Library Field Responds to Orlando Tragedy

Update: ALA is planning a planning a memorial gathering at the Annual Conference on Saturday, June 25, 8–8:30 a.m. in the OCCC Auditorium, and a special conference Read Out co-sponsored by GLBTRT and OIF. Details on other support activities during the conference can be found here. In the wake of the shooting in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on the night of June 12, which killed 49 people and injured 53 others, library administration and staff, organizations and vendors have stepped up with statements of solidarity, offers of help, and opportunities to join forces with the GLBT and Latinx communities—the shooting occurred during Pulse's Latin night—to mourn those killed and wounded.
Orlando vigil 2

Vigil at Orlando's Dr. Phillips Center, June 13
Photo credit: Erin Sullivan

Update: The Internet Archive's Archive-It service is building an Orlando web archive. Contribute web and social media material, including news reports and blog posts, social media feeds, interactive timelines, and videos through this form. The collection can be viewed here.
Update: ALA is planning a planning a memorial gathering at the Annual Conference on Saturday, June 25, 8–8:30 a.m. in the OCCC Auditorium, and a special conference Read Out co-sponsored by GLBTRT and OIF. Details on other support activities during the conference can be found here.
In the wake of the shooting in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on the night of June 12, which killed 49 people and injured 53 others, library administration and staff, organizations and vendors have stepped up with statements of solidarity, offers of help, and opportunities to join forces with the LGBTQ and Latinx communities—the shooting occurred during Pulse's Latin night—to mourn those killed and wounded.

LOCAL LIBRARIES STAY STRONG

Mary Anne Hodel, director and CEO of Orlando’s Orange County Library System (OCLS), posted a message on the library’s homepage, decrying the “despicable act of violence," and pointing users to a resource guide assembled by OCLS for those coping with the loss and looking for ways to support others. She  added, “Moving forward, we will be exploring other ways that OCLS can be part of the healing process. Thank you, Orlando, for being so strong and so brave. We are proud to be part of this community.” The Orlando Public Library (OPL) branch of OCLS broadcast news on the big screens in its lobby and Library Central area, which has a stage and seating area. “We have also given staff info on how to access our Employee Assistance Program, to make sure that anybody who needs a grief counselor has access to one,” OCLS public relations administrator Erin Sullivan told LJ. Library managers are also accommodating staff members who wish to donate blood, as there is currently a five to seven hour wait at local blood banks. Orlando library banner

Banner hung in OCLS branch windows
Photo credit: Erin Sullivan

OCLS has set up monetary donation opportunities through its staff association, and has donation boxes throughout library branches for nonperishable food items for the families of victims. And the library is giving in more ephemeral ways as well. OCLS will be providing the LGBTQ community with information about its EPOCH (Electronically Preserving Obituaries as Cultural Heritage) database, a community-sourced obituary website created through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, so that victims’ families and friends will be able to post and access obituaries. In addition, reported Hiawassee branch manager Ken Gibert, the OPL Reference Central department has been collecting photographs of flowers, gifts, and displays at the candlelight vigil held on the night of June 13 at Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center, to post on the Orlando Memory heritage site. While the library has been concentrating on ways to help, it has also been on the receiving end of others’ generosity. Digital distributor OverDrive donated 50 ebooks on grief, coping with tragedy, and healing to OCLS, Gibert told LJ. ILS provider SirsiDynix has made a monetary donation. All branches have installed banners in their windows proclaiming #OrlandoStrong, one of several hashtags for social media users to show solidarity and get updates.

EDUCATORS RESPOND

Vigil at Orlando's Dr. Phillips Center, June 13 Photo credit: Erin Sullivan

Vigil at Orlando's Dr. Phillips Center, June 13
Photo credit: Erin Sullivan

The tragedy has hit close to home at the University of Central Florida (UCF) Libraries; student Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22, and alumnus Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32, were among the victims. Carrie Moran, the current president of UCF's Pride Faculty & Staff Association, is the user engagement librarian at the John C. Hitt Library, and head of special collections David Benjamin serves as the association’s vice president. Moran has encouraged UCF community members to bring food and water to the Center, Orlando’s LGBTQ community hub. In addition to posting about the university’s ongoing blood drive, the library’s Facebook page has issued a special invitation to students to use UCF libraries as quiet, safe gathering spaces, according to UCF Libraries associate director for communication, assessment, and public relations Meg Scharf. Moran, UCF President John C. Hitt, Student Government Association president Chris Clemente and members of UCF’s Pride community spoke at a candlelight vigil held on the night of June 14, organized by members of UCF’s LGBTQ+ community with support from UCF Social Justice and Advocacy. In response to a query from Washington, DC–area librarian Oliver Bendorf (who has curated a series of Orlando flyers on his website), State University of New York (SUNY) New Paltz research and education librarian Lydia Willoughby developed an editable Orlando syllabus. “I had a book list from a drag show that I worked to develop with student groups (SUNY New Paltz's Queens and Kings of New Paltz and the Sylvia Rivera House Living and Learning Community) to produce in the library at New Paltz last semester,” Willoughby told LJ, “so I had a quick list of resources to get it started. From there it just grew and grew.” The extensive Google doc, with 58 pages (at press time) of contributions by librarians and teachers, links to resources from self care to scholarly and popular books, movies, zines, music, websites, and resources.

LIBRARY ASSOCIATIONS, LEADERS RESPOND

Orlando Unity buttons will be available from ProQuest at ALA Annual

Orlando Unity buttons will be available from ProQuest at ALA Annual

Many national library organizations have spoken up as well. “The library community is deeply saddened by the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando,” said American Library Association (ALA) president Sari Feldman. “Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and friends, and the GLBTQ community.” Feldman added, “In less than two weeks the ALA will host its Annual Conference and Exhibition at the Orange County Convention Center. We will work collaboratively with the leaders of ALA’s Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT); ethnic caucuses; and executive office to discuss our expressions of support. ALA Conference Services has reached out to our convention center partners and are working closely with them and local authorities to ensure that we will have a safe and secure conference.” (The entire statement can be found at LJ’s Infodocket.) Peter D. Coyl, chair of ALA’s GLBTRT, wrote at American Libraries, “The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table has been working closely with ALA in response to this tragedy, and it is of paramount concern to ALA that its members and conference attendees are safe. ALA is working with our conference venue to ensure the safety and security of those who attend.” Coyl also noted that ALA is looking into holding a blood drive, although under FDA guidelines gay men are prohibited from donating blood—“ a stinging rebuke when your community has been so severely affected.” He added, “Many have reached out and asked what they can do to help at home. We’d encourage libraries to let their community know they are a safe place. Let the community know about GLBT Book Month. Use the “Open to All” toolkit as a starting point if you are unsure how to offer services to GLBTQ customers.” Jamie LaRue, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) and The Freedom to Read Foundation, said in a statement, “In the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy, I believe it is even more important that we meet to pursue our important work. Many of you know that the common target of our 2015 Top Ten Challenged Books was diversity: attempts to restrict access to information by and about people of color, LGBT, different religious viewpoints, and the differently abled. Our work to support the First Amendment is predicated on the importance of our reasoning together, of growing in understanding, not violence.” Trevor A. Dawes, who is about to take up the post of vice provost for libraries and museums at the University of Delaware and was president of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) from 2013–14, addressed the upcoming conference as well. “Some ALA members have raised objections to having the conference in Orlando because of Florida’s application of the Stand Your Ground laws with respect to the Trayvon Martin case,” Dawes wrote on his website. “After some discussion, the ALA formed a Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, that I happen to co-chair along with Martin Garnar from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The Task Force has been trying to find ways to help the ALA, the library profession, and our communities be more welcoming and inclusive. Although we don’t yet know the motivation for this particular shooting in Orlando, that it happened at a gay nightclub leads one to believe that the shooting was bias-related.  We will certainly hear more about the motivation of the suspect as the investigation unfolds, and can have more conversations about an inclusive society.” The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) also published a statement on its website that said, “[ARL] is saddened and horrified by the tragic murder of 49 people and the wounding of dozens of others in a shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016. Most of the victims were Latinx [Latinx, pronounced “La-teen-ex,” includes the numerous people of Latin American descent whose gender identities fluctuate along different points of the spectrum, from agender or nonbinary to gender non-conforming, genderqueer and genderfluid] members of the LGBTQ community, for whom gay nightclubs like Pulse served as vital sanctuaries—safe havens from a society still subject to homophobia and racism. The Association and its member libraries remain committed to likewise providing safe and inclusive spaces to all members of our communities, while also working—via education, policy, and advocacy—to reduce oppression and promote equality and social justice in and through our libraries.”
Library of Birmingham, UK Photo credit: Kazeem Hussain

Library of Birmingham, UK
Photo credit: Kazeem Hussain

REFORMA, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking, expressed its solidarity in a statement, noting that over 90 percent of the victims were Latinx.
Organizations across the country and around the world held vigils and paid tribute to Orlando, including the UK’s Library of Birmingham, which lit its iconic building in rainbow colors.

HOW TO HELP

Individuals or libraries looking to help the Orlando community can donate through the following organizations:
  • Equality Florida, a nonprofit LGBT civil rights organization, has set up a GoFundMe account for the victims and their families. All of the money donated will go to the families.
  • The global nonprofit organization Planting Peace has set up a site for donations on CrowdRise.
  • The National Compassion Fund, overseen by the National Center for Victims of Crime, will distribute funds among victims and their families for short and long term needs.
  • Mosques are raising money for victims' families through LaunchGood, a Muslim-led crowdfunding site.
  • A variety of local Central Florida LGBTQ organizations have partnered to run an emergency hotline and grief counselors at the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida. They have also set up a GoFundMe page, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Orlando shooting victims and their families.
  • Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced the creation of the OneOrlando Fund, which, according to CNN, “will focus on strengthening the Orlando community and, through the foundations supporting this effort, will help victims of the shooting and their families.”
  • Local blood bank OneBlood is in need of rarer blood types: O negative, O positive and AB plasma.
The community is also in need of Spanish-speaking translators, according to Language Magazine—“Many families waiting to hear about their loved ones at the Hampton Inn in Downtown Orlando are distraught and confused about the shooting, and to make matters worse they don’t understand English.” Orlando Weekly also put out a call for bilingual volunteers to assist on counseling help lines. The tragedy in Orlando arrived on the heels of another gun violence anniversary: the mass shooting in Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. OCLS’s Gibert was formerly head of reference in the Charleston County Public Library system, where he worked with Cynthia Hurd, one of the Charleston shooting victims. "Here it is a year later, and it's a really sad time for me,” Gibert told LJ. “But I take heart in the fact that the library is first and foremost making resources available for people who need [them], where they can turn for help or for healing."
This is only a partial listing. LJ invites readers to add any further events, opportunities to help, and information in the comments section below.
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Chris Bourg

Hi Lisa- Thanks for pulling all this info together! A great resource. One comment - in quoting the ARL statement, I notice you changed Latinx to Latin(o), and I'm hoping I can talk you into changing it back to Latinx. As latina.com notes "Latinx, pronounced "La-teen-ex," includes the numerous people of Latin American descent whose gender identities fluctuate along different points of the spectrum, from agender or nonbinary to gender non-conforming, genderqueer and genderfluid." Latinx is a more inclusive term than the masculine Latino, and is more accurate for describing the victims of this tragedy. Thanks, Chris

Posted : Jun 16, 2016 12:14

Lisa Peet

Thanks for pointing that out, Chris. Done, and I've used the definition you included for any readers who may be unfamiliar with the term.

Posted : Jun 16, 2016 12:14

Chris Bourg

Wonderful! Thanks Lisa!

Posted : Jun 16, 2016 12:14


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