dimension of Public Library and the effort to form and
publicize the movement were expressed more explicitly in the Public Li14


Robert Pfaller, On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners, Verso, London and New York, 2014.
Ibid., p. 76.

s exceeded even the most sober (and pessimistic) expectations.
Ibid., p. 73.

“There is something political in the city air”


brary exhibition in 2015 at Gallery Nova in Zagreb, where we have been
directing the programme since 2003. If the Public Library project was not
such an eminently collective practice that pays no heed to the author function, the Gallery Nova show might be considered something like a solo exhibition. As it was realized, the project again used art as an infrastructure
and resour

c tenets of art, and for an art institution the project’s main allure probably lies in this kind of expansion of the art field. A shared politics is welcome, but nothing makes an art institution so happy as the sense of purpose that a project like Public Library can endow it with. (This, of course,
comes with its own irony, for while art institutions nowadays compete for
projects that show emphatically how obsolete the aesthetic regime of art is,
they continue to base their claims of social influence on knowledge gained
through some form of aesthetic appreciation, however they go about explaining and justifying it.) At the same time, Public Library’s nonchalance
about institutional maladies and anxieties provides a homeopathic medicine whose effect is sometimes so strong that discussion about placebos
becomes, at least temporarily, beside the point. One occasion when Public
Library’s roving

hich knowledge becomes the location of conflictual engagement. It pointed toward the struggle over collective symbolic capital
and collective memory, in which culture as a form of the commons has a
direct bearing on the kind of place we live in. The Public Library project,
however, is engaged not so much with cultural memory and remembrance
as a form of recollection or testimony that might lend political legitimation
to artistic gestures; rather, it engages with history as a construction and
speculative propos

y” and “present-day” art: “History is not just a relationship between the present and the past – it is equally about the future.
It is this speculative futural moment that definitively separates the concept
of history from memory.”20 For Public Library, the future that participates
in the construction of history does not yet exist, but it is defined as more
than just a project against the present as reflected in the exclusionary, parochially nationalistic, revisionist and increasingly fascist discu

on into a form of property and expropriating value


Peter Osborne, Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, Verso, London
and New York, 2013, p. 194.


What, How & for Whom / WHW

fig. 1
Marcell Mars, Art as Infrastructure: Public Library, installation
view, Really Useful Knowledge, curated by WHW, Museo
Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2014.
Photo by Joaquin Cortes and Roman Lores / MNCARS.

fig. 2
Public Library, exhibition view, Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2015.
Photo by Iva

nomy Cube,
installation view, Really Useful Knowledge, curated by WHW,
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, 2014.
Photo by Joaquín Cortés and Román Lores / MNCARS.

through the control of metadata (information about information),21 Public Library shifts the focus away from aesthetic intention – from unique,
closed, and discrete works – to a database of works and the metabolism
of the database. It creates values through indexing and connectivity, imagined communities and imaginative dialecticization. The web of interpenetration and determination activated by Public Library creates a pedagogical endeavour that also includes a propagandist thrust, if the notion of
propaganda can be recast in its original meaning as “things that must be
A similar didactic impetus and constructivist praxis is present in

was developed through the combined expertise of
artist and geographer Trevor Paglen and internet security researcher, activist and hacker Jacob Appelbaum. This work, too, we presented in the
Reina Sofia exhibition Really Useful Knowledge, along with Public Library
and other projects that offered a range of strategies and methodologies
through which the artists attempted to think through the disjunction between concrete experience and the abstraction of capital, enlisting pedagogy as a crucial element in organi

eld of influence and the projection of a different (contingent) future. Engagement with historical forms of challenging institutions
becomes the starting point of a poetic praxis that materializes the object of
its striving in the here and now.
Both Public Library and Autonomy Cube build their autonomy on the dedi21

McKenzie Wark, “Metadata Punk”, in Public Library, pp. 113–117 (see n. 9).

“There is something political in the city air”


cation and effort of the collective body, without which they would not
exist, rendering this interdependence not as some consensual idyll of cooperation but as conf


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