Arts Arts Editor Muse

Making change through books: York's Radical Library

Elizabeth Walsh speaks to ACA Books about their new pop up Library and plans for future expansion.

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Image Credit: ACA Books

Scrolling through Instagram recently I came across a new page that looked to be gaining popularity with the follower count growing every time I looked. This page was @aca.books – York’s new self-professed Radical Library. Intrigued by the concept, I got in contact with them and spoke to the faces behind the page, Lucy who is in third year and Patrick who graduated last year, about the inspiration behind the library and their hopes for its future.

What was the inspiration behind starting the Radical Library and Instagram page? What are your aims with these?

We had been sharing books within our own circles for ages before we decided to branch out. We were inspired by seeing the pop-up street libraries that appeared during lockdown where people could take a book in return for leaving one, but often these end up filled with crime novels and romantic fiction that nobody actually wants to read. We wanted ACA Books to be different; sharing books that can educate, inspire, and change lives.

We believe that knowledge should be accessible to everyone, including those without access to the privilege of a university education or a wealthy background. However, books are expensive, and often end up being read once before being hoarded on a shelf to gather dust, rather than circulate in the community. Our long-term aim is to build a community resource of shared knowledge that can help York understand and adapt to our changing world; issues like the climate crisis are going to have a direct impact on all of us, and we will need to know how to establish permaculture food systems in parks; or set up a community renewable energy grid; or use direct democracy to provide public services, for example.

As well as this, there are social and political crises stretching back generations that can only be addressed by mass consciousness of their root causes – such as neocolonialism, patriarchy, and the rise of fascism. We live in a police-state propped up by the legacy of Imperialism, which exists as the chief architect of a global economic system that is destroying the ability of our planet to support life at gunpoint. It is our responsibility to oppose this system in the streets, on our campus, and in our communities, and ACA Books is our small contribution to raising awareness and preparedness.

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How long have you had the idea of starting the Library for?

We have been building up a mass of radical books for the last year, and we decided we had to share the library after I [ Patrick] went a bit crazy over Christmas and spent about £400 on books from Dog Section Press, an amazing anarchist publisher. We pretty much had to set up the library to justify that!

Your Instagram following has really grown, have you found that you've had a good response to the page?

Definitely! Loads of people have messaged us to donate books and say they think it's a great idea. We have about 25 members at the moment, but we are hoping that will grow as people share through word of mouth the great books they've borrowed, and people see how easy it is. Just sign up with the link on our instagram bio, donate a book or £5, then direct message the Instagram page to request a book and we will bring it to one of our pop-up libraries. These take place on Tuesday 3-4pm in Rowntree Park and Sunday 2-4pm in the Derwent Provost Garden.

What sorts of books have been the most popular with people?

We have had lots of people borrowing books on anarchism, political theory, and the Green New Deal, and our Queer books get a lot of love. 'Abolish Restaurants' is our most liked book on Instagram, which I think says a lot about how many young people are exploited in the hospitality sector.

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Do you have any plans for events you would like to hold once the restrictions ease?

We've spoken to some societies about collaborating, and potentially it would be nice to hold an in-person book club where people could share whatever they have been reading that month. We also want to do a zine workshop at some point, sharing inspiration and tips for how to make your own. Everybody has a zine in them, it's a great low-cost form of creative expression that challenges the Capitalist in our head that blocks us from writing because we think it isn't perfect enough.

Do you have any long term goals or ways you would like to try to expand the Library?

Yes! We are involved in setting up a Climate Emergency Centre, which will be a squat in an empty shop in the city centre with permission from the landlord. We hope this will be a permanent home for the library, alongside hosting film screenings, talks and running a pay-as-you-feel cafe. One day ACA Books will be a publisher, printing and distributing books that promote earth citizenship, global democracy, communalism and democratic confederalism. If any of those ideas sound interesting, message us on instagram for some recommendations. Solidarity!



To become a member of the Library all you have to do is either donate a book or £5. New members can borrow a book for up to a month and after this you can go on to borrow more. To borrow a book you can either send an email to acabooksyork@gmail.com or send a message to the Instagram page: @aca.books.



Image Credits: ACA Books

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