Disaster relief at the library

Queens lib. Hurricane Sandy
Volunteers at the Queens Library hand out coats to people affected by Hurricane Sandy.

On Monday’s NPR Morning Edition continuing series on the public library in the U.S. today, Joel Rose reported on the crucial role a local public library takes during and after a disaster. From the simple (allowing people to clean up in the restrooms, charging cell phones, canceling fines for overdues and lost books) to the complex (helping folks register with FEMA, setting up free financial aid seminars, letting the Red Cross use space as a gathering center), libraries step up to help their communities in ways beyond their usual roles. And, according to library staffer Kathleen McKenzie at the tiny South Beach library branch in Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy, “they’d stop and speak for hours to us. Just pour their hearts out,” she says. “So what we did was offer what the library offered and that was to not charge any fees or fines and excuse anything that was lost in Hurricane Sandy. But we also asked if we could do anything on a personal level.”

Barbara L.

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