Amy Stoll’s article, “The Healing Power of Libraries” talks about how one particular library, Ferguson Municipal Public Library in Ferguson, Missouri served as a haven for the community after chaos and riots broke out after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for shooting and killing unarmed black teen, Michael Brown. Though many other public facilities and city services closed, the library stayed open to help the community through difficult times.
The Ferguson Municipal Public Library wasn’t the first to become such a haven for their community, however, and it certainly isn’t the last. Libraries in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 were filled with people without anywhere else to go. They not only provided people with a clean, dry place to go that still had working water and electricity, but they also helped by showing people how to register online for FEMA like at the New Dorp branch of the New York Public Library, or hand out coats like at one of the Queens libraries, pictured above.
Of course, there doesn’t have to be an emergency for a library to be helpful to its community. The Humboldt County Library system has a new type of library card coming out for those people who don’t have a permanent local address, making it easy for not only visitors to the county to check out items, but also the large population of homeless people that the library serves. They allow those using an “Express Library Card” to check out up to two items as well as download library eBooks and audiobooks.
I think one of my favorite examples of ways a library goes above and beyond to help their communities is creating “healing kits” for children who experience loss or trauma. Each kit has a group of books on a specific topic such as loss of a loved one or coping with natural disasters, as well as some literature helping the parent guide the child through the kit, packed up neatly into a little suitcase. The entire thing can be checked out. The Napa Library is the library mentioned in the article, but they heard about the concept from The Healing Library. which “is a series of kits designed to make a family’s journey of healing following a trauma easier to navigate and personalize. “
I love that there are so many diverse ways libraries can help, and that simply being open is one of them.