Community Resilience and Public Libraries: Post Crisis Information and Connectivity

  • Veil, Shari (PI)
  • Bishop, Bradley (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


There are more public libraries in the United States than there are McDonalds —a total of 16,604 including branches.1 Due to their ubiquity across urban and rural communities, US public libraries provide services and critical resources, including broadband connectivity and highly skilled labor that serve as valuable assets in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. In results from the 2010–2011 Public Library Funding and Technology Access Survey (PLFTAS), 64.5 percent of public libraries reported being the only provider of free public access to computers and the Internet in their communities and 80.7 percent of libraries reported they provide assistance to patrons applying for or accessing e-government services.3 Public libraries role as Internet provider is heightened in times of emergencies, in which communities rely on the public library Internet access to request aid, try to find missing family and friends, file Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and insurance claims, and begin rebuilding their lives.2-9 The dedication of librarians in emergency response is exemplified in this quote from Pam Klipsch, Jefferson County (Mo.) Public Library Director, describing the situation in Joplin posted to several Missouri discussion lists the day after their 2011 tornado, "We heard from the director of Joplin Public Library this morning. There are more storms today, but the library is attempting to open, with limited staff. Six, possibly seven staff members have lost their homes, one has a broken arm, and they are still trying to contact several more".4 Despite the evidence that supports public libraries are critical agents in disaster response, the relationship between public libraries and post crisis communication and recovery remains unexplored, especially in smaller rural communities. This study proposes to address this gap in the literature through interviews with librarians and library users in locations impacted by recent tornadoes in Kentucky and Indiana. This study seeks to identify and describe the services and activities public libraries conducted related to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery during the recent tornadic events. The results of this exploratory study will be used to develop questions for a national survey on the role of public libraries in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.
Effective start/end date6/1/128/31/12


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