Offline in New Orleans (and It's a Good Thing!)

By Teresa Koltzenburg | Jeff Bostick, Children's Resource Center, New Orleans Public Library
    For the city in general, this is a big weekend for us, because ALA is our first major convention we're hosting since the storm. We've had little groups come in, but this is an 18,000 to 20,000 city-wide convention. We're receiving so much goodwill, and it couldn't be a better group than the librarians. The library has been the beneficiary of a lot of goodwill from a lot of libraries from around the country, and this is just another example of that. We're very grateful.—Jeff Bostick, Children's Resource Center, New Orleans Public Library (NOPL)

Volunteer Librarians at WorkThese days many librarians, especially library technologists, may find themselves struggling with staying offlline (and with free wifi at conference, it's likely even more difficult). Taking a time out from your aggregator, not to mention e-mail, can easily mean a following day's worth of blog reading and e-mail catch-up. But, sometimes, going offline, taking a break from the technology, to take care of yourself or to contribute to a good cause, may be the recharge you need.

Hundreds of librarians and library workers have decided to do just that—spend at least a part of a day offline—all to help their fellow librarians and library workers in storm-ravaged New Orleans. According to ALA's count, more than 900 individuals signed up for the two-day volunteer part of the American Library Association's community-service project, "Librarians Build Communities," an ALA/NOPL project (PDF) striving to help rebuild libraries in communities impacted by last summer's devastating events in New Orleans and on the Gulf Coast.

Held in conjunction with ALA's Annual Conference in New Orleans (this past weekend through this coming Wednesday), the community-service volunteer effort kicked off the first part of the two-day volunteer opportunity on Friday; the second librarian-volunteer work day is set for this Tuesday. Projects include work on various New Orleans Public Library branches and with community-service groups such as Habitat for Humanity and the United Way.

Rolling with it...One of the sites that volunteers tackled on Friday was the Children's Resource Center, a New Orleans Public Library branch, located at 913 Napolean Ave., which is undergoing an "extreme makeover" before its re-opening this Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. "It's a Carnegie Library and was dedicated recently as a children's library," says Jeff Bostick from NOPL. "We do keep a small adult collection. After the storm, actually, we rescued a lot of DVDs and movies from the flooded branches, and we distributed them among the branches that were able to open. So we've been able to add movies and DVDs to the collection here, but it's mostly a children's library."

Leslie Helping out a Volunteer Librarian According to Bostick, the Children's Resource Center wasn't inundated with the water that submerged parts of the area when the levees failed, but the branch did receive extensive wind damage and lost a significant portion of its collection. Highsmith, a Wisconsin-based distributor of library supplies, furniture, and equipment, is designing, providing materials, and coordinating installation of the project.

In addition to its the new design, paint, furniture, and materials, the Children's Resource Center NOPL branch will also be adorned with creative touches, including a mural by award-winning children's book illustrator Susan Guevara, who will paint a mural based on her book Chato and the Party Animals, as well as get a "live-oak" metal sculpture by renowned artists. According to NOPL, "The renovation will increase the collection up to thirty-three percent, increase the young-adult area, improve the flow of the building, and brighten the interior."

See more photos from "Librarian's Build Communities" at ALA TechSource's Flickr spot.

Technorati tags: ,