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The Periodicals Division has been collecting alternative press publications pretty much since the Library opened its doors in 1911. The alternative press, a general term that includes small, independent and underground presses, documents social, political and literary movements, popular and not so popular causes, and issues that are often neglected by mainstream media. Collecting and preserving this material is at the core of the Library's mission to build diverse collections and provide free and open access to them.
NYPL's collection covers an amazingly broad range of content from the 20th century and comes in many formats including chapbooks, underground newspapers, little magazines, political broadsides, newsletters, periodicals and zines. Titles range from Poetry and The Masses in the early 1900s to Socialist Views, Worker's World and Counter-action, in the mid 20th century.
Activists and artists had easy access to mimeograph and later photocopy machines in the 1960s and the underground press blossomed. Thousands of small publications including Off Our Backs, Ramparts, The Young Socialist and Gay Power appeared. In the 1970s and '80s, the collection expanded to include zines, DIY publications and newsletters like The John Birch Society Bulletin, Resist, Earth First! and The Phyllis Schlafly Report, some of which are on view in the Library's exhibition Celebrating 100 Years.
This collecting tradition remains alive today; I recently made several field trips to Zuccotti Park to get copies of the recent flourish of publications generated by the OWS movement. I love that Occupy Wall Street is publishing a print version of its "unofficial newspaper" The Occupied Wall Street Journal. Social media and technology may change the way people organize, communicate and disseminate information but they also want to create, read and collect newspapers. Twenty thousand copies of Issue #1 of the OWSJ sold out overnight and led to a second printing of 50,000, which was also gone in a day or two. The latest issue of OWSJ (#5) includes front page articles by Cornel West and Barbara Kingsolver, editorials, a timeline of the first two months of OWS, and several other articles of historical interest.
In addition to the OWSJ, a host of other publications have sprung up around the ows movement. Occupy!, funded by the n + 1 foundation, is a thoughtfully put together publication and provides invaluable perspectives from front line participants, as well as writer activists like Naomi Klein and Barbara Ehrenreich. The Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology is available online and may be downloaded as a pdf. While some well known poets are included, the Anthology's editors believe "its imperative we include all aspects of the human experience" and accept all poetry for inclusion. There is also a forthcoming book, Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action that Changed America, due out December 17, 2011, to coincide with the three month anniversary of OWS.
Read more about Social Movements in America in Raymond Pun's October post.