Severe weather is wreaking havoc on our neighbors to the south, especially the state of Alabama where more than 200 people were killed last week and many more remain missing. Throughout the states of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi, lives were lost and entire neighborhoods destroyed in a matter of minutes. Today, Memphis braces for another natural disaster–rising flood waters. The Mississippi River is overflowing its banks to inundate the city.
At least six libraries in Alabama were heavily damaged and three are considered a total loss. There are still 12 libraries in significantly hit areas which have not yet been accessible, according to an article in the Library Journal. Many of the staff of these libraries lost their homes.
While we recover from our own devastation at home, we are reminded on a nearly daily basis that there are others among us who suffer. Our Library was destroyed in 2008 and since then has fought to make a policy change so that FEMA would recognize libraries as the essential community organizations they really are. In January of 2011, FEMA made that policy change. Now libraries are elligible for temporary relocation assistance from FEMA. This means libraries such as those heavily damaged last week will be able to set up a temporary location as quickly as possible with Federal assistance.
We know from experience that when disaster strikes and a community is left without power or so many have lost their homes and belongings, the public library becomes a place of refuge. The library also becomes a place where people go to get information they desperately need, especially when more and more government applications and forms are only found online.
We send our heartfelt thoughts to those affected by these terrible storms.