CHICAGO — The American Library Association (ALA) Council has passed a resolution recognizing the role of libraries and librarians in providing relief during recent disasters.
The resolution, passed at the ALA Annual Conference, held June 27 – July 2 in Chicago, acknowledges that many libraries across the country have provided library and emergency services in disasters including storms, fires, earthquakes and floods and applauds those actions;
It also recognizes the significant contributions of libraries and library staff who have provided effective emergency response/recovery services, and responded to the needs of their communities following hurricanes Irene and Sandy in ways that go above and beyond the regular call of duty.
The resolution provides that a letter acknowledging the work and contributions of libraries and library staff will be sent to the State Chapters in the affected states to be passed on to the appropriate parties. Such a letter will be sent whenever libraries lead community recovery.
Libraries provide critical information for their communities throughout the year; They serve as community centers, providing access to technology and print resources, as well as welcoming residents and visitors for educational, informational and leisure pursuits;
When Superstorm Sandy arrived in the Northeast in October 2012 and Hurricane Irene in 2011, communities were severely affected, experiencing severe flooding, destruction of property and long-term disruption of Internet access and electrical power. Many residents of these areas were isolated without access to electrical power, Internet access, heat or important information about storm relief and recovery efforts.
During those events, many libraries, even if in areas affected by the storm, were able to serve as gathering centers for their community, providing information, a warm location, a place to recharge cell phones and access to Wi-Fi and Internet. In addition, these libraries increased their efforts to serve their communities by extending hours, increasing staff presence, scheduling special programs, providing resources to shelters and even by simply adding multiple power strips for recharging purposes.
Library support staff such as maintenance and custodial workers also responded to the needs of their community in an emergency situation, by ensuring that generators had fuel, ensuring safety in buildings that were affected, and working overtime to ensure that facilities could be opened as soon as possible after the storms.
These libraries clearly demonstrated that a library serves as the center of the community and can go beyond traditional roles to meet the immediate needs of the residents of a community.