The fire burned for days. Water—thousands of gallons of it—saturated the library’s materials, equipment, and interior. Smoke and water damage affected 250,000 bound volumes, two million pieces of micrographics, classified and confidential records, historical military documents, and a dedicated server room with more than 100 computer workstations. The Boeing 757 that had ripped through the Pentagon’s three outer rings on September 11, 2001, blasted open the doors to the Pentagon library sandwiched in the middle, the plane’s nose gear hitting the facility’s back wall. By the time staff were permitted to return, devastating moisture had taken over. Materials and equipment, personal belongings, catalog statistics, personnel files, and more were covered with mold and mildew.
Aiden Street has all the instincts of a great librarian. “I want to know what keeps people up at night—what are they worried about and what can the library do to help them achieve their goals?” As regional coordinator for the Pioneer Library System (PLS), Norman, OK, and Moore Branch manager, she is perfectly situated to help alleviate some of those worries.
The recent flooding in southern Louisiana has been deemed the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to the American Red Cross. Some 7.1 trillion gallons of rain—three times the rainfall recorded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005—fell on the areas surrounding the state’s capital, Baton Rouge, and its fourth largest city, Lafayette, between August 8 and 14. In many areas, rainfall exceeded 20 inches. The flooding began on August 12 and continued for the next two days as local rivers swelled to record levels.
Over the weekend of October 3–4, Hurricane Joaquin brought record-setting rainfall and catastrophic flooding to the Southeast, leaving South Carolina in a state of disaster. In the central and eastern part of the state, rivers overran their banks, washing out roads, and bridges, breaching dams, and destroying property. To the south, high tides pushed water inland over sea walls. President Barack Obama declared the state a disaster zone, and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local efforts. The storm was what meteorologists call a “1,000-year rainfall event.” As of press time, the death toll for the state stood at 17, and Sen. Lindsey Graham said the cost of flooding could top $1 billion. Public libraries across the state began reopening Tuesday, and immediately began stepping in to help wherever possible—posting emergency information on their websites, helping people contact loved ones and insurance companies, distributing supplies, and serving as a place of shelter and connection.
Iowa’s Cedar Rapids Public Library faced disaster in 2008: a “500-year flood” that ruined homes, businesses, and the main, downtown branch of the public library. The library was filled with eight feet of water, which damaged the building and materials beyond repair. A group with a vision saw the silver lining and seized the opportunity to plan for a new library based on three main ideas.
Ma. Lorna Eguia, a librarian at the American Corner library at the University of San Carlos in the Philippines, was just getting her new mobile library, literacy, and storytelling service, Books in Bags (BiB), off the ground when Typhoon Haiyan swept through the country in early November 2013. When her family was evacuated, Eguia grabbed a kit from BiB along with other emergency supplies. The stories and origami materials BiB contained offered a welcome treat for the children in the shelter where Eguia stayed for two days while the weather raged outside.
The new Ideas Box from Libraries Without Borders/ Bibliothèques Sans Frontières is fun, smart, and inspiring. The comprehensive vision behind it and the resulting design hold lessons for anyone interested in library outreach. It takes a significant step forward in framing an ideal outpost library that can reach into the gap as an element of humanitarian aid in the wake of a disaster when basic services and cultural institutions are unavailable or inactive.
The University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Jim Dan Hill Library was among 16 campus buildings that were damaged by flooding on June 19-20. The library was one of the four buildings hit hardest by eight inches of rainfall in a 24 hour period, because it is both in a low-lying area of campus and connected to flooded […]