Uvalde librarian uses books to help people in community with anxiety, grieving

People visit a makeshift memorial to the victims of a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on June 30, 2022. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

(UVALDE, Texas) — After the tragic event at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers in 2022, a local librarian is giving back to the community where he was raised.

Mendell Morgan, Director of Development for El Progreso Memorial Library, welcomes people, especially those in Uvalde, to come for counseling services and other mental relaxation.

“After the tragedy here, I really wanted to do something for the community of Uvalde,” Morgan said. “I felt I was given so much growing up here I wanted to encourage our library to be a place of healing. I wanted to make a difference.”

El Progreso Memorial Library is situated in a rural area on the southwest side of Uvalde. The region is marked by poverty and students struggle with educational achievement.

Morgan was appointed library director in 2014, and the role transitioned to a more community-development position in January 2024. Morgan now helps people deal with grieving, death and anxiety through books in the library.

He also brought in therapy dogs and ponies to help people who are dealing with separation.

Locals in the community say he has been very resourceful, and he’s found ways to make the library a place that’s for everybody.

“He’s so kind,” Eliana Romero said. “He makes everybody feel like welcome and part of his group, and he’s just always trying to find ways to make the library better.”

To better connect with young people, Morgan began hosting game nights at the library, offering children a chance to learn chess and play Dungeons & Dragons.

The library also hosts a summer reading program, which Morgan says is extremely popular with young people.

“The goal is to keep up their interest in reading during this summer and help them be better prepared for the school year that lies ahead,” Morgan said. “Every Wednesday morning we start out with the song. And then we sit on our little special story rug and the story is read.”

Morgan says it is such a reward for him to see the results of the library’s programs: children acquiring a love for reading, being interactive with the library, experiencing the excitement of discovery.

He’s happy to see activity, life and good things going on in the Uvalde community, something he experienced as a child.

“I had a young mother come in to say in tears how thankful and grateful she was to see her child smiling again because that had not been seen since before the tragedy,” Morgan said.

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