In last week’s blog I had mentioned that …
…the American Library Association (ALA) and its state and local affiliates are additional places to which to turn for guidance on helping damaged libraries as they struggle back to something near prominence in the role they play in people’s lives.
In response, Karen Muller, ALA’s director of library and knowledge management, wrote to me and said there are several aspects of this issue to consider. I’ve excerpted her generous note here:
“There are a number agencies, starting with FEMA, to assist libraries with clean-up and restoration. We have collected a number of these resources at http://libguides.ala.org/disaster. For the states affected, the state library in each state, as well as a regional library consortium, Lyrassis, are well-versed—and staffed—for disaster response. Lyrassis can be contacted through: https://www.lyrasis.org/Pages/Main.aspx. See especially https://www.lyrasis.org/LYRASIS%20Digital/Pages/Preservation-Services.aspx. See also the local information assembled by our Chapter Relations Office at http://www.ala.org/aboutala/offices/cro/getinvolved/helpinglibraries.
As for how a community can assist, it is important to take the lead from the librarians. The first thought is often, “We must get them books!” But, sadly, we learned after Hurricane Katrina, that a damaged library may not be able to process the books and make use of them. There may be mold and other safety issues to resolve first. There may not be staff to do the processing, the equipment for the processing may be damaged, there may simply be the wrong materials donated—libraries need a range of materials, from how-to guides, to history books, to reference materials—but not necessarily last year’s best sellers.
Finally, we must remember that library staff members themselves may no longer have a home, and job or not, books in the library may not be their top priority.
There are two separate prongs to a response. First is to work with the library to learn specifically what materials are needed. Some are able to establish a wish list to guide those who wish to donate strategically. Alternatively, raise funds through a book sale and send the proceeds to the library to allocate as needed, or use when operations start to return to normal.
All that said, libraries are often a key source of community information in the aftermath of a disaster. After Hurricane Sandy I wrote about this at http://www.ala.org/tools/community-disaster-response. Library staff may be able to utilize volunteers to assist with the information dispersal.
Wow! What a great response. We have to admit that while community libraries are a community priority, our very own libraries, containing personal and family treasures, also may have been flooded. FEMA has published a two page summary for dealing with this kind of personal property damage, as well.
So, thanks for Ms. Muller for an authoritative and pragmatic set of directives to operationalize my cheerleading from last week’s blog. Please pass this along to others in your book- and library-loving communities.