“Resilience” or “resiliency” incorporates preparations for and rapid recovery from physical, social, and economic disruptions, including environmental disasters, terrorist attacks, or economic collapse. [1]

How It’s Developing

Discussion of resilience has increased in the wake of several recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Sandy (2012). While these natural disasters have advanced the discussion, resilience is broadly applied as a strategy to help address climate change, natural disasters, and even terrorism.
Following Hurricane Sandy, government officials at the federal, state, and local levels began thinking about changes that might prevent a repetition of the widespread devastation Sandy had caused. [2] A 2012 report from the National Academies asserted “Developing a culture of resilience would bolster support for preparedness and response, and would also enable better anticipation of disasters and their consequences, enhancing the ability to recover more quickly and strongly. Resilient communities would plan and build in ways that would reduce disaster losses, rather than waiting for a disaster to occur and paying for it afterward.” [3]
In 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation began working with thirty-two cities as the first cohort of a 100 Resilient Cities Initiative. According to the Foundation, resilience is “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience." [4] The initiative provides participating cities with the resources to develop a roadmap to resilience, including the establishment of a chief resilience officer; strategy development; access to private, public and NGO partners that can help develop solutions and partnerships; and membership in a network of like-minded cities. [5] Some of the indicators of resilient communities include access to public and mass transit, incorporating innovation inspired by nature (biomimicry), communication via mesh networks, community-supported agriculture, and more. [6]

Why It Matters

As city, state, and federal governments adopt resiliency as a strategy for addressing potential disasters, libraries may need to align their facilities, services, and programs to demonstrate a resilient strategy. Additionally, libraries may find themselves competing for funding with resilient programs or initiatives, especially in an increasingly limited pool of government spending. [7]
Resilience requires community involvement, such as encouraging individuals to make decisions that help prepare for and prevent the impact of disasters, providing resources and information to help them make informed decisions, and offering programs and services that allow individuals to respond to issues as they arise. [8] Libraries and information professionals may be ideal partners or providers in helping individuals adopt resilient practices in their communities.
Resilience may also align with library values of equity and access. Truly resilient communities would embrace distributed renewable energy, support diversified local agriculture, and foster social equity and inclusion – all ensuring that communities can adapt to disruptions and avoid situations where the greatest impacts are felt by the most vulnerable members of the community. [9]

Examples from Libraries

New York Library Association - Sustainability Initiative

Is you library supporting new resilience initiatives? Please let us know.

Notes and Resources

[1] “Facing Climate Change, Cities Embrace Resiliency,” Daniel C. Vock, Governing, September 2014, available from

[2] “Facing Climate Change, Cities Embrace Resiliency,” Daniel C. Vock, Governing, September 2014, available from

[3] Disaster Resilience – A National Imperative (Summary), National Academies, (Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2012), available from

[4] “The Critical Ingredients of Community Resiliency,” Robert J. O’Neill Jr, Governing, December 3, 2014, available from

[5] “About Us,” 100 Resilient Cities, updated 2018, available from

[6] “Do You Live in a Resilient City,” Lizzy Chan, 100 Resilient Cities (blog), 100 Resilient Cities, October 1, 2014, available from

[7] “New Jersey Makes Energy Resiliency a Top Priority,” Elizabeth Daigneau, Governing, September 2014, available from

[8] “Can we climate-proof cities? Six of the best conclusions from SXSW Eco 2014,” Francesca Perry, The Guardian, October 10, 2014, available from

[9] "Is 'Resilience' the New Sustainababble?" Laurie Mazur and Denise Fairchild, Grist, January 14, 2015, available from