The Library Was
A publication by OOMK

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License: CC-BY-SA


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The Library Was sees OOMK reimagining the function, aesthetic and user culture of the library. Opening in an austerity-stricken future in which all public libraries have closed, it goes on to assert the continued importance of libraries via interviews with London-based library enthusiasts, a profile of the revolutionary Cuban librarian Marta Terry González, a re-assessment of The Five Laws of Library Science, 1931, as they do and don’t apply to the collection of contemporary zines, and an account of the stolen library of the late Saudi novelist Abd al-Rahman Munif. It also documents the publications donated to the Open School East Library during OOMK‘s Future Library Fair held in December 2015, and describes the work of a semi-fictional group of readers and activists, who have pooled their resources to establish The Library of Aimless Yet Meaningful Pursuit, a space for meeting and learning outside of the algorithmic ‘Grid’.

The Library Was emerges from OOMK‘s Future Library residency at Open School East, supported by Book Works and Arts Council England. The residency responded to the current Open School East library collection and was structured to facilitate research and exploration into the future of the library. Contributors to the publication include zine specialist and librarian Leila Kassir; the Berlin-based publishing house and artists’ collective Fehras Publishing Practices; reader, writer and researcher Hudda Khaireh; and Rianna Jade Parker, reader, writer and founder of the artists’ collective The Lonely Londoners.


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'The Library Was' is the published outcome from OOMK collective’s participation in Future Libraries residency hosted by Book Works and Open School East (in the former OSE project location of De Beauvoir town, East London). The residency was part of a series of artist residency placements instigated by Book Works specifically hosted in libraries / former libraries in response to austerity measures and accelerated library closures across the UK.

The residency was a playful investigation between OOMK collective members (Rose Nordin, Heiba Lamara and Sofia Niazi) in a multi-purpose building that was previously a local public library, repurposed, partly into a small alternative art school. The school had remnants of the former library (library trolleys and large Tintin mural in the collective studios) and also contained a small new art book collection. This environment sparked a lot of consideration for past, present and futures of library spaces and through collective speculative conversation and research into the history of libraries — the project generated a chronological retelling of the history of the library, from an imagined and devastated future of a culture where libraries were entirely lost.

Through transcribed conversation, intense photocopying of book edges, and a weekend publishing fair — the study accumulated visual and written narratives to form 'The Library Was'.

The publication was printed at FE Burman in South London with the first edition painstakingly assembled by hand (!) by Rose Nordin, Jane Rolo and Paul Summat.

The publishing fair further generated a new collection of publications to broaden and develop the collection at OSE (itemised in The Library Was). This collection was returned to OOMK after the OSE relocation and is now housed at Rabbits Road Press (also a former library) in Newham, East London.


Rose Nordin




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