Once the immediate threat from a disaster has abated, reopening can begin.
Depending on the type of disaster, libraries may need to contend with water, smoke or structural damage, downed trees or powerlines, and power outages.
Library leaders may need to coordinate with city or county officials, as well as facilities, building and maintenance staff to ensure that buildings are safe for reopening. If books or materials have been damaged, libraries may also need to work with a qualified salvage expert and invest significant staff time in work “behind the scenes” reorganizing collections.
Following the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County, it took months of dedicated work from staff members and significant coordination with county officials before the Paradise branch could reopen.
“We had to individually wipe down more than 40,000 books,” said Brenda Crotts, retired Paradise branch librarian. “Dead trees and plants outside had to be removed. Inventory and scanning had to happen, then shelving.”
In the case of a major fire or flood, libraries should also anticipate multiple rounds of inspections, which can delay reopening, said Crotts.
After hours of staff and volunteer time were put into reopening, nearly 200 community members visited the Paradise branch on the library’s first day back.
Patrons were excited to visit with staff and share their gratitude, said Crotts. “It was a very emotional day. People just wanted to come in, sit down and feel their library. They were so happy to see us open.”
According to NLS library leaders, when preparing to reopen, libraries should:
Work closely with city and county officials to ensure a safe reopening
Develop checklists and a plan to guide reopening efforts
Reach out to highly engaged patrons and groups that meet regularly at the library to talk about how they can support reopening
Provide the community with regular updates about reopening plans
If library facilities will be closed for an extended period, let patrons know how they can continue to access library services online or at alternate locations
Tools & Resources
New Jersey State Library’s resources for salvaging library materials
COVID-19 ALA Reopening Resources: This comprehensive collection includes guidance from federal agencies, state reopening plans, webinars and a simple checklist of things to consider when planning to reopen
Reopening communication guidance from EBSCO’s NoveList