Thursday, November 27, 2014

Banksy: "Books Are the Basis of Knowledge"

Image from @therealbanksy/Twitter

Ferguson Library Offers Normalcy in Anomalous Times

The city of Ferguson hasn't been the same since August 9, 2014. On that day, an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in this suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. In the wake of this incident, Ferguson has been a hotbed of unrest. Throughout months of tumult, the city's public library has been steadfast at being the calm at the center of the raging storm.
Image via @EKrauss/Twitter

Ferguson Public Library stayed open while local businesses and schools closed as protests sprung up and National Guard troops arrived on the scene. The library's director and its only full-time librarian, Scott Bonner, had only been at Ferguson Public Library since July. Yet amid escalating tensions and chaos, Bonner stepped up to let the community know that Ferguson Public Library was keeping its doors open to serve the people of Ferguson. Through social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, and through the efforts of volunteers, the posting of signage around the library, and word of mouth, news spread that Ferguson Public Library would be an oasis of normalcy in increasingly anomalous times.

In response to classes at area schools being cancelled due to unrest in the streets, Ferguson Public Library allowed for a makeshift school to be set up inside. Collaborating with Carrie Pace, an art teacher at local Walnut Grove Elementary who proposed the idea of a pop-up school at the library, Bonner and teachers, volunteers, and staffers enabled the start of informal classes. In an interview with the Magpie Librarian, Bonner said:

"We made an ad-hoc school! I offered the library's space, put out metaphorical fires, and played taskmaster to the press, and the teachers and volunteers made an actual, working school. We spread across two locations, the Ferguson Library and the First Baptist Church up the street. We had 200 students across locations at our peak — before we established the second location, we had 150 at the library alone on Wednesday, and wasn't that a crazy day! We had educational organizations from across St. Louis clamoring to help, including SpringboardSTL, St. Louis Science Center, MO Dept of Conservation, and many more."

Meanwhile, Ferguson Public Library continued to provide routine library services, including access to computers and the Internet, circulation of books and other library materials, story times for small children, crafts workshops, teen meetups, book swaps, and exhibits supporting the arts in Ferguson. The library did all this and more for the community of Ferguson on a limited budget. Speaking to BuzzFeed, Bonner said, "Libraries are famous for squeezing every dollar, making the most of what we have." He revealed in another interview that "Ferguson library's budget decreased about $200,000 after the recession." But as word got out about what Bonner and Ferguson Public Library were doing for the community during this time of crisis, donations in the form of money and books - including kid's books from Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon - began to pour in.

On Monday, November 24, 2014, the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer who killed Brown was broadcast, setting off riots and other forms of civic unrest in the city of Ferguson. Much of the city was effectively shut down, but Ferguson Public Library let the world know that it was remaining open. In an announcement made on Facebook, the library stated:

The public's reaction to this announcement was swift, with people mobilizing primarily through Twitter to encourage donations to Ferguson Public Library. Soon, celebrities tweeted their support for the donation effort. Among these celebrities was author Neil Gaiman, who tweeted:

Since these tweets, Ferguson Public Library has seen an incredible spike in donations. In just two days, the library received nearly $200,000 in donations. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, "The money donated so far adds up to almost half of the library's annual budget (about $400,000) and Bonner hopes it will allow him to hire another full-time librarian to work with children and programming." Discussing the amount of money that has come from supporters, Bonner told the Dispatch, "It doesn't seem real yet. I had no idea there was anything like that coming."

And the donations are continuing to come in. If you would like to show your support for Ferguson Public Library, you can donate at THIS LINK. The library is also accepting donations in the form of bitcoins. Bitcoin donations to Ferguson Public Library can be made at THIS LINK. If you prefer to send donations to a physical address, you can, at:

"I think that when there's all these negative stories," Bonner said in an interview with NBC News, "a community comes together unified behind a common cause... it makes people remember that, you know, we're all human beings and we're in this together."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Library Books Save FSU's Student's Life (Literally)

When the topic of the school shooting at Florida State University began to trend in news outlets on the morning of Thursday, November 20, 2014, my heart dropped and my throat tightened. Yet another incident of senseless violence involving guns taking place in a U.S. school - in an environment where bright-eyed students and hard-working teachers, staff, and administrators are supposed to be safe - was just too much for me to deal with. So I turned away from the news sites.
FSU student Jason Derfuss holds one of the library books that saved his life.
Photo by Jason Derfuss

Later, I logged into Facebook and began to scroll through my News Feed. An amazing story caught my eye: An FSU student hadn't realized that he had been targeted by the gunman until after returned home, removed his backpack, and took out the library books inside. Holding the books, he noticed they were pierced with bullet holes and that they had actually prevented the bullets from the gunman's weapon from entering his body. Reading this story, I found it absolutely incredible. It wasn't until I saw photos of these bullet-riddled library books - photos that were posted by the student himself - that I at last believed the story.

As reported in media outlets, student Jason Derfuss was at Strozier Library on the FSU campus on the night of the shooting. He checked out a stack of library books, placed them inside his backpack, and began walking out of the library when the gunman entered the building. The gunman started to unload his weapon, and Derfuss heard the shots. Relating the incident to his friends and followers on Facebook, Derfuss said:

"Tonight there was a shooting at FSU, right as I was leaving Strozier. I didn't know this at the time, but the Shooter targeted me first. The shot I heard behind me I did not feel, nor did it hit me at all. He was about 5 feet from me, but he hit my books. Books one minute earlier I had checked out of the library, books that should not have stopped the bullet. But they did. I learned this about 3 hours after it happened, I never thought to check my bag. I assumed I wasn't a target, I assumed I was fine. The truth is I was almost killed tonight and God intervened."

Derfuss proceeded to share photographs of his bullet-pierced library books. In another photo, he is holding a bullet that he had removed from one of the books, a bullet that was meant for him. You can see some of these photos below:

As bibliophiles, we are well aware that books have the power to change lives. We now know that they also have the power to save them.

All above photographs are by Jason Derfuss.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ekstrom Library Home to Underground Music Archive

What began as a donation of local zines has become an archive documenting the 1980s and '90s punk, hardcore, and indie rock scenes in Louisville, Kentucky.

Image via

The Louisville Underground Music Archive got its start in 2011, when Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville accepted vintage sets of two local zines: Burt the Cat and Hard Times. Processing them, archivist Carrie Daniels at Ekstrom Library's Archives and Special Collections recognized fellow archivist Heather Fox on the cover of one of the zines. Fox, a musician active in the local scene, was working at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville. Daniels contacted Fox, who in turn contacted the publisher of Burt the Cat, Paul Curry, who donated additional issues, enabling Ekstrom Library to house the complete run of Burt and fill major gaps in the run of Hard Times. It was then that Daniels and Fox began to consider building a more comprehensive archive of Louisville's rock scenes. 

The push to create a comprehensive collection gained momentum with the 2012 death of Jason Nobel, member of the Louisville bands Rodan, Rachel's, and Shipping News, and the 2013 death of Jon Cook, member of the bands Rodan, Crain, and Cerebellum. "We started losing members of the music scene, and that really brought things to a head," Daniels said in an interview with WFPL, a Louisville radio station. "We realized we had to start collecting now; it had to be more than a cool idea. Because material was going to get lost. If the flyers get lost, if the music gets lost, if the set lists disappear, then an essential part of the scene is lost forever." The Louisville Underground Music Archive, or LUMA, was officially formed. Archivists Sarah-Jane Poindexter and Elizabeth Reilly, both interested in Louisville's local music scenes, came on board to help build LUMA.

LUMA is actively archiving items from Louisville's 1980s and '90s music scenes.
Image via

Right now, Daniels and her colleagues are actively seeking donations to LUMA. These can include personal papers and correspondence, business records, set lists, photographs, flyers, posters, original artwork, albums and other recorded music, videotaped shows, T-shirts, buttons, zines, newsletters, stickers, and any other ephemera related to the punk, hardcore, and indie rock scenes in Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1980s and '90s. Fan mail is also welcome. Talking to WFPL, archivist Poindexter said, "The Rachel's, for instance, donated their materials here. It covers their process of creating music as well as the artwork and packaging, their press release, their tour information, how they planned their tour and executive it, as well as fan mail."

In housing the Louisville Underground Music Library, the University of Louisville joins other academic institutions that have decided to collect the artifacts of independent music scenes, including New York University with its Riot Grrrl Collection and George Washington University with its D.C. Punk Rock Collection. According to the LUMA website, "Generally speaking, records of popular culture of this type are underrepresented in archives, putting this history at risk for loss." By accepting and preserving these records, these university archives can help keep the memories of these scenes alive for those who created and participated in them, as well as educate those who weren't part of those scenes but want to know about them.

"Ultimately, the goal of this collecting is to make it freely available to the community and researchers in general, and to preserve it for future generations," says the Louisville Underground Music Archive website. In the meantime, LUMA is eagerly accepting donations. "We are interested in taking anything and everything related to the music scene, things that people won't even think could be useful to an archive, Reilly told WFPL. "Every little piece tells the bigger story."

For more on the Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA), go HERE and HERE. If you would like to donate materials to the archive, send LUMA an email message at: Also, like LUMA on Facebook at THIS LINK.