Originally appeared in the Sept. /Oct. 2009 edition of Enrich Your Life, a bi-monthly publicationof the Queens Library
Queens Library’s Mail-A-Book Service allows homebound customers to borrow library materials, including books and audiobooks, regular and large-print books, movies on DVD and music on CDs without leaving their homes, nursing homes, adult care centers, or assisted living facilities. Though Mail-A-Book serves all ages, its primary customer base consists of older adults.
Recently, with the help of a grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc., the Mail-A-Book service has added a teleconferencing console so that library staff can facilitate weekly chat sessions with homebound customers. The group also has book discussions, and recently discussed Echo Park, by mystery writer Michael Connelly. The lively discussion, which included about 10 participants, veered from conversations about the plot to explanations of character development in the novel. The group also discusses poetry and short stories by authors including Ambrose Bierce, Walt Whitman, and Edgar Allan Poe.
The chat sessions include casual conversations, and some are based on agreed-upon topics. With this outreach program, callers can talk about home, family, illness, personal memories and more. Guest moderators include staff members from Queens Library’s Special Services Department and a nutritionist from Queens College. There are also Bingo games, with customers using large-print Bingo cards that have been sent through the mail, and a conference call trivia game is in the works.
Mail-A-Book has also used the teleconferencing console to include homebound participants in music and discussion programs held at Queens Library, giving them a feeling of inclusion they might not have otherwise. A great example was a one-woman show called “Rosie,” chronicling the true story behind the beginning of the modern American working woman, personified by Rosie the Riveter. With the console, homebound customers (some of whom had been real-life Rosies) were able to talk about the program with in-person library customers.
While homebound customers enjoy live programming, it seems clear that what they like the best are the book discussions and free-form chat sessions, when they are able to discuss just about anything that’s on their minds. And their responses are uniformly positive. Says Selma: “Before this program, I was a bit lonesome and bored. This has brightened my day and given me something to look forward to.” Another woman, Alice, adds, “Since I’m homebound, I never go out. I look forward to Friday mornings, when we have our chat sessions. I have a big smile on my face after our discussions.”
This newest feature of the Mail-A-Book program truly enriches lives. A regular participant, Linda, says, “As a chronically ill and visually impaired person, I feel extremely fortunate to have Mail-A-Book. The audiobooks and other diverse audio materials have contributed to my personal growth, stimulation and enrichment. I have found the Mail-A-Book staff to be courteous, responsive, and compassionate. I truly consider them friends.”
For more information about Mail-A-Book, including the teleconference group, please call 718-776-6800. You can call to find out more for yourself or for a loved one.
Queens Library is an independent, not-for-profit corporation and is not affiliated with any other library. The Queens Library serves a population of 2.3 million in the most ethnically diverse county in the U.S. With a record 23 million items in circulation for FY 2009, the Library has the highest circulation of any public library system in the U.S. and one of the highest circulations in the world. For more information about programs, services, locations, events and news, visit the Queens Library Web site at www.queenslibrary.org or phone at 718-990-0700.
Eleven-year-old Elizabeth Ann Bishop has a Baseball Hall of Fame connection - her neighbor is the widow of Hall of Famer and Chicago White Sox player Nellie Fox. But thanks to a trip to her school library, Bishop went to the Hall of Fame herself, as the winner of Step up to the Plate @ your library®.
In early October, Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith drew Bishop’s name as the grand-prize winner of the Step Up to the Plate @ your library program. Bishop’s name was randomly selected from eligible contestants who correctly answered a series of baseball trivia questions developed by the Hall of Fame’s library staff. Entries were sent in from across the country and Puerto Rico.
As the grand-prize winner, Bishop, a frequent library user from Chambersburg, Pa., traveled with her family to Cooperstown, N.Y. for the Hall of Fame’s 13th Annual World Series Gala on Saturday, Oct. 31. The Gala featured a live broadcast of Game 3 of the 105th World Series, between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies in the Hall of Fames’ Grandstand Theater.
“The best part was watching the game at the Hall of Fame with other fans,” said Bishop. “It was like being there.”
Bishop also received a tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame and library. Each year librarians at the Baseball Hall of Fame work to generate a series of questions for Step Up to the Plate that test library users’ information literacy skills.
“We are lucky to have a branch library a quarter of a mile from our house,” said Bishop’s mother, Kelly, who visits the library every month with her daughter. “The library has computer classes and videos, but we mainly use it for the books and to work on school projects.”
Bishop entered the contest at her former elementary school, where school library media specialist April Cole encouraged her fifth grade students to participate in Step Up to the Plate during their library period. Cole encouraged students who didn’t finish answering their questions to visit the Grove Family Library, where she also works. In fact, Cole also partnered with a friend who teaches Internet and sports classes at the local high school so that the high school student could join in the fun too.
In addition to the grand-prize winner, 20 first-prize winners were drawn prior to the grand-prize ceremony in Cooperstown.
First-place winners include:
10 and under:DJ Shaffer of Milltown, N.J.; Tom Roe of Stanwood, Wash.; Kaitlyn McMann of Hockessin , Del.; Trevor Adams of Poplar Bluff, Mo.; and Logan Hird of Zion, Ill.
11-13:Jesus Zayas Bermúdez of Santa Isable, Puerto Rico; Jared Morris of Greenville, R.I.; Ariana Gladieux of New Berlin, Wis.; Nick Young of Yardley, Pa.; and Brett Neilon of Coto de Caza, Calif.
14-17:Katelyn Thornton of Simpsonville, S.C.; Eric Willey of Townville, Pa.; Justin Hope of Guy Mills, Pa.; Tyler Owen of Blackshear, Ga.; Robbie Scott of Mineola, Texas
18 and up:Vince Guerrieri of Fremont, Ohio; Lisa Taylor of Lavallette, N.J.; Ryan Frasier of Port St. Lucie, Fla.; Karol L. McGowan of Guy Mills, Pa.; and Spencer Northway of Davenport, Iowa.
Step Up to the Plate @ your library is part of the Campaign for America’s Libraries, ALA’s public awareness campaign that promotes the value of libraries and librarians. Thousands of libraries of all types – across the country and around the globe - use the Campaign’s @ your library® brand. The Campaign is made possible by ALA’s Library Champions, corporations and foundations that advocate the importance of the library in American society.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a Partner in the Campaign for America’s Libraries, is a not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the historical development of the game and its impact on our culture by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections for a global audience, as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to our National Pastime.
Established in 1997, the Spectrum Scholarship Program is ALA's national diversity and recruitment effort designed to address the specific issue of under-representation of critically needed ethnic librarians within the profession while serving as a model for ways to bring attention to larger diversity issues in the future.The following are submissions from Spectrum Scholars on how they got involved with libraries and, more importantly, why they love them!
Lawyer Revisits Love for Libraries
By Shalu Gillum
Libraries and I go back as far as I can remember. My mother’s family owned and operated a lending library out of their home in New Delhi, India, until recently. I grew up hearing about this library, and it seemed to me perfectly normal that you could live in a library. My mother and I practically did, as we visited our public library several times a week in our hometown in Canada.
I first entered my school library at the age of eight, when I started volunteering there during recess (a great way to stay out of the cold Canadian winter weather). That experience changed my life and put me on the path that I am on now, twenty-three years later.
I volunteered at that library for five years under Mrs. McGuigan, our school librarian, who would take her helpers out for a special lunch once a year. We all looked forward to it, and it made us feel special and part of something important, rather than simply the “geeky” library volunteers.
After high school and moving from Canada to Florida, I found myself once again working in a library, this time my university’s medical school library. The three years I spent there also changed my life, as I met my husband, then a first-year pharmacy student, at that library while I worked the front desk.
Somehow it never occurred to me along the way to make a career out of all of the time I spent in the library, even after graduating from law school and working as a licensed attorney for several years. After some discontent with my career choice, it dawned on me that the happiest times in my life were spent in the library, so why not keep working in one?
Here I am now, starting my third semester in library school at the University of South Florida, working towards my master’s degree in Library and Information Science, and a proud ALA Spectrum Scholarship winner this year, wondering why I didn’t do this sooner.
Spreading the Library Word to Migrant Populations
By Candy Mendoza
My love for libraries came after the realization of their importance in our communities. I grew up in a small town, so our library hours were very limited. I didn't have a way to get to the library because I lived outside of the city limits. I never really attended a library program and I feel like I missed out on a lot.
I ended up working at a public library after college and it really opened my eyes to the impact it can make on the people that use it. I am a first generation Mexican American and I live in an area that has a growing Mexican American population. I was doing outreach for the Chicano/Latino community for the system and it was difficult to spread the word about library services. Mexico and other Latin countries don’t have public libraries. Libraries are usually only available to people attending a university. The concept of a "FREE" library is new and hard to pass along. I made it my mission to get involved and get as many people a card and let them know that it really is free. The library has language courses, reading material, and information about the area. It can be a key element in helping new citizens assimilate and get information to become involved in their communities. It can also be a tool for school preparedness. Getting books to read with your children will help them get ready for school.
I thought this message was so great that I started working with the Washington State Migrant Councils in our service area. I went to their classes and did story times. I also got the Bookmobile involved and the classes started checking out books from the Bookmobile twice a month. The teachers were happy and the kids were too. I was sold at all the possibilities that libraries provide on a daily basis. I decided to get my Master of Library Science and perhaps make a difference as an administrator one day.
I am honored to report that I am currently a Spectrum Scholar and my classes are going strong. I am excited to learn new things and implement some of them at work.
My plans for last summer’s vacation were formulated with frugality in mind. More for less. How about a house exchange? I trolled European cities on Craigslist under house swapping and zeroed in on an intriguing offer in Amsterdam. Several emails later, we had a deal.
Much later, I heard about the new public library in Delft. Two staff members from that library were making the rounds of libraries in the United States, touting the services and philosophy of their 21st century library. I missed their talk at ALA’s annual conference and never had time to research what all the fuss was about before I flew off to Holland.
Once there, I set out on a train for the city where the Girl with the Pearl Earring was set. Time was of the essence, so unlike most tourists, we skipped the tile factory and the Vermeers and headed straight for Delft’s public library, known to all as DOK.
Wow! In a 46,800 sq. ft. former grocery store transformed into a library, I discovered three floors of lively space, with a huge central staircase and glass all around. Self-service opportunities abound- not just to check out and return books, but to work, play and learn.
Everywhere I turned, people were engaged in activities that are slowly making their way across the Atlantic Ocean. Kids were playing X-Box and Playstation. People were composing music on a piano and taking their compositions home on a memory stick. Others were using computers to hone their language skills. Two “sonic chairs” made listening to music a genuinely sensual experience.
Staff members had sorted the entire fiction collection into genres and used very effective graphics for signage. In the mystery/thriller section, for example, they used the unforgettable image of a screaming Janet Leigh from Hitchcock’s Psycho shower scene. The walls of the room holding romance novels are painted a throbbing, sultry red. The children’s room features a low-lit space for babies, with stuffed animals to hug and a cloud motif on the ceiling. The effect on babies, and their parents, is wonderfully calming.
The Dutch are a self-sufficient lot and need less attention than Americans. Our exchange partner told us that, unlike the typical American college student who is housed in a dorm, Dutch students are expected to find their own living quarters. No coddling housing departments on campus. And I’m sure that riding your bicycle to work in all sorts of weather does something to your expectations for service. So I wasn’t surprised when my library tour guide told me that, if necessary, the entire library could be staffed by only five people.
My real surprise, however, came in the staff work area. Located on the top floor, their space was hardly distinguishable from public space because, well, it was also public space. The public and staff share work areas and even eating areas. While there are some spaces to work out of the public view, the people you serve are never far away. Rather, they are nearby, available to call in for a discussion about how the library’s new concepts work. Because the library is all about concepts, my tour guide cum human resources director explained, meaning that they may try out ten new ideas but retain only two. That’s okay. That’s life in 2009.
I noticed a table where about 30 cell phones were being charged. There are no desk phones for most staff; most use portable ones with four-digit numbers programmed in. With few exceptions (the most notable being the café!), staff are roving rather than stationary. But there are about five stations where you are pretty sure to find assistance--just not much personal handholding as is usually provided on this side of the Atlantic.
One staff member (on loan from a university) was working on a local history project, using Microsoft’s Surface to create a way for people to trace the origins of their homes in Delft. Another project on the drawing board was recording local history to be played back in a kiosk for everyone to enjoy. The DOK truly is part discovery museum part library. And it works.
My host city, Amsterdam, also boasts a new public library. Soaring seven stories, with views of the water, in an area being developed as a new center of civic activity, the library is the anchor for that new development. The top floor boasts a magnificent restaurant with the best view in the city and the entrance to performance space.
The street-level main entrance features a piano, with an invitation to experienced pianists to play for 30 minutes a day. Like a radio station, you never know what will be played next. And speaking of radio stations, they have one on site and broadcast a few times a week with authors, music, discussions and news from the library. How cool.
In the children’s space, a spiral staircase leads up to a platform with lots of cushy pillows emblazoned with quotes from books. Seats resemble mattresses, and staff report that visitors use them to sit, lounge or lie down. In true Dutch tradition, if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s okay.
My experience is a recommendation to explore international house swapping. Choose a country and visit some dare-to-be-ahead-of–the-curve libraries.
If you follow Neil Gaiman on Twitter you know it’s no secret how he feels about libraries and librarians.
It is with that admiration in mind, that the American Library Association’s (ALA) Campaign for America’s Libraries is thrilled to announce the 2009 Newbery Medal winning author of “The Graveyard Book” as the Honorary Chair of National Library Week 2010.
Attendees of the Office for Intellectual Freedom’s “My these novels certainly are graphic” panel at the ALA Annual Conference might have heard the “unofficial” news this summer.
As Honorary Chair Gaiman will appear in both print and radio public service announcements (PSA), a podcast and will participate in a National Library Week event.
ALA will place the print PSA in national publications throughout the spring, so be sure to check out your favorite magazines.
National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the ALA and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use.
The theme for this year’s National Gaming Day turned out to be “double” – double the fun, double the success!
On November 14, 2009, more than 1,365 libraries participated in ALA’s second annual National Gaming Day event, designed to promote the recreational and educational benefits of gaming in libraries. That’s more than double the number of libraries that participated last year (617)!
More than 31,290 people across the U.S. played games of all types in libraries that day. That’s also double the number of participants from last year (14,184)! They made new friends, learned about new games, played together as families, and competed for bragging rights in the national videogame tournament.
Hasbro, the exclusive sponsor of NGD2009, donated a copy of three of its most popular card games to every public library in the country. Library users were able to test their skills playing Monopoly Deal, Pictureka! the Card Game, and Scrabble Slam, with the kids and teens usually beating the adults. One of the major highlights that came out of the day was the interactions between diverse groups of kids, age groups, and library staff. National Gaming Day again provided a unique event for communities to come together in the safe, non-commercialized space that libraries offer. What better way to game than surrounded by others from your local community and the knowledge of the world?
But not everyone was in it just for the fun. The national videogame tournaments (Rock Band and Super Smash Bros. Brawl) were pretty competitive. “Chris is not our leader” from the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library won the Rock Band tournament, while connection problems ended the Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament at the quarterfinals stage. Winning library teams up to that point included Giles County Public Library (Pulaski, TN), Turtle Lake Public Library (Turtle Lake, WI), Detroit Public Library (Detroit, MI), Bondurant Community Library (Bondurant, IA), Madrid Public Library (Madrid, IA), Sanger Public Library(Sanger, TX), Garland County Library (Hot Springs, AR), Ann Arbor District Library (Ann Arbor, MI) and Bondurant Community Library (Bondurant, IA). The teams are already planning for next year’s competition!
National Gaming Day 2010 will take place on November 13, so save that date on your calendars now, and help us make the theme of next year’s event “triple!”
A sample of some of the great comments we received about NGD2009:
"It is usually very difficult to get boys into the library, but National Gaming Day changed that. On November 14th, there were boys waiting outside for the library to open! The boys all came for the Wii bowling tournament.”
"I have had teens waiting all year for this--we had that much fun last year! Some of the things I overheard this year: 'I didn't know the library was this cool!', 'Can we do this every month?', 'Do we have to leave?', 'I love my life!' "
"We had an 80 year old senior who comes to play Wii bowling with other seniors on Friday mornings. Some teens challenged her to a game of Wii bowling on National Gaming Day @ Your Library and she WON! The kids were amazed and thought it was great."
"We loved it! We're a small town, so… it was great seeing teens and younger kids playing with adults. I'm excited about a senior who came in and offered to teach bridge to teens."
"While Gaming Day was going on I didn't notice it, but when we looked at photos afterwards, we saw a table of people playing Bananagrams which included a senior citizen, a college student, several high school students, and an elementary school student. Where else would you find such a mix of ages interacting and having a fun time? In a family, of course, but none of these people were related...it was just a cross section of the community. Another table of kids playing Clue included three high school students, one middle schooler and three elementary school students...boys and girls, black and white and Mexican. We were all just having fun playing games, but it was rather heart-warming to see the diversity in the photos afterwards, especially in our very small rural town."
At the MLA Conference, Karen Trennepohl, chair of the Quilt Project Committee, presented The Heart of Maryland Libraries quilt. Margaret Carty, MLA Executive Director, conceived the idea of a state quilt almost 2½ years ago. Karen thanked the leadership of 18 county library systems, two college/university libraries, three county school systems, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Department of Library and Development Services, the Maryland Association of School Librarians and the MLA leadership for their support of the project.
Almost 130 individuals representing these libraries and organizations created 27 unique interpretations of the quilt’s title. Additionally, some of the individuals provided stories behind each square – how its design was chosen and what it represents, who completed the stitching of the square and who designed and completed the scrapbook page. Some squares were completed by local quilting groups and avid scrapbookers, both within the library staff and from the communities served. Surprisingly, some squares and scrapbook pages were created by individuals who created a square with no prior experience. When the quilt was appraised, the appraiser commented that she could tell that the quilt was completed by both inexperienced and experienced quilters, and was impressed with the care and deliberate decisions that were taken by all the quilters. She congratulated the group on their production of a beautiful quilt.
Karen also thanked Nancy Evans and Debra Wiggins, members of two quilting guilds from Howard County who provided their expertise during design and when quilt square instructions were written. Nancy Evans, from Faithful Circle Quilters, participated in the Conference program which explained the project. She also worked with Debra Wiggins (Locust Quilt and Craft) to design the quilt top, to stitch the squares together and to arrange for the title block to be completed by Geri Ford. Maria O’Haver machine quilted the entire piece, highlighting each square with unique quilting designs, and embellished the borders with additional hearts to bring the quilt’s theme onto the entire piece. Kim Hazlett also attended and worked with Cheryl Gordon to create the central quilt square, which pictures the historic Enoch Pratt Free Library building now used as MLA headquarters.
Susan Howes, Calvert Library, created the scrapbook, using the pages provided by participants. In some instances, she developed pages using information, photos and fabric scraps provided by the library. She assisted with the instructions for the scrapbook pages and Karen acknowledged her role in the historic telling of the quilt’s story.
The immediate future of the quilt includes visits to each of the participating libraries, the MACO conference in Ocean City and the Maryland State Fair in August. Karen has been asked to provide programs explaining the project at some libraries. A representative of the Delaware Council of Libraries approached Karen requesting assistance to duplicate the project in Delaware. In two years, the quilt will hang at MLA headquarters for all to see and remember Margaret’s vision – “one more example of the spirit of Maryland libraries and the people within their walls.”
Since my start at Indian Prairie in the role of Assistant Director, I have served as the liaison to the library’s Friends group. The Friends of the Indian Prairie Public Library has been in existence since the library formed in 1996. They meet the second Tuesday of each month at 1:30 p.m. and hold an annual meeting held on the second Tuesday in January, where election of officers takes place. To join their Friends they have a membership form (PDF) and dues which range from $5 for an individual to $100 for lifetime membership.
I have been regularly attending the monthly Friends meetings and assisting in their various fundraising projects since 2000. I have also served as treasurer and acting secretary. This past May, the president of the Friends, who had served for 13 years, decided to step down from her leadership role and pursue other interests. This left me to step up and serve as president. It has been an interesting addition to my job duties.
The Friends are an important part of the Indian Prairie Public Library. They not only raise money for the library, but they are also a great volunteer corps. They host concerts and programs, sort endless book donations, and lend a helping hand whenever needed. The Friends are our greatest advocates – they love the library and work hard because they want to. But most importantly, they tell friends, neighbors, community organizations, and family members all about the library!
As fundraisers, the Friends have several efforts that keep money coming in. There is an ongoing book sale in the library’s lobby, which the Friends sort and stock daily. This brings in approximately $1,000 a month. In addition, there is a larger Annual Book Sale which typically generates around $3,000. The Friends participate in Jewel Shop and Share Days, Buona Benefit Days, sell reusable “green” bags, and sell Entertainment Books every fall.
The Friends provide funding for many “ongoing” expenses such as incentives for summer reading programs, an annual motion picture license, refreshments for movie nights, Lyric Opera series, and holiday poinsettias to name a few. They have also purchased furnishing and equipment such as shelving and several generations of CD/DVD cleaning and repair machines.
We recently had our first-ever Friends Mixer to raise awareness about the Friends and get new members. It was simple, but effective. Several of our current Friends members set up a table with refreshments (provided by the members) in the lobby at the front doors and greeted people as they came in. We ran a “membership special” to those who signed up –a Friends bag with every membership. The mixer was a big hit – we ended up getting 25 new members! And better yet, since the mixer, new faces have appeared at our monthly Friends meetings.
Although the Friends have over 75 annual members, only a handful attend the meetings. Although we have tried meeting at different times of the day, the same dedicated 10 members attend every meeting.
One of my goals as president this year is to develop the Friends as a formal advocacy group. In short, my “vision” is to train the Friends to be library advocates; they would be “experts” on all the services and programs the library has to offer and they would represent the library at community events. With a strong group of advocates promoting the library, we may be able to reach out better to our patrons.
Indian Prairie Public Library is lucky to have such a dedicated group of Friends and we are truly grateful for their support, both personal and financial and otherwise.
Laura Birmingham is the Assistant Director at the Indian Prairie Public Library. She holds a Masters degree in Library Science from Dominican University, River Forest, IL, and a Bachelor’s in English Lit from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN. While her passion as a kid was to be a private detective when she grew up, she has worked in libraries her entire life. Prior to joining the Indian Prairie Public Library in 2000 she worked at the La Grange Park Public Library and at the DePaul University Law Library.
Student contest winner sets the theme for National Library Legislative Day.
Danny Chapman of Lake Forest, Ill., is the proud winner of this year's National Library Legislative Day Student Theme Contest.
The contest, which ran in late 2006, invited students from all over the country to submit ideas for the National Library Legislative Day theme and logo to be used on invitations, briefing materials and decorations. For his winning entry, "Check Out the Future," Chapman won a free trip to National Library Legislative Day, which takes place May 1, 2007, in Washington, D.C. He will be visiting Congress with a delegation from the Illinois Library Association. Chapman shares his thoughts for that day with ILoveLibraries.org:
Julie Andrews is the honorary chair of National Library Week 2008, April 13–19. Read, watch, listen to, or download National Library Week announcements starring the legendary actor.
"I am personally an avid user of my school and community public libraries. That's why I am so excited to help spread the message of how important libraries are to all of us, because education does not end with a diploma. Beyond that idea, however, was the message I had hoped to create for ALA members when they met with the members of Congress. There is a fundamental link between the free flow of ideas and information that libraries encourage and the principles that the flag represents. That is, those who signed the Declaration of Independence and created the Constitution of the United States?the living documents which the flag symbolizes?would likely have been unable to call upon the fundamental philosophies and doctrines had they not been able to read about them.
Similarly, the flag stands for the freedoms embodied in the First Amendment to the Constitution for people to have access to all ideas without interference from government. Without the First Amendment's right to petition the government, the ALA itself would not be assured of the right to have a National Library Legislative Day. Thus, without ideas found in books, there might not have been a country for the flag to symbolize. If there had been no flag, those who would attempt to stop the free flow of information would likely have blocked the ability of people to publish their ideas, leaving libraries unable to fulfill their historic mission."
A senior honors student at Lake Forest High School, Chapman was supported by both his art teacher and Young Adult librarian Kerry Flaherty.
Libraries in New Orleans and Gulf region continue their struggle to rebuild.
It's been 22 months since Hurricane Katrina, followed by Hurricane Rita two months later, devastated the Gulf Region. After the storms, libraries that were able to reopen did so as quickly as they could. Even with a staff of 19 (compared to the usual 216), the New Orleans Public Library was up and running as best it could right after the floodwaters receded.
And libraries across the country were first responders to the initial crisis, providing essential services to displaced Gulf residents, providing books and storytimes at shelters and extending hours to help locate loved ones through the Internet and finding resources for assistance and support.
So how are libraries in the region doing almost two years since hundreds of them across the region were destroyed or damaged? The Pascagoula Public Library in Mississippi officially reopened on April 16 with the theme "No Place Like Home", but most other libraries are still just beginning to rebuild.
Then - Eight of the 13 libraries of New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) were flooded.
Now - Five branch libraries are still closed and gutted awaiting funds to rebuild.
Then - 137 school libraries in Mississippi either suffered severe damage or were counted as a total loss.
Now - Rebuilding of the school libraries has just begun, with only a few projects underway. The estimated cost is more than $38 million.
Then - Southern University of New Orleans lost its entire collection of 100,000 books
Now - Operating as a virtual library in a doublewide trailer.
Libraries: An Essential Service
Libraries are an ‘essential’ community service, but according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) they are not, so even though FEMA has been slowly providing reimbursements to many libraries, major assistance efforts have come from nongovernmental efforts to provide funds, temporary libraries and resources.
Led by the American Library Association (ALA), and its state and regional chapters, the library community quickly began raising funds to help their sister locations in the Gulf. Library staff and library users who love libraries have generously contributed more than $500,000 to fundraising efforts so far. In addition, more than 300 libraries have adopted sister libraries in the Gulf.
In addition to financial support, 1,000 conference goers at the ALA Conference in New Orleans in June 2006 volunteered- helping to clean and refurbish libraries, houses, and assist with other community building projects.
A number of organizations and foundations have provided temporary libraries for public libraries in the region.Thanks to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation http://www.gatesfoundation.org/default.htm the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET) http://www.solinet.net/ are now setting up temporary libraries in 17 communities such as Waveland and Biloxi Mississippi, and in St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans in Louisiana.All these libraries should be up and running by July 31.
The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries http://www.laurabushfoundation.org/ has focused on helping school libraries and so far has distributed over $2.5 million to 54 school libraries in the region.
Much more help, however, is still needed over the upcoming years as the Gulf communities rebuild their libraries.
How Can I Help?
So much more is needed for libraries in New Orleans and the Gulf region. At the moment, financial assistance is needed most. Please consider donating.