Target: Scott Bonner, Director of the Ferguson Public Library
Goal: Praise the library’s decision to remain open during the unrest impacting Ferguson, Missouri
Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in Ferguson, Missouri ahead of the grand jury’s decision to acquit an officer in the shooting death of an unarmed teen. Civil unrest hit Ferguson hard in the wake of Michael Brown’s death. Many continue to feel that the tragedy, like many officer-involved shootings of people of color, could have been avoided. Businesses burned following the grand jury’s acquittal. Schools and many service organizations closed their doors–but the town’s library remained open to the grateful public.
The Ferguson Public Library is just a block from the police department where protesters demanding reform have confronted heavily armored officers. While most demonstrators remained non-violent, looting and riots have rocked Ferguson in the wake of the announcement. Several people interviewed by the Riverfront Times insist the violence was committed by outsiders rather than local residents. Regardless, the impact on daily life has been intense.
Scott Bonner, the only full-time librarian at Ferguson’s small library, had only been working there a few weeks when Michael Brown was killed and the town became the center of heated protests. He and a dedicated crew of volunteers kept the library open following the acquittal, even serving as a makeshift school for the town’s students and teachers. The Small Businesses Administration has used the space to distribute emergency loans to people affected by the riots. Children understandably frightened by recent events can go there to check out “healing kits” complete with a stuffed animal and books on how to cope with trauma.
Support for the library has since poured in from across the country. National Public Radio reports more than $175,000 in donations that could be used for much-needed repairs or even to help pay for additional staff. Applaud the Ferguson Public Library for staying open, and for providing invaluable resources just when people needed them most.
Dear Mr. Bonner,
I am writing to applaud your bravery and dedication to the people of Ferguson. Many organizations closed in the wake of the grand jury’s announcement, as did area schools. But the library remained open, a place where people could come to find a sense of normalcy and resources for healing.
Celebrities like Rachel Maddow, LeVar Burton and Neil Gaiman have expressed their support for this important work. Thousands of average citizens have made donations to help the library. You and your team of volunteers are true heroes, and deserve every bit of recognition. Thank you for keeping the library open, and for standing with the people of Ferguson in these challenging times.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jeff Roberson via Associated Press