“We will do everything within our power to serve our community. Stay strong and love each other.”
By Anna Daniels
The news and images out of Ferguson Missouri have been grim. Whether the perception is accurate or not, there is a sense that Ferguson is boarded up, parts are burned down, schools are closed and even the safe havens have not been safe from the encroachment of tear gas.
And then there is the Ferguson Missouri Public Library, which has stayed open and will stay open as long as library staff feel that their patrons are safe there. This is a remarkable act of commitment to the democratic foundation of our public libraries– citizen access to information and resources in safe spaces that welcome and serve everyone.
Library Director Scott Bonner was hired in July, only a short time before Michael Brown was killed. Bonner described the library’s response to the shooting to Library Journal:
“We have a dramatic moment, and a dramatic circumstance caught the nation’s attention, but this is exactly what libraries do every day.” And what they do is to create a safe and welcoming space, where everyone is welcome to come and meet, to learn, to explore.
Ernest Hemingway’s short story “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” describes a café in which an old man finds relief from the nothingness around him and solace for his despair.
Our public libraries have always functioned as oasis of meaning and solace. This is what the Ferguson Public Library is doing today. They have also experienced a staggering spike in donations in the wake of the unrest in Ferguson. This support also says something important about what is happening in that community.