Iron Rail Book Collective
Iron Rail Book Collective was an volunteer-run radical library and anarchist bookstore in New Orleans, Louisiana. The original address was 511 Marigny St. from 12/2003 to 3/2011 and then 503 Barracks St. from 5/2011 to 2/2014. Currently there are only pop-up versions of the bookstore that occasionally occur in various venues in New Orleans.
The Iron Rail's main focus was a lending library featuring a wide selection of books ranging from Anarchism and Socialism to Fiction to Gardening to Philosophy to name a few. The Iron Rail also sold records, zines, local CDs and some miscellany. Events held at the Iron Rail included workshops and art presentations. The Iron Rail also contained the Above Ground Zine Library with a selection of thousands of zines, some very rare.
The Iron Rail featured a section of political and underground books for sale. Categories included Feminism, Anarchism, Ecology and Primitivism, Prisons and Police, Native American Studies, Labor Struggles, Globalization, Capitalist Exploitation and Subculture. There was also a selection of cheap used fiction.
The Library contained an extensive collection of radical books including Feminism, Anarchism, History, Race Relations, Ecology, Labor Struggles, Cultural Studies, Protest and Activism as well as a wide array of other interesting topics like Philosophy, Art, Language, Health, Fiction and Parenting. The library contained over 5000 titles.
Library check out policy
There were two types of library memberships at the Iron Rail. One for residents and one for non-residents. The residential type was $10 lifetime and the non-resident was $10 plus a $10 security deposit. The fee on both membership types could be paid for with three hours of volunteer time however the $10 deposit was mandatory for anyone visiting New Orleans, or who did not have a stable living situation in the city (including relief workers and out of town volunteers). The purpose of the deposit was to maintain the library in the event of books being lost, considered more likely in the case of people visiting the city. Zines from the Above Ground Zine Library were not for check out due to their fragile nature.
The Iron Rail was run by a group of volunteers working together to present a model for a non-authoritarian structure of organizing. The collective still meets once a week to discuss finding a new space, plus finances, book orders for pop-ups, new policies etc. The collective's members consist of anywhere from 7-15 people on average, and the participation is subject to each person's desire for their own involvement. Some people just came by and shelved books, some people worked shifts, some people came in full of ideas of new things for the collective to do.
In addition to being a library and bookstore, the Iron Rail was also the hub of radical activism in New Orleans. It regularly featured lectures, talks, discussions and presentations by various travelers, in addition to being the meeting place for many other groups.