Book Repair Lab: The Jefferson Market Library and the Women's House of Detention, 2019
Did you ever find a book in the public library that was missing pages or falling apart at the binding? Books in high circulation often get damaged, and with their damage, information disappears. Book Repair Lab recovers books from the New York Public Library’s Hudson Park and Jefferson Market branches, repairs them at its workstation in the Kellen gallery at The New School, and returns them to circulation at the Rose M. Singer Center (jail) library on Rikers Island. Through this quiet performance of material care, books migrate from a public library to a private university. Although they are different institutions, The New School and the New York Public Library’s local branches have entwined histories in relation to the NYC correctional services. In the 1970s The New School sought to lease the lot at 10 Greenwich Avenue, the site of the Women’s House of Detention, with a plan to raze the prison and to build a new home for their Center for New York City Affairs in its place. The ground floor of this building was to house an extension of the Jefferson Market Library.
This plan never came to pass. While the arrangement would have been mutually beneficial since The New School’s library is modest (its students often depend upon the larger network of libraries available in New York City) the removal of the prison has complex implications for the history of incarceration and queerness in The West Village. Extending this history into the life of books, the libraries that house them, and the people who read them, Book Repair Lab actively works to fulfill the wishlist of books for the library at Rikers Correctional Center compiled individuals incarcerated there.
-Written by Macushla Robinson and Anna Harsanyi, Curators of In the Historical Present