The Reanimation Library is an independent presence library. The books in the collection are relics of the rapidly receding 20th century. Chosen primarily for the images that they contain, they have been culled from thrift stores, rummage sales, flea markets, municipal dumps, library sales, give-away piles, and used bookstores across the country.
Branch libraries are temporary, site-sourced manifestations of the Reanimation Library that provide a way for the library to exist in dispersed locations, to engage people who might otherwise be unable to visit the main library in Brooklyn, and to exhibit library-generated artworks. They are interactive, hybrid spaces that contain elements of libraries, galleries, and studio workspaces, without settling neatly into any of those categories. Each branch library consists of a collection of books assembled from local sources. Though branches are non-circulating, scanners and photocopiers allow visitors to make reproductions of library material for their own use. When a branch closes, its books are sent back to Brooklyn where they are integrated into the main library’s collection.
SPACE is proud to host the Congress Street Branch of the Reanimation Library in our annex this spring. Founder Andrew Beccone was gracious to answer some questions about the project. Read about it below and be sure to catch the opening of the exhibition on March 5, 2015!
How did the main branch of the Reanimation Library come into being?
It started out as my private collection that I used to find images with which to make art, but it collided with my professional instincts as a librarian which meant there was no way that I could keep it to myself. I've written about this extensively in other interviews, but this essay that I wrote probably sums it up best.
What is your favorite book in the collection (any branch)?
This question is almost impossible to answer - there are so many great books in the collection! Of the books that I've already started collecting for the Congress Street Branch, the one that sticks out most in my mind is a book that teaches how to interpret Rorschach tests.
What's your take on e-readers, like Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook? With the reading market bending more and more towards digital platforms, how do you see the future of libraries evolving?
I just got a Kindle and I *love* it. It makes my backpack so much lighter when I'm traveling. And I appreciate the ease with which I can get new books. I think that Amazon is inherently evil, so my embrace of the device is not entirely without conflict. That said, I also love books too, obviously. Digital doesn't actually seem like a zero-sum game. There's no reason that both digital and analog formats can't exist simultaneously. But I'm pretty certain that libraries (like most everything else - cars, houses, bodies) will inevitably become increasingly dominated by digital technology.
Do you have many books donated to the collection? What's the screening process like?
I do receive donations, and the screening process is basically the same as with books that I come across when I'm looking for them. If the book is visually interesting and will add something special to the collection, I'll probably accept it. My screening process is rather rigorous in general, though, so many books don't make the cut.
What are your future plans and predictions for the Reanimation Library?
I'll continue to set up branches outside of New York. I'm in the preliminary stages of working on a book about/of the library. I'll hopefully continue to meet people who alter the trajectory of the library in ways that I'm unable to anticipate. One of my favorite aspects of the library is that it is an experience-generating machine, and I'm not always aware of what those experiences will be. It keep things rather engaging.
What do you find most rewarding about tending to this extensive collection? What do you find most challenging?
For me, the social aspect of running the library is incredibly rewarding. I have meet people from all over the world and have learned so much through these encounters. I always enjoy seeing the work that is generated from it as well. The fact that there is so much chance built into the experiences that I have with the library makes it continuously interesting to me. The most challenging part is simply having the time to do everything that I'd like to do with it. I have no interest in turning it into some kind of cultural juggernaut - I like the scale in which it operates. But I'm sure that I could probably do more if I were somehow able to clone myself. I'm sure I have a book about that somewhere.
Photo credits: From Rules of the Game: The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of All the Sports of the World, by Diagram Group, 1974.