Social Unrest & LIS Institutions

This past fall has seen a great deal of social unrest in the US. In the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and many others,  protest movements have swept the nation as people verbalize their non-acceptance of racism, police brutality, and systematic oppression. As an aspiring LIS professional it has been hard to watch family members, friends, and acquaintances post and share various pieces on social media without performing a modicum of fact-checking (or thinking). I have to remind myself that it is not my job to post links to Snopes, to point out clickbait when I see it, and to take on every battle that presents itself. These are emotional subjects and they bring about emotional times, which often lead to a lack of critical thinking. However, in the last six months, two examples of amazing LIS professionals have made their way to my computer screen. These folks are doing awesome work and I’m taking time today to spread word of their efforts.

The first example is the awesome group of librarians at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. After the tragic death of Michael Brown in neighboring Ferguson, Missouri and the subsequent protest movements, WashU librarians quickly mobilized to form a Documenting Ferguson Project Team. The team has focused on collecting digital and physical items and media related to the events in Ferguson and surrounding areas. For more information about their team and its efforts, check out this article: “Documenting Ferguson: Capturing History as it Happens,” by Jennifer Kirmer and Sonya Rooney, in Archival Outlook‘s November/December 2014 issue (p. 3, 24-25). 

The second example is the Ferguson Municipal Public Library and its director, Scott Bonner. We at the University of Illinois were lucky enough to get a Skype audience with Bonner last month. He laid out a brief summary of his library’s efforts and programming over the last 4 months and then took questions for over 30 minutes. I would highly recommend watching the video below, as it offers a great overview of library management, response to crisis, community outreach, and a host of other awesome examples of a library doing what it does best: being a valuable resource to its community.

These folks give me hope for my field/profession and for our larger society. They are taking bad circumstances and turning them into important cultural records. They are taking tumultuous times and turning them into opportunities for education and healing. And they are working to make sure their communities have access to information, resources, and support for the days ahead. They exemplify a large part of why I am so committed to librarianship. And, to top it off, they are just awesome human beings. Go check out their stuff for yourself!

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