None of us need a reminder that this year’s hurricane season has been historic and, for many of our friends in Texas, Florida, and the US Virgin Islands, life-changing. And with even more hurricanes moving closer to Puerto Rico and the other Leeward Islands, it doesn’t look like life is going to be getting easier for many of those good people anytime soon.
But even as we in Massachusetts prepare for what is now Tropical Storm Jose, and send all our good wishes to our friends in the CLAMS Library Network, it’s really important that we don’t forget the clean-up and rebuilding efforts that all those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are undertaking. Because they will be taking years.
So, having said that, here are some updates from the wonderful people at the Texas Library Association and the Florida Library Associations, with some additions ways you can help!
Our first update comes from the American Library Association’s #LibrariesRespond page, that not only advocates for disaster preparedness, but also offers a number of resources for helping Florida’s and Texas’ Libraries:
Florida Libraries Disaster Relief Fund
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Library Association is working with the State Library of Florida to coordinate a response to damage caused to libraries across the state. We have already begun receiving requests to help. Anyone wishing to assist Florida libraries with their recovery efforts is urged to donate to the Florida Libraries Disaster Relief Fund. Donations can be open to assisting any library affected by the storm, or can be directed to assist a specific library in need. We will update our website frequently as we learn details about specific libraries and their needs.
There is also the inspiring “Rebuilding Florida Library” page on the Florida Library Association page, that is being consistently updated with needs and offers of help from libraries across the country. Donations are being accepted through any of the links posted here.
Secondly, American Libraries Magazine has posted an update on the rebuilding efforts in Texas. This article features some of the horrible circumstances that Houston’s Libraries faced, but also their incredible resiliency and determination to reopen as quickly as possible:
Nineteen of the 26 branches of the Harris County Public Library reopened on September 1 for emergency relief purposes only—for residents to fill out FEMA forms, use computers or internet, charge cellphones, or make use of a quiet, air-conditioned spot. Four branches are closed until further notice: Baldwin Boettcher, Barbara Bush, Katherine Tyra @ Bear Creek, and Kingwood. The library opened a pop-up library at the NRG Stadium to give evacuees some diversion with books for all ages, storytimes for kids, a 3D printer for informal edutainment, and a bank of laptops with internet access.
For those looking to help, the Texas Library Association (TLA) and Texas State Library and Archives Commission are working together to assist damaged libraries across the Gulf Coast region. TLA has a disaster relief fund that is actively seeking contributions. Hundreds of individuals and companies have donated to the fund, and offers of books, furniture, volunteer assistance, computers, and preservation services are coming in regularly to TLA. The two organizations have also set up the Texas Library Recovery Connection, an online sharing system to bring together assisting organizations with libraries needing help.
The thing that consistently surprises me about these sites is the Google Spreadsheets. On these documents, libraries post their needs, from computers to bookcases, from books to supplies. And other people/groups/institutions can (and do) respond. For all the complications and trouble that the Internet has brought into our lives, there is something genuinely awe-inspiring about the way that it can also bring people together and accomplish lasting good. So feel free to check out these sites, contribute in whatever way you can, and appreciate the good that our species is capable of doing.