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A Little Boring is Sometimes a Good Thing

What a tumultuous week it’s been, and I mean besides Thanksgiving dinner with the relatives. At least during Thanksgiving dinner I didn’t have to listen to a bunch of middle-class white people who associate only with other middle-class white people tell me about race in America.

For that, I had to go to the Internet, which I mostly avoid during holidays.

Yet it was almost impossible to avoid the subject of Ferguson last week. The week played out like tragic theater, from the prosecutor playing the part of a prosecutor who totally didn’t rig the outcome of an inquest to the President playing the part of someone who really believes the rule of law exists uniformly in the country.

And then the protests and later the violence, and the predictable roles so many more played.

In the midst of all the bad news from Ferguson, there was one slice of not terrible news, and oddly enough it involved the Ferguson Public Library.

The opening of the story from NPR:

The Ferguson Public Library is just a block away from the center of demonstrations at the Ferguson Police Department. As we’ve reported, when violent protests this week led to the burning of more than a dozen businesses and the uncertainty caused schools to close, the library stayed open.

The library stayed open, the community used it, and a crowdsourcing campaign of sorts raised $175,000 for the library, which could definitely use the money.

The library has one full-time librarian, Scott Bonner, and he started in July. Talk about a bad time to start a job. And, unsurprisingly I suppose, he’s white, although surprisingly, he’s male.

Maybe he makes a better impression on the community than some other white males in Ferguson recently.

Just take a look at the guy. Glasses, beard, disheveled, a little overweight. He definitely looks the part of a librarian. He looks like every third male librarian I’ve ever met.

Besides improving the infrastructure, he wants to hire a children’s librarian to do more programming for the community and make more “healing kits” for children to check out, which “include books about dealing with traumatic events and a stuffed animal that they can keep.”

And then I found this YouTube video where he gives a video tour of the Ferguson Public Library, filmed on his phone’s video camera: the SUPER SHAKY CAM (™).

Most videos I see that librarians post to YouTube are painful to watch because they’re so ridiculous. This video isn’t ridiculous.

If anything, it’s a little boring, which is exactly what is needed at the moment.

During a time when Ferguson is the focus of national attention, with some people seeing it as a symbol of racial injustice and others seeing it as only a place where violent black people burn stuff, this librarian made a video showing Ferguson in a way the world isn’t seeing it at the moment.

I actually watched the whole video, basically eight minutes of Bonner walking around the library saying, “and here’s some more books.”

Every genre of fiction, some nonfiction. And magazines. And DVDs. And computers. And meeting rooms. And a children’s section that has books and a cushioned clawfoot bathtub that little kids can sit in.

What I like about it is that it’s nothing pretentious, it’s nothing trying to remake libraries into something supposedly sexier.

It’s just a normal, ordinary, run-of-the-mill library in a town considered from a distance as a symbol instead of a community. And it’s just a normal, ordinary librarian who keeps the library open and goes out of his way to try to make everyone feel welcomed.

A public space welcoming all in a town where the public spaces are sometimes seen as dangerous, and the people paid to police the danger seen as adding to it.

Stuff like that is what makes libraries special in a way that maker spaces or whatever the next new thing never will be. All people can come and sit, read, work, play, and study. Nobody’s harassed. Nobody’s turned away.

Maybe libraries are a little boring, but sometimes boring is a lot better than sexy.

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Comments

  1. Lincoln Lyceum says:

    Well done, AL.

  2. Good story. Thanks. I tweeted it. Hey AL, why don’t you get a Twitter account?

    “A Little Boring is Sometimes a Good Thing” via @LibraryJournal re #Ferguson @fergusonlibrary http://lj.libraryjournal.com/blogs/annoyedlibrarian/2014/12/01/a-little-boring-is-sometimes-a-good-thing/ @neilhimself #libchat

  3. I agree completely! Please post a link to where we might contribute to this public library. A boring tiny public library helped me so much when I was a lonely teen I need to kick in to help this one.

  4. Sometimes I really love you, AL!

  5. Agreed, was pleased at how librarian-y this all was. He did an AMA on Reddit too and did a great job just being a librarian.

  6. Scott Bonner says:

    Yup, it’s boring. The annotations leaven, but do not save. No surprise; I am sincere to a fault, and it shows in the vid. However, I am NOT “a little overweight”; I’m fat. :)

    • You are also upfront and honest, which are two qualities in short supply these days. Thank you for your incredible ordinary example.

  7. Nice one AL.

  8. AJ, I think this sentence is not what you meant to say – are you missing a “not”?

    Stuff like that is what makes libraries special in a way that maker spaces or whatever the next new thing will be.

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