Following a disaster, community members need help from sources they trust.
Patrons may come to the library for information on a wide range of recovery-related topics, including local resources, financial assistance, and insurance claims. They may need help navigating complex applications and may spend more time than usual at computer workstations.
Following the 2018 Camp Fire, which left nearly 30,000 residents homeless, the Butte County Library took immediate action.
“As a library staff we became a part of the front line of recovery,” said Kathy Brazil, library assistant at the Chico branch. “As resources became available, it was very helpful to print out the materials as handouts.”
The library also created dedicated recovery workstations and dedicated space for materials: “A table with resource print outs, extra phone books (that we requested), maps, blank notepads, pens and a power charging strip stayed up for quite a few months,” said Brazil. “The library itself offered refuge and peace for Camp Fire survivors.”
In the weeks and months that followed the fire, the library continued to provide support by hosting workshops and guest speakers. They helped connect patrons in need with local nonprofits and to assist those who were applying for federal aid.
Library staff also coordinated with vendors and the county to offer free printing of all forms, much to the delight of residents.
“People were amazed that they could do free copying,” said Brenda Crotts, retired Paradise branch librarian. “Some of the federal paperwork requires a lot of documentation, so it was a big help.”
To help connect patrons with resources and support during the recovery phase:
Offer printed and digital copies of resources to meet the needs of those who may be without internet service; set up a “recovery resource table” where patrons can go for information
Connect patrons with local recovery centers and nonprofit groups that can help
Consider the needs of non-English speakers; offer assistance from bilingual staff or volunteers; provide resources that are bilingual or written in a patrons’ native language, when possible
Create dedicated “recovery workstations” where patrons can fill out online applications, print forms or make copies; provide a space for patrons to charge their cell phones or laptops
Promote local, state and federal disaster recovery resources, including grants from federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration (SBA)
Tools & Resources
The State of California’s Wildfire Power Outage and Fire Response resource page offers links to a wide range of supports, including housing and good assistance.
Morrison and Foerster Law Firm’s California Wildfires Helping Handbook was cited by many library staff members as particularly helpful for patrons. While the guide was written to assist residents following wildfires in 2018, it includes links, toll-free numbers and guidance that apply to any disaster.