DATE: June 21, 2011
Southbridge Library Opens as Disaster Recovery Center
Federal and state officials have opened the Jacob Edwards Library in Southbridge as a disaster recovery center (DRC) after tornadoes devastated communities in western Massachusetts on June 1. The library is one of nine area DRCs where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Massachusetts Emergency Management (MEMA), the Small Business Administration and other recovery agencies meet residents and provide face-to-face assistance with insurance, health care, unemployment and crisis counseling. The centers also offer information on historic preservation for cultural institutions.
“Library staff is pleased to be able to assist the community to provide this relief service within the library, to those affected by the devastation of the tornadoes of June 1st.” said Library Director Margaret Morrissey. “Little did we think last summer when we responded ‘yes’ to the request to be surveyed by MEMA as a future DRC that it would come to pass! The library continues to provide regular library services as well. “Even though this was the week for launching the Summer Reading Program in addition to our regular program schedule, it all worked out without any problems; proving that libraries are adaptable and sustainable. “
This marks the second time in as many years that libraries have opened as DRCs. In the spring of 2010 when record flooding inundated the state, Lakeville Public Library, Billerica Public Library, Flint Public Library in Middleton, Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster and Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy opened as Emergency Management DRCs. Most residents know where their library is located and are used to turning to the library for information and resources. “Having the library as the local place for residents to obtain assistance with the recovery process could not have been better,” said Lakeville Public Library Director Olivia Melo. The DRC at Lakeville Public Library stayed open to offer assistance from March until June.
The libraries are part of an ongoing project between the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC), FEMA, and MEMA. Through the project, over 200 libraries have been surveyed as Disaster Recovery Centers. Several states have shown interest in adapting the Massachusetts model to their own communities.
“Prior to the project when a disaster struck it often took many days to locate a building that could be used as a DRC. Now we know the buildings and we know the resources we have to work with. Librarians have been trained and the work of recovery can begin as soon as possible,” said Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, MBLC Preservation Specialist who coordinates the project with MEMA and FEMA.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.