Recognize that needs will change

In the weeks, months and years that follow a disaster, your community will move through several phases. Over time, residents will return to affected areas; homeowners and businesses will rebuild.

Community needs have evolved since 2017, when the Tubbs Fire decimated Santa Rosa's Coffey Park neighborhood.

Those who visit your community for the first time may be unaware that a disaster ever took place, save for a few properties that have been razed to the ground or charred trees that grow less noticeable with each passing spring.


According to several NLS leaders, libraries must be mindful that even as the community appears to heal, needs will persist below the surface. Disasters frequently highlight and exacerbate existing inequalities.


The library can be an advocate for a more equitable recovery effort – ensuring that the needs of diverse residents are addressed – and that the resulting “recovered” community is more just, prepared and resilient.


The pace of recovery

Given the devastating nature of the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons, communities in Sonoma, Butte and Shasta counties have not yet recovered. In Santa Rosa, which lost multiple neighborhoods, and in Butte County, where the town of Paradise suffered widespread destruction, recovery is ongoing.


Despite “help and generosity of spirit…my communities have not recovered,” said one library staff member. “That will take years.”


Revisiting disaster plans

In addition to continuing to support community recovery, also take time to revisit the library’s disaster response plan. Update the plan, based on what has been learned, reflecting changes in the community landscape and new partnerships that may have emerged. Consider what library staff would like to do differently during future disasters. Encourage conversations about community resiliency while memories are fresh.


To support recovery over time, libraries can:

  • Plan for how the library can support recovery in the short, medium and long-term

  • Continue to help patrons in need, as the broader community “returns to normal”

  • Ensure that recovery resources and information on local sources of support are easily available, requiring minimal patron effort.

  • Consider creating standing disaster recovery collections that patrons can access at any time.

  • Stay connected with local agencies and community groups that will provide long-term assistance

Tools & Resources

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This project was supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian.

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