A common theme in recent years when disaster strikes has been the emergence of public libraries as the de facto recovery center for many cities and towns. Hurricane Irene was no exception and there are some concrete numbers as well as many anecdotes to demonstrate this.
The Darien Library in Connecticut has posted a telling graphic on its flickr account which shows a huge spike in Internet usage at the library in the aftermath of Irene. It also documented that 6070 visitors came to the library on the Monday and Tuesday after Irene.
In New Jersey, the state library has posted an online survey in order to help assess damage there. As of this morning, Michele Stricker, the deputy director of the Library Development Bureau, said that there were eight libraries reporting flooding, 11 reporting power outages, but, tellingly, 23 reported that they were acting as a recovery center where residents were coming to do everything from using the library’s WiFi, setting up impromptu business centers, and even using their curling irons.
Martha Reid, the Vermont state librarian, reported similar scenes there as did Cindy Roach, the head of library advisory and development division at the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.
In a storm, communities in need of a respite and an anchor turn to their public libraries.