In the wake of the school shooting that happened at Chardon High School on February 27th, 2012, Chardon Public Library’s Facebook page became more than just a digital extension of the library’s services or a way to market the library’s programming. As an entire community was grieving the loss of three teenagers who were killed in the shooting, coping with the injured, and trying to process the fact that something like this could happen in our town, the library staff at Chardon began to reach out to the community through their Facebook page. As community members and high school students were covering the town in red ribbons, from the trees lining the streets to the people wearing them in tribute to the victims, the sentiment was quickly reflected in the library’s Facebook presence through images and messages of support and love. Hours after the shooting, the staff immediately began posting resources to the Facebook page on how to help children through the emotional process of living through a school shooting.
From there, it became a resource for the community. Librarians posted resources about the prayer vigils being held, events around town, information about the funerals, images from neighboring communities showing their support, information about how to get involved or donate to the Chardon Healing Fund, and links to news reports and videos.
More importantly, the Facebook page (which has 506 “likes” to date) became a place of community, support, and healing for some community members. Library staff who run the page have done an amazing job of reaching out to anyone who posts or comments, offering support for those that need it, and appreciation for everyone who contributes. It has also become an online space for people from outside our community who want to let us know that we are in their thoughts and prayers. As one posting states, it is also a “window on the Chardon community”.
In the aftermath of something horrible, librarians were able to utilize this online tool to reach out to their community to give them access to resources and support that they desperately needed. In this way, the library was able to provide meaningful information services to their community, in a forum accessible to everyone with a Facebook account.
Facebook as a library tool became Facebook as a community-healing tool!
People sometimes overlook libraries, and their importance to community. Besides just being the place you go to check out books and dvds, libraries can be all encompassing community hubs – places that contain free programming for children and adults, free access to information and technology services (and technology classes!), and people who are dedicated to finding you information when you are not sure where else to turn. Even in the information age, having a person available to guide you to reliable resources can be a very valuable thing. After seeing what our library has been able to do for a community in grief, instantly rallying to offer whatever support they can the best way they know how, I will definitely never look at our own community libraries the same way again. They deserve the same amount of support as they have given to us through this difficult time.