TSLAC and TLA Efforts to Assist Storm-Damaged Libraries
Nearly two weeks ago Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast then proceeded to bring record rainfalls and flooding to the Houston area and all of Southeast Texas. We know that there are a number of public, school and academic libraries that were badly damaged, including the Port Aransas Public Library, Port Aransas ISD libraries, the Bridge City Public Library, The Lone Star College Kingwood Library, ten branches of the Houston Public Library, multiple branches of the Harris County Library and many others.
Over these two weeks, staffs of the Texas Library Association and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission have continued to seek ways to assist with the efforts. We have been in steady contact and posting regular updates to our respective social media and websites.
Here are a few projects that we have been working on:
- TLA has launched the Texas Library Recovery Connection, with an interactive site where libraries can note any assistance needed and where organizations offering assistance can add their offer. Libraries are urged to add their information to that list.
- TSLAC and TLA have established contact with Lori Foley of FEMA regarding needs of libraries in Texas. Lori is the administrator of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force and is responsible for recovery of cultural heritage institutions. She was generous to allow her name and contact to be published here. To get started recovering your collections and buildings, start with Ms. Foley:
- Lori Foley
Administrator, Heritage Emergency National Task Force
Office of Environmental Planning & Historic Preservation
Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration
FEMA | DHS
Mobile number: 202-826-6303
- Lori Foley
- We are referring cultural institutions, including libraries and archives to this 24/7 hotline number: 202.661.8068 for the National Heritage Responders, a team of trained conservators and collections care professionals, are available 24/7 to provide advice to cultural stewards.
- TSLAC has announced that it will make small disaster relief grants available to libraries in the disaster area. Application for those grants, called “Rebuilding Texas Libraries,” opens September 18. Libraries can apply for $5,000 per library or up to $25,000 for multi-branch libraries to help with replacing materials, furniture, equipment, or contractual services to assist in recovery and emergency services.
- We have been collecting and publishing information on various websites providing information on recovery. The following resources are examples of resources available to assist individuals in recovering personal archival treasures:
- The FEMA fact sheet Salvaging Water-Damaged Family Valuables and Heirlooms offers tips and resources on salvaging different types of objects, from photos to fabric to furniture, and more.
- The FEMA fact sheet After the Flood: Advice for Salvaging Damaged Family Treasures offers tips and resources for individuals and institutions.
- Versions are also available in Spanish and Vietnamese.
- For at-your-fingertips salvage advice, download the free ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage app from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation.
The libraries of Texas are extremely resilient. We have had amazing stories of heroic service to their communities. Many opened almost immediately or just a few days after the storm, even as their staffs struggled with personal loss and difficulty. We are incredibly fortunate to work in a profession of such extremely dedicated individuals. Libraries are never more needed than in times of crisis and it is in times of crisis that we demonstrate why we are considered essential services.
Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Lawson wrote to us earlier this week to report on the status of damage to her libraries. Dr. Lawson made the following wonderful observation:
“As you know, for so many people libraries are a vital lifeline. We recognize that during catastrophic times libraries are even more essential as people need a trusted familiar anchor and touchstone in the community to remind them that everything will be all right again. But most all – our mission right now is to restore the joy in the eyes of children and adults who have seen so much destruction, and experienced so much fear and uncertainty.”
TSLAC will continue to work with TLA to find ways to assist libraries as they struggle with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
TSLAC/TLA Joint Statement on Hurricane Harvey
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and the Texas Library Association are working together to coordinate a response to damage caused to libraries and archives across the Houston and gulf coast region. We share a deep concern for the condition of facilities and collections, and for the wellbeing of staffs of libraries and archives in the area. We are also very appreciative of the many offers of help that are coming in from across the state and nation.
The following is a report regarding the current status of our coordinated efforts.
Assessing the damage – It is very early yet in terms of knowing how much damage there has been to Texas public, school, academic, and special libraries and archival collections. We have isolated reports of damage but nothing comprehensive and especially in some areas it will be difficult for library and archives officials to assess the damages soon. We are reaching out to the library and archives community for information on damage. In the meantime, we recommend use of available channels such as TLA electronic discussion lists (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com) and social media to report damage. TLA and TSLAC will be monitoring those lists and keeping track of reported damage.
Financial assistance for recovery – TLA has its Disaster Relief Fund available and TSLAC is considering how it can make resources available as well. As damage is assessed, we will provide more information on the availability of these resources. All persons wishing to help financially are encouraged to donate online to the TLA Disaster Relief Fund. https://squareup.com/store/txla/
Offers of books and other resources – It is too early to know the extent of damages to collections. Offers to send books and other materials are very generous, but there is no place to send materials at this time and no assessment of needs. We ask that those with materials to send refrain from doing so until we can further assess the situation and the needs of individual locations.
Coordination with other agencies – TSLAC and TLA will be reaching out to other organizations to determine what resources are available to assist with the recovery. We are contacting public agencies and non-profit organizations who may be willing to help. If you are aware of a non-profit or public agency that you believe would be willing to assist, please let us know and we will reach out to them.
Volunteering – We are considering options for coordinating volunteers who may wish to go to the area and assist libraries. We hope to provide a way to match library needs with persons who wish to volunteer.
We look forward to exploring these areas of assistance. As more information is available, we will provide regular updates via TLA list serves and social media. Please stay tuned for developments and information on how you can help.
And please join us in sending your most positive wishes and thoughts to our friends and colleagues at this very challenging time.
Texas Library Association
Director and Librarian
Texas State Library and Archives Commission