Ferguson Library Director to Speak at ALA 2015 Midwinter Meeting

Scott Bonner, director of the Ferguson Municipal Public Library

Libraries and their staffs are agents of positive community change, even under the most challenging and tension-filled circumstances.

Ferguson (Missouri) Municipal Public Library Director Scott Bonner will discuss the recent turmoil in his community — and how the library managed to lead through it — at the American Library Association’s (ALA) 2015 Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Chicago.

During his talk, “Leading in Times of Crisis: A Conversation with Ferguson Library Director Scott Bonner,” he will share his experiences, strategies and lessons learned since Ferguson entered the national spotlight. The session will be held from 1 – 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 2 at McCormick Place. (Add the session to your conference schedule at http://alamw15.ala.org/node/27059.)

The fatal shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9, 2014, brought chaos to Ferguson, a city of approximately 21,000 near St. Louis. The ensuing protests divided residents and caused schools and many city services to shut down — but the library stayed open, providing a much-needed safe haven for the community.

Following the shooting and subsequent unrest, the library, which leans heavily on volunteers to supplement the work done by Bonner and 12 part-time staffers, became what Bonner called an “ad-hoc school” when classrooms closed. With the help of teachers, volunteers and local community groups, the library was transformed into a functioning school, reaching as many as 200 students. As news of the library’s activities spread, donations — more than $300,000 in one week — poured in from across the country.

Bonner is the Ferguson Municipal Public Library’s sole full-time librarian. He was hired in July 2014 for what he told a local newspaper was his “dream job” working in a local, community-focused independent library.

Bonner’s talk is part of Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), an ALA initiative that seeks to strengthen libraries’ roles as community leaders and change-agents by developing and distributing tools to help library professionals connect with their communities in new ways. The initiative is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Generally held in January, the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits draws nearly 10,000 leaders in the library and information industry for some 2,400 meetings, while more than 450 exhibitors will showcase the latest innovative products, services and technologies for libraries and their users. For more information on ALA Midwinter Meeting events and speakers, please visit www.ala.org/midwinter.