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.
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.
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.
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.