February 16, 2018

Chris Brown | Movers & Shakers 2016 – Innovators

Chris Brown


Deputy County Librarian, Santa Clara Library District, Campbell, CA


MLIS, San José State University, 2010; MPA, University of San Francisco, 2015


@UpInSomeBooks (Twitter); www.warink.org

Photo ©2016 Shawn G. Henry

Sharing War Ink

For Chris Brown, being a librarian is about providing “what[ever] information is most valuable and impactful to the public,” something that changes from community to community. While he was working in Contra Costa County, CA, in 2014, that concept led to his finding innovative ways to assist veterans recently returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were having trouble readjusting to civilian life.

Working with cocreator Jason Deitch and a host of partners, including StoryCorps and a collective of California libraries, Brown launched War Ink at Contra Costa County Library. It’s both an online exhibit, with audio recordings, and a forum in which soldiers returning home can see, and share, the stories of their brothers and sisters in arms already told on their own person—in their tattoos.

The program has been covered in the press from coast to coast and won awards including the Schwartz Prize and the John Cotton Dana Award. But for Brown, the biggest reward has been the reaction from veterans.

“There’s something profound about people who are not often thought of as core [library] users saying, ‘You gave me back a sense of normalcy,’” Brown says.

Since the War Ink Project has been so successful in Contra Costa, Brown and collaborators are working to take it nationwide. The next stage, he says, could be a traveling exhibit that lets vets across the country share their stories and the art that those tales inspired.

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. Jim Brown says:

    Congratulations Chris!

  2. Cindy Mediavilla says:

    Well deserved, Chris! Congratulations!

  3. Maxine Bleiweis says:

    I’m proud to know you. What great recognition for your hard work and dedication.