Libraries on the Edge….

If you really want to ponder the value of libraries these days – to communities, to citizens and to society in general, consider the Ferguson (MO) Public Library. Their response during recent events there speaks volumes for libraries and civilizations, and provides lessons for all of us on so many levels.

We’ve all been following the events happening in Ferguson since August, when a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teen.

When the beginning of the school year was put on hold there because of obvious safety concerns, Ferguson Public Library Director Scott Bonner worked with teachers and a host of volunteers to offer math, science, and arts activities for school aged children at the library.

The effort, which helped hundreds of kids, was expanded to other libraries and locations and was aided by local organizations who offered everything from free lunches to additional cultural programming. Library Journal provided some good coverage.

The library, located on the edge of where protests were occurring, was able to safely stay open every day. Not only was it a place for students to go, but anyone in the community seeking respite from the turmoil outside. Signs were posted around the building that read, “During difficult times, the library is a quiet oasis where we can catch our breath, learn, and think about what to do next.”

What a powerful message for us to all to remember.

The events in Ferguson have sparked heated debates on a national level, and St. Louis has a lot of healing and work to do, but one thing we can all agree on is that when a community is in crisis, libraries on the edge have the opportunity, and perhaps even a duty, to respond appropriately and to be a sanctuary — a “quiet oasis” — for all.

There’s been lots of coverage of the Ferguson Public Library — far more than most libraries ever get, especially ones of this size.

In Salon
Library Director Scott Bonner’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) postings on reddit (well worth a look) and so is one author’s response to all of this.

and donations to the library have topped $300k in a week!

In so many ways, even though the Ferguson Public Library’s actions have been exemplary, what they’ve done and continue to do is very much what most libraries do all the time, every day, for the communities they serve — in times of crisis and in ordinary times too — just without as much fanfare.

Thanks to Megan McCarthy, editor of the New Jersey Library Assoc. Newsletter for some of the above.


Dan is currently the director of the Fanwood (NJ) Memorial Library. Since he accepted that position in 1997 he has dramatically taken this small suburban library into the 21st century with improvements in facilities, staffing and service. He has served locally, regionally and state wide on many civic and library related committees and boards. In his current position Dan gets to do it all, from overseeing web development, graphics design and renovations, to public relations and fund-raising, all while being the go-to-guy for overflowing toilets and salting the front walk. With his colleague, Meg Kolaya, Dan started the consulting firm Library Connections that developed the nationally recognized and award-winning Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected project. They produced a customer service training video (updated in 2014) and website primarily for library staff to help them serve individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families more effectively. Dan and Meg have given many customer service and autism workshop presentations and keynote addresses, participated in conferences, taught online courses and consulted both locally and around the United States. After hours, Dan continues his varied music career, now with well over 50 years of performing, singing and playing the guitar. He loves all kinds of music with a special fondness for vocalists (Hank Williams, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday and George Jones), bluegrass, honky-tonk, and acoustic roots country. Check to find out where to hear him next.