The Library: always there when you need it, still there when you don’t

24 Sep

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.

Volunteers at the Queens Library hand out coats to people affected by Hurricane Sandy

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.


Posted by on September 24, 2019 in Reflections


3 Responses to The Library: always there when you need it, still there when you don’t

  1. Christine Barone

    September 25, 2019 at 3:11 am

    Hi Alice,

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading about some of the really cool ways libraries are havens or places of healing in challenging times. Especially loved reading about the Express Library Card, the Healing Library and the “healing kits”. Thanks for sharing; it’s heartwarming.

  2. Jacqueline

    September 25, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Alice,

    It’s so true that libraries are often beacons of light in dark times. During the wildfires that hit the Santa Rosa area in 2017, the San Francisco Public Library extended its hours to allow people refuge from the hazardous air, and provided updates on the fire and on evacuation centers through its Twitter page. It’s so cool how libraries are community centers in more ways than one.

  3. Michael Stephens

    September 25, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Hello Alice – Gathering the examples that resonated with you paints a strong picture of the humanistic approach so many libarries are taking. It makes me realize how far we are from the scary examples I shred in the Hyperlinked foundations lecture. I think the Healing Kits are brilliant.


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