Reopen Library Facilities

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 Paradis 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

Additional Reading

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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