November 24, 2017

Meet Amy Randazzo, Ferguson’s New Crowdfunded Librarian

Amy_RandazzoWhat do you do with an unexpected $350,000? Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library (FMPL), MO, had two items on his wish list: new carpeting and a children’s librarian. The carpeting is still forthcoming, but FMPL has just hired Amy Randazzo to serve as its long-awaited children’s services librarian starting March 9.

Bonner’s actions in August and November of 2014, when he joined forces with local teachers and volunteers to provide a safe, engaged space at FMPL for all of Ferguson, notably children and teenagers during school closings, prompted an outpouring of gratitude and generosity. Social media campaigns brought in donations of several thousand new books and the aforementioned money—an unprecedented bounty for a small library with a $400,000 annual budget. “We have a very, very frugal board and I’m frugal myself,” Bonner told LJ in December, and explained that—as FMPL’s sole full-time employee—along with replacing the worn mid-1990s carpeting, hiring a children’s librarian was his first priority. The job was posted in January 2015, and Bonner announced Randazzo’s hire February 26.

Although the position is, essentially, crowdfunded, Bonner assured LJ that it is a permanent one. The board, he said, has committed to using the donated surplus to supplement the salary for a couple of years “and use that time to rearrange the budget elsewhere, to make sure we don’t leave anyone in the lurch. We’re confident that we can find a way to make it work out.” In the meantime he’s looking forward to working with Randazzo, a Ferguson resident with degrees in political science and library science from the University of Missouri.

She will be leaving two part-time jobs for FMPL: working with the Ferguson-Florissant School District in its elementary school before- and after-school care program, and as a reference librarian with the University City Public Library. LJ caught up with Randazzo the week before she started work to find out a bit more about Ferguson’s newest team member.

LJ: How did you hear about the FMPL position?

Amy Randazzo: I heard of the position through several different places—Twitter, the news (especially library media), coworkers, and job listservs. I also live in Ferguson so it would have been next to impossible for me to miss, especially with friends of my mom telling her, since they knew I was looking for a full-time library position.

Did you have any concerns going in that this is, essentially, a crowd-funded position? Does that feel any different from walking into a standard budget line item job?

That was my main concern going into my interview with Scott, about what would happen when the money runs out. It does feel a little different, knowing that I have this job due to some very generous people, and that I’m not only serving our patrons and our community but also them, to an extent. As for job security, Scott has reassured me that they will find a way to keep this position going after the donations run out. For now, I’m just going to focus on doing the best job I can and on serving our community.

What appeals to you about being a children’s librarian in a small library in a small community?

For me, it’s not just about working in a small library as it is about working in my community. Like I said before, I live in Ferguson (in fact, I grew up here), and I’m well aware of the challenges that we and the communities surrounding us face. Getting this job feels like my opportunity to not only give back, but to also help make a difference in the lives of our children and teens.

What are your plans once you settle in at the library?

I think, right now, my immediate plans are to see what we’ve already got in the works and help with that. We recently learned that we’re participating in StoryCorps, so that’s likely to be the first major project for the library that I’ll be a part of. For the long term, I would love to get some recurring programming going, though what that might be, I haven’t quite decided yet! Ferguson hasn’t had a dedicated person for programming before, so I’m feeling like I can do anything. We’ve also been lucky in that there are a lot of groups and organizations focused on Ferguson right now, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make some connections and see how we can work together to benefit everyone.

Will you be cataloging all those donated books?

Cataloging is a part of the job, but I know that the library has already been busy adding the donated books to the collection. I’m sure I’ll do my fair share once I’ve officially started!

Anything else Library Journal readers should know about you?

The only other thing that I would like LJ readers to know is how deeply grateful I am for their generosity. If it wasn’t for the kindness of strangers who wanted to help out in some way, I wouldn’t have this opportunity now. I only hope that they will feel that their money has been put to good use!

Lisa Peet About Lisa Peet

Lisa Peet is Associate Editor, News for Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. Kathleen Gallagher says:

    Congratulations Amy, and congratulations Ferguson Library!

  2. Patrick Wall says:

    So glad for the Ferguson Public Library. They’re getting a great librarian.

  3. Christa Van Herreweghe says:

    Ferguson Public Library wins! Amy is a great addition to a great library.

  4. Erin Herring says:

    Congratulations, Amy! They are so lucky to have you. You will do great things with and for the children, I just know it!

  5. Christina Olson Garcia says:

    I had not realized that Scott Bonner was the sole full-time employee of the FMPL (pre-Amy, that is), so I am even more impressed with the job he has done to help his community and provide inspiration for so many people (but mainly the children of Ferguson). He is my hero.