User:Simon/Summary of the bootleg library

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the bootleg library

The "bootleg library" is a particular, situated social infrastructure. It operates from the understanding that the library is a collection; a collection of the texts contained within it, and the readers collected around them. A reciprocal, self-reflexive relationship between the texts and the readers produces sociability. A bootleg is a homage, an unauthorised copy of a source publication; bootlegging is a strategy by which texts acquire diversity, resisting singularity and representing readers.


the physical bootleg library

The physical bootleg library is a collection of republished books contained within a repurposed champagne crate. Similar to the "mini-bieb" (a Dutch word for public library boxes installed locally in neighbourhoods), the books within the physical library are not catalogued, and they are available for anyone to borrow, read and annotate, on the one condition that they are returned. The physical library is mobile, and it travels to different bootleg library sessions.

the digital bootleg library

The digital bootleg library runs on the open-source software calibre-web from a Raspberry Pi4. It is connected to the XPUB HUB, and uses tinc to connect to the network remotely. The digital library is available at the following URL:

Anyone who knows the HTTP login can use the default guest account to upload/download books and edit metadata. The collection has grown through individual uploads made by users under the default guest account, or their registered user account. At present (April 2020), it contains over 360 catalogue listings, most of which are PDF files, but also including EPUB and MP3. The collection is largely critical theory focused, but also contains a variety of texts, including novels, comics, technical manuals and feminist speculative fiction.

Those with a registered account can create and edit public and private shelves, which are ways to collectively, or individually organise the collection. All registered users are given admin privileges so that they can register new accounts for others. The library is open to all, and new users are individually invited to join through interpersonal networks.


There are three main activities of the bootleg library;

1) bootlegging, republishing and distributing printed books
Each book is printed and bound in an edition of one. Bootlegging happens on a case-by-case basis; by myself, for others, and with others, depending on individual demands. These bootlegged books are stored in the physical bootleg library.

2) conducting bootleg library sessions in various locations
bootleg library sessions are moments for readers to collect together around texts. Each session is loosely organised, and readers are invited to stay as long as they like. Sessions are open to everyone, and the conversation often drifts. What is important is the texts that are produced in these sessions (see below).

3) producing texts
This happens as the result of both the first two activities. Texts are bootlegged, printed and bound. Texts are written on index cards, in collaborative writing environments such as Etherpad, in the metadata of the digital library when users are registered and books are uploaded. Texts are produced in the various conversations that happen in each bootleg library session, which happens in different places, with different publics. The meaning of "text" is broad; not just a linear sequence of written letters and spaces, but also a weaving together of oral utterances. In this sense, "text" is close to its etymological root, textus, or "cloth".

tasks of the contingent librarian

Contained within a box is a set of A6-sized index cards, collected together under the title "Tasks of the Contingent Librarian". Each card lists the tasks performed on the site of contingencies, the bootleg library. They include a librarian’s task on the obverse, and images and references on the reverse. The cards are a manifestation of a thesis, and also an active part of praxis. They are used in bootleg library sessions to elicit conversations and record thoughts; subsequently, reflections from these sessions become part of the index.