Founded in December 2003, the Iron Rail is committed to anarchist, anti-authoritarian, feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive and class-conscious politics, and to providing alternative literature and information to the people of New Orleans.
We are a collectively owned and operated, all-volunteer, non-profit reading room, lending library, bookshop, and community space with over 7,000 titles for free borrowing. This collection was assembled over the course of 10 years; much of it was inherited from the Crescent Wrench Infoshop, which operated in New Orleans during the 1990s. Our collection includes volumes on anarchist action, anarchist theory, and the histories of overlooked groups, struggles, and individuals. We’ve got lots of books about feminism, gender, race, class, sexuality, sex work, how-to books about crafts and DIY– bike fixing, cooking, monkeywrenching, gardening– and a hell of an impressive fiction section to boot. There’s plays and poetry and stuff too, and a smattering of DVDs & vhs cassettes.
Our lending library is one of the largest collectively-run radical libraries in the country. The Iron Rail was the first library in metro New Orleans to re-open after the disastrous failure of the government levees in 2005, and for several months were the only functioning library in the city. In 2009, we were invited to be the official bookseller for the Family Violence Prevention Fund’s 5th annual National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence. We were super-duper stoked about this opportunity and we did a great job, because we’re awesome.
We also sell textbooks. If you’re a college teacher and are interested in saving your kiddles some money (by not forcing ‘em to buy at the overpriced campus bookstore), drop us a line and we’ll get the books and come sell them to your students on-campus. References available!
The Iron Rail is organized in a way that puts theory into practice. We believe in a world without domination and oppression and in working to undermine authoritarian structures of power. As an anarchist collective, the Iron Rail has no bosses or managers. Group decisions are made collectively in weekly meetings, and members are encouraged to be creative in initiating individual projects. The bookstore is operated by volunteers who believe in the importance of establishing alternatives to capitalism, while creating new public spaces and supporting community projects
Then there’s our bottomless bin of dollar books– good stuff, not junk!– our ever-changing and excellent assortment of locally produced art, crafts, patches, pins, buttons, stickers… and a dizzying array of up-to-the-moment subversive periodicals. By golly, it’s just a ton of stuff! ‘Zines for sale! Assloads of ‘em, many by locals & about local history or issues of local interest! Poetry chapbooks! Free condoms!
Speaking of FREE, we usually have a few boxes outside the space, a churning permanent potlach we call “The Free Pile.” There you will find FREE books, clothes, and all manner of other oddments. Free!
The Iron Rail strives to be a comfortable, welcoming, non-institutional space where people can learn together and talk to each other. We throw wide the portals of commerce seven days a week, from 12-6 pm.