Role of the School Library during Critical Times

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Texas National Guard soldiers assist residents affected by flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Aug. 27, 2017. National Guard photo by Lt. Zachary West

As Texas and Louisiana begin the long recovery process from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, schools and libraries will also be faced with recovering a sense of normalcy. Christie Kaaland’s article, “The School Library’s Role during Critical Times” details specific action steps librarians and educators can take before and after such traumatic events as a natural disaster.

Information and Communication Specialist

Kaaland notes that, as information specialists, librarians can be tasked with knowing the resources that can aid in disaster response. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of web sites below to help you get started.

Emergency Disaster Information Links

American Red Cross—Provides a tool to find open shelters during an emergency; shares tips on how to locate missing family members and provides a place to list yourself as safe; provides guides for after-disaster recovery.

FEMA Disaster Assistance—Has a tool to find local resources to help, (found by entering your address). FEMA also has a special page devoted to resources for Hurricane Harvey.

Disaster Information Management Research Center—This site from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services provides specific information and resources for many types of disasters, including weather and storms, earthquakes, disease, and bioterrorism.

Preservation Emergency Management—Library of Congress provides information on how to protect collections and heirlooms during flooding or other natural disasters.

USA.Gov–Natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey often bring out the best in people, from emergency responders risking their lives to save and help those in need to volunteers from all walks of life who want to help by donating their time and resources to victims of the disaster. Unfortunately, there are also individuals who take advantage of such situations by soliciting funds that do not benefit the victims. This site gives an excellent list of things to check and actions to take before you donate to any charity, including how to research the charity and charity scams, as well as information on  tax donation information.

National Hurricane Center—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides advisories and information about current and oncoming hurricanes and cyclones, as well as data tracking tools and educational resources.

Post Disaster Long Term Relief

Kaaland’s article concludes with  tips on what to do after a disaster has occurred:

“Post-crisis, librarians may need to actively reach out to both the students and staff and offer the library as a safe haven on a long-term basis. This role is in addition to the familiar role of information access and reading advocacy. Depending upon the event, normal procedures and school policy may need to be set aside as recovery efforts take precedence.

Whether it is a furniture rearrangement in a corner of the library officially labeled “Safe Haven” or some other change in venue or procedure, spend a bit of time “advertising” the library’s role in healing. Go into classrooms and announce this along with additional roles of recovery in which the library will engage.

Teachers too may need that place of refuge. Consider invitations to staff as part of the post-disaster outreach. Perhaps provide an after-school event such as an educators’ book club or healing club where the librarian shares suggested book talks of titles recommended for reading to students post-disaster; this can be a healing event as well as a valuable resource for teachers (Kaaland 2014).

When schools are struck by disaster, everyone needs help; making the library the center of recovery can provide a welcome safe haven at a school’s most vulnerable and critical time.”

Christie Kaaland is the author of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery in School Libraries

To read and download the entire article, The School Library’s Role During Critical Times by Christie Kaaland, published in the February 2015 issue of School Library Monthly, click here.  SLC subscribers can access the article in their database subscription by clicking here

Know any other sites to help prepare for or provide assistance in the aftermath of natural disasters? Please share in the comments below.

Join the Discussion

6 thoughts on “Role of the School Library during Critical Times”

  1. Sylvia Vardell
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    As a Texan (safe in Dallas), I feel more my fellow Texans in the Houston area. But I’m so proud of how people have joined together to help one another. Check out the Texas Library Association Disaster Relief campaign that is also there to help (and accepts donations). And online, the KidLit Cares community has also done amazing things to help schools and libraries hit hard by Harvey.

  2. Deb Logan
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    As schools and individuals from across the nation begin to think about how they can help, I would love to hear ideas on how others are working to help and not further burden the schools impacted by our recent weather situations. My school and our state association are in the brainstorming phases on how to help. What are some some positive ideas?