Ferguson Municipal Library Shares its Good Story
Few were surprised when the Ferguson Municipal Public Library in Ferguson, Mo., was named the 2015 Gale/Library Journal Library of the Year. When Michael Brown, an eighteen-year-old black man, was shot by Darren Wilson, a twenty-eight-year-old white Ferguson police officer, the incident and subsequent trial and acquittal set off a powder keg of civil unrest and widespread protests that affected virtually everyone in the city. During the chaos, the library served as a beacon of safety.
While many were closing their doors in fear, the library stayed open. When local teachers sought a place to tutor students while the public schools were closed, the library opened the “School for Peace.” They provided space, resources, and even meals for students. Library Director Scott Bonner would say later the subsequent media deluge that descended on them came from being able to provide a much needed “good story” amid a seemingly never-ending storm of bad news.
The good story became a viral sensation, and donations and financial support for the struggling library soon followed, resulting in a whopping $450,000 total over the last two years. In an e-mail sent late last month to those who were so generous with their support of the library, Bonner provided an update on what Ferguson has been able to accomplish and where he and his staff hope to take the library in the days to come.
His e-mail—which began with the simple and heartfelt, “You are amazing!”—highlighted improvements they have made to the building, including replacing their bathrooms, making the library more accessible to handicapped patrons and allowing for the purchase of an interactive whiteboard and new computers that have greatly improved their programming capabilities. Bonner went on to say that the library’s response to the events following Brown’s death helped them find out “what kind of library we wanted to be.” They are determined to become as community-focused as possible. They have increased their programming budget “tenfold” and hired a children’s services and programming librarian. They’ve worked with StoryCorps to give their community a chance to tell their own stories beyond what has been highlighted by the media and are increasing their efforts “in any way we can think of” to improve the lives of every member of the community. Bonner even provided a video with a virtual tour of what Ferguson Library looks like today.
The Ferguson Library is independent and not part of the city government and thus relies heavily on donations to keep telling their good story. They currently have a PayPal donation page through which you can offer your support.
We’re living through a time when good stories can seem few and far between, when opportunities to offer our assistance are often overshadowed by fears that we’ll be taken advantage of. Ferguson’s incredible work in the face of fear and adversity and their very real need is a cause all of us in the public library world can get behind. Let’s keep telling the good story.
 John N. Berry III, “2015 Gale/LJ Library of the Year: Ferguson Municipal Public Library, MO, Courage in Crisis,” Library Journal, June 8, 2015.
 Larry Buchanan, et al., “What Happened in Ferguson?” New York Times, August 10, 2015.
 Steve Zalusky, “Scott Bonner Gives a “Warts and All” Recap of the Events in Ferguson,” Ilovelibraries.org, February 11, 2015.
 Scott Bonner in “A Message from Ferguson Public Library by Scott Bonner” by Adam Robinson, Real Pants, December 2, 2016.
Tags: community action, community outreach, community support, donations, Ferguson