The Ferguson Municipal Library, a beacon of peace in a community wracked by unrest, has received a flood of donations in response to its decision to stay open following Monday's grand jury announcement—more than $175,000, or more than half its annual budget, in just two days.
The public library, which employs only one full-time librarian and serves about 21,000 local residents, acted as an ad-hoc school and community center when other public institutions shut down, reports the St. Louis Dispatch.
Staff Tweeted Tuesday: "Lots of kids, lots of teachers, lots of knowledge at the #Ferguson library today! Thanks! Support each other & stay safe. #whatlibrariesdo"
On the day the grand jury announced its decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson for shooting dead unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the staff wrote: "Many other orgs closing. But we will stay open to serve people of #Ferguson as long as safe for patrons & staff, up to 8p. Love each other;" and "Normal hours tomorrow. We will have teachers and volunteers here to help kids from 9-3 since [Ferguson-Florissant school district] is closed!"
The community-minded approach garnered online support from luminaries such as author Neil Gaiman, tv host and commentator Rachel Maddow, and the PBS program Reading Rainbow.
The calls are working. More than 7,000 well-wishers from around the country have clicked the "Donate" button, with the amount raised surpassing $175,000 in a matter of days, according to the facility's Facebook page. In addition, all the books from the library's wish list have been fulfilled.
"It doesn’t seem real yet," the library’s director, Scott Bonner, told the Dispatch on Wednesday. "I had no idea there was anything like that coming."
Inside the library, however, the atmosphere is still fraught, reflective of the tensions outside its brick walls. "I'm seeing a mix of moods," Bonner told Library Journal. "Our volunteers are excited and optimistic, and here to help, and then I have patrons who come in and literally hold my hands and cry—they just needed someone to hold onto and talk to."