FERGUSON, Mo., Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Amid the civil disobedience in Ferguson, as many organizations lock their doors in the face of riots and unrest, at least one place for the community to peacefully congregate remains open -- the public library.
Thanks to social media, the Ferguson Public Library has been inundated with a nationwide outpouring of support.
In the wake of Monday night's announcement that a grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson on murder charges for the shooting death of unarmed, black, teenager Michael Brown, the city once again witnessed civil unrest.
But even as public schools shut themselves to local children, the library was inundated with donations, both of books and money.
UPI reached Scott Bonner, the only full-time librarian at the Ferguson Public Library, via telephone.
On the role the library has played during this time, Bonner said: "We haven't done things that libraries don't do everyday. That starts with being a safe space where you can go to stop, breathe, learn about things."
He also said the library was setting up ad-hoc classrooms for kids to continue their lessons while public schools are closed and has worked out a deal with the state to setup the library as a place where local business who've been affected by rioting can come to seek small business loans to repair and rebuild.
On whether the library has remained a calm in the center of the storm or unrest has found its way inside its doors and into the stacks, Bonner said apart from a few isolated incidents, "generally speaking, people are using the library as a sanctuary."
Asked whether he's noticed a recent influx of donations, Bonner said, "We've had a massive, massive increase in support of the library through PayPal."
Bonner noted the library has been receiving increased support since Ferguson has been in the national spotlight, but said, "In the past day we've had an exponential increase in the amount of funds, and it's stunning and it's beautiful."
Bonner said he didn't want to offer the actual amount, "because it doesn't seem real yet," but noted the majority has come from small donations, over two thousand of them, individuals giving what they can.
Bonner told UPI the funds will "radically increase" the library's ability to put on community programming, especially children's programming, something he hasn't been able to focus on as much as he'd like being the only full-time staff. He even mused over the prospect of being able to hire a children's librarian with the money.
Donations to the library have come in the context of the tension in Ferguson, but have been bolstered mainly through social media.
Ashley Cassandra Ford, a writer with a healthy following on Twitter and Facebook, encouraged her followers to donate to the library.
"the library staff has consistently made themselves available to the community when every other place closed its doors. Even creating makeshift classrooms where teachers could continue their lessons," said Ford.
There is more to be done than donating books and school supplies. More to be done than funding a library. This is just one thing we can do.— Ashley Ford (@iSmashFizzle) November 25, 2014
Author, essayist, and cultural critic Roxane Gay mentioned the library in her response to the grand jury's decision, saying, "We have words and we can make sure the people of Ferguson have them too."
Even Neil Gaiman, constant champion of libraries, chimed in:
Interested parties can ship books to the following address. Librarians have asked for books featuring children of color as protagonists and books that feature children dealing with PTSD:
Ferguson Public Library ATTN: Scott Bonner 35 North Florissant Road Ferguson, MO 63135