Helping libraries damaged by Hurricane Irene


Image, which I hope is self-explanatory, by Darien Library.

One of the first places I went after the storm was over was the local library. I was supposed to work the day earlier because our librarian literally couldn’t get to work, but then wound up not working because there was no power at the library. My local library suffered no storm damage. Other libraries weren’t as lucky. The Department of Libraries in Vermont has been terrific both in trying to contact every library as well as informing the other librarians statewide about what needs to be done, who is in trouble and how to apply for FEMA grants now that libraries are an essential service (again thanks thanks thanks to all the people who lobbied to have that done). Here are some links to people doing things that may be instructive or useful for you either in figuring out who to help or in managing crises like this in the future.

I’ve spent a lot of the past few days checking out the pages on Facebook where a lot of the communication about the recovery efforts are taking place. In case you’re curious, here are some of the pages where a lot of the local recovery work and information dispersal is actually happening

I’ll probably talk more about the upsides and downsides to using social media for this sort of thing, but the upside is it worked. People got information and they got help because they had access to things like Facebook and Twitter through their phones when they didn’t have any electricity, telephones or computers. Worth learning about.

how to deal with a tornado @ your library

According to Heritage Preservation, the National Institute for Conservation 80% of U.S. collecting institutions do not have an emergency plan that includes collections, with staff trained to carry it out. The LiveJournal libraries community has an interesting thread about how to deal with emergencies at the library in the wake of the tornados that went through Kansas this weekend. Read one librarian’s story and the follow up discussion about other library’s disaster plans. Remember Greg Schwartz’s first day as supervisor when the tornado warnings hit. We’ve been learning a lot about how libraries deal with flooding in light of Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and other recent catastrophes, but many of us may not know what our disaster plan is, or where it is kept. Today’s list of links is on disaster planning.

Katrina: how librarians can help

This just came on the Council list. There is a Yahoo group for librarians who want to help with the Katrina Recovery Effort.

preparedness, before and after

It’s All Good plugs OCLCs digitizing services ["aren't you glad you've done the hard work of digitizing all your special collections at times like these?"], and then points to two useful pages on the SOLINET web site: Before the Storm: The Countdown (Preparing for a Storm) & Actions for the First Day After (Cleaning Up After a Storm)

emergencies, public information, and libraries

When disaster strikes, is the library web site a place you could go to for breaking news, even if the library was closed? I hate to be a disaster vulture, but I always wonder when things happen like the tsunami, or 9/11, or this hurricane, what is the library’s role? How could their web presence help people? Here are some other New Orleans web sites, to demonstrate what I mean.

  • the Loyola web site automatically redirects their home page to the emergency announcement page and includes a bright yellow button on the footer of every page on the site so even if you start on a page within the site, you’ll see their announcements.
  • Louisiana State has a news sidebar explaining that the school will be closed
  • The Louisiana Library Collection Database even managed to put two links in which aren’t too styling but direct people to FEMA and the National Hurricane Center
  • LSU Health Sciences does it quickly and simply with a big emergency headline across the main page.
  • Nichols State even appears to have a blog ready for emergency preparedness with a way to post regular updates, linked off of the main page.

My question to you: if there was an emergency, could you update your library home page quickly to inform your patrons?

update: due to sporadic electricity in the Louisiana area, many of these sites are now down. I’ve added a bit more description in lieu of actual pages you can look at.