Bridging the Opportunity Divide

This is Why Libraries Matter: Ferguson

November 25, 2014
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This is Why Libraries Matter: Ferguson
The Ferguson library has kept its doors open despite community unrest. Facebook/Ferguson Municipal Public Library
A stalwart in the community bravely holds a city together.

If you’re looking to help out in Ferguson, Mo., here’s a simple but important thing you can do: donate to their local library.

As a safety precaution for students, schools in the surrounding area of the St. Louis suburb closed after the grand jury reached a decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. However, as tensions flare, the Ferguson Municipal Library has decided to keep their doors open.

Along with providing space for teachers to teach, it’s also offering water, computer access and lunch to visitors. The library also acts as welcome relief for parents who needed a safe place to bring their kids while they are at work. (A coalition of 11 churches in north St. Louis County are also open for the community, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports.) As we previously reported, the Ferguson library first stepped up in August after protests over the slain teen forced local schools to shutter their doors.

The cost of closing schools is far greater than students missing out on a few lessons. Quartz’s ideas editor S. Mitra Kalita writes that cancelling school is akin to “[closing] the door on the future.” A high school senior tells the Chicago Tribune that the August cancellations negatively impacted her college applications: “It’s been hard to keep up with band, tennis and National Honor Society meeting, when they were all getting scraped.” Even worse: With the poverty rate in Ferguson almost double Missouri’s average and more than 60 percent of students on free or reduced lunch plans, with the school grounds closed, many kids won’t get proper nutrition if they are not in school.

This is why libraries matter. They aren’t just places where you can occasionally check out a book. For Ferguson, it provides a safe haven for a community in turmoil.

MORE: 7 Ways to Help the Residents of Ferguson

Amazingly, library director Scott Bonner tells Talking Points Memo that a steady stream of donations have been coming in since the Aug. 9 shooting — spiking following the grand jury’s announcement. About 1,200 people reached into their wallets, bringing total donations in the “five-digits.”

“I am flabbergasted and in disbelief as to whether or not it’s real,” he says.

Bonner also tells the publication that Good Samaritans are asking to help in other ways: “We’ve had a whole lot of volunteer teachers come in here with this drive to help people, bring that kind of optimism in.”

So how can you help? Donate to the Ferguson Municipal Library via their website here or send a check to the library at 35 N Florissant Ave, Ferguson, MO 63135. You can also directly donate to Ferguson teachers on this DonorsChoose.org page.

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