November 22, 2017

The Heart of Service: Why libraries do “what we do” | Editorial

As last summer waned, the library in Ferguson, MO, seemed an unlikely source for a most inspiring illustration of librarianship in action. The library was running on a shoestring budget, and the new director (and sole full-time employee) had taken over scant weeks before. But when that community was wracked by violent protest in the wake of the August 9 death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer, the library emerged as a critical asset, staying open and creating programs on the fly to respond to the turmoil. The library countered the chaos and fear with calm reassurance that the people of Ferguson were supported by a shared resource that was also a “quiet oasis”—a safe place to be, to recover their bearings, but also to learn more about what was happening and why.

2015 Gale/LJ Library of the Year: Ferguson Municipal Public Library, MO, Courage in Crisis

The Ferguson Municipal Public Library (FMPL), MO, became a model for all libraries in the way it reacted to the crisis and the aftermath of riots brought on by the shooting of Michael Brown, a young African American man, by local police. FMPL was the one agency in town that stayed open to serve and support all the people of Ferguson. The library quickly became a safe haven and expressed a peaceful resolve, becoming a critical community anchor.