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Nacogdoches Public Library’s Emergency Management Role

2009 October 19

servicesinnach In the aftermath of disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Nacogdoches Public Library found new service roles and the community may have rediscovered the vital role of their public library!  

Mercedes Franks, the Assistant Director at Nacogdoches Public Library, recently spoke on a panel called The Role of Libraries in Meeting Community Needs at the Opportunity Online Broadband Summit in San Antonio.  She highlighted their experiences during the hurricanes that plunged them headlong into the role of emergency management hub for the community.  The library housed people, they provided computer access, they helped fill out FEMA forms, they stood right alongside other first responder agencies in Nacogdoches and proved that they too could provide in good times and in bad.

Many of the audience members at the Summit were also especially intrigued with the social services outreach role the library now plays within the community as a result of the disasters.  Though the library was an informal resource for the various services and agencies within the community through reference interactions in the past, the community as a whole began to look to them more for referrals after the disasters.  NPL stepped up to partner with and categorize government services, non-profit offerings and other referral information on a website called the Nacogdoches Community Services Guide.  Mercedes explained that organizations with services to offer were identified, given a standard profile sheet to fill out and then their information was placed on the new site for easy community access.   The contact information for each organization is updated annually by library staff.   She also pointed out that their service guide is the type of information that is very doable for most libraries to provide – and necessary in all communities.

NPL developed this guide with the help of a Texas State Library & Archives Commission Texas Responds Grant.  The library also purchased laptops with the grant funds so that in times of crisis, they could be better prepared.  The laptops allow for quick internet access for community members to fill out government forms and connect with families when other means of communication are down.

The theme for Mercedes’ presentation resounded with Summit participants – the library needs to step up and take on new roles – even in the face of disaster.

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