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Book News: Despite The Tumult, Ferguson Library Keeps Its Doors Open

Youths walk past a mural calling for peace in Ferguson, Mo., on a building up the street from the city's police department a day before the grand jury decision was announced.
David Goldman
Youths walk past a mural calling for peace in Ferguson, Mo., on a building up the street from the city's police department a day before the grand jury decision was announced.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

A grand jury decision announced Monday not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown was preceded by a wave of shuttered doors in Ferguson, Mo. Expecting an eruption of protests over the decision, the city's public schools and many public services quickly declared they would be closed on Tuesday.

The Ferguson Public Library, however, remained open.

Scott Bonner, the library's director and its only full-time librarian, kept the building open to provide programming for local students and to offer adults a safe place in the midst of the tumult. The decision marked a renewal of the library's work in August, when it opened its space to impromptu classes during local schools' long closures during protests this summer. On Tuesday, Bonner said, it was tough to gauge just how visitors were reacting to the news.

"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. And everything in between, including people who are doing the regular walk-in, walk-out stuff."

News of the Ferguson Public Library's opening also drew an outpouring of donations, prompted by a Twitter callout by Buzzfeed writer Ashley Ford — which was echoed by Neil Gaiman and even the show Reading Rainbow. Bonner told CNNMoney that the library's received donations "in the five digits" since the grand jury announcement. And they continue to flood in.

"I think that when there's all these negative stories," Bonner said to NBC News, "seeing a story where 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."

A Folio Found: A small-town library in the north of France contained a curious, and exceedingly rare, find: a copy of William Shakespeare's first folio. Printed seven years after Shakespeare's death in 1623, the first folio features 36 plays, many of which — including Macbeth — would not be known if not for the folio's survival. The newly unearthed copy, discovered this past fall, joins a list of only about 230 copies of the folio still known to exist. It's believed to have sat untouched in the library, miscataloged for some two centuries before a librarian stumbled across it.

"This is huge," Shakespeare expert Eric Rasmussen told The New York Times. "First folios don't turn up very often, and when they do, it's usually a really chewed up, uninteresting copy. But this one is magnificent."

Cosby Biographer Reverses Course: Amid an onslaught of sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, the comedian's latest biographer has stayed silent. Mark Whitaker, a former editor-in-chief at Newsweek, had come under criticism for failing to address the accusations in his book Cosby: His Life and Times, released in September.

That silence ended Monday, though, as Whitaker took to Twitter to respond to a column by New York Times media critic David Carr.

Jacqueline Woodson Responds: In Jacqueline Woodson's first major interview since picking up the National Book Award for Young People's Literature — and since enduring a firestorm over jokes made after her win — Woodson says she wants to offer children of color stories that she often couldn't find herself when she was young.

"In writing about all kinds of families, all kinds of people, writing across socioeconomic class and race, and gender and sexuality, you know it's hard not to come to a book and find some part of yourself in it," she told The Guardian. "If the people who need it can find it then, I've done what I needed to do."

A note to readers: Book News will be taking a brief break for the Thanksgiving holiday. But don't worry: Look for the weekly books forecast when we return on Monday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: November 28, 2014 at 12:00 AM EST
In a previous version of this report, social media attention to the Ferguson Public Library was attributed to Neil Gaiman and others. In fact, Buzzfeed writer Ashley Ford prompted the calls for donations.
Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.

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