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Katrina Relief and Outreach Developments
by
Posted On September 12, 2005
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has brought an outpouring of donations and volunteerism from across the United States. Many companies have sent generous monetary contributions and have urged their employees to contribute as well. Below is a roundup of relief and outreach responses from library groups and information industry organizations.

Libraries

Roberta Stevens, outreach projects and partnerships officer for the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov) and project manager for the National Book Festival, has been working closely with First Book (http://www.firstbook.org), a nonprofit organization that is teaming with major publishers to collect books for the hurricane victims in shelters and for school systems and libraries affected by the storm. In an e-mail, Stevens stated:

At the National Book Festival [Sept. 24 in Washington, D.C.], [First Book] will be in the Pavilion of the States and located adjacent to the state tables for Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Funds will be collected to cover the shipment of the books to the locations where the need exists in those states. They have a big campaign underway with Amazon.com, which is matching one million dollars raised with another million. By the way, the books will not be only for children … books for all ages are being included.

Our preservation staff [has] a number of activities underway. One of the first things they did was update the Library's Web site to include a link to Hurricane Katrina with information for libraries, archives, museums, and the general public on the recovery of water-damaged materials [http://www.loc.gov/preserv/pubsemer.html]. They are in the midst of checking their inventory of preservation-related supplies and working out a strategy for distributing surplus items. They have expert staff [members] who can assist or consult with libraries on the recovery of collections and are working through the details on training in disaster recovery techniques for collections, including flash drying wet materials. Their efforts are in coordination with the IFLA Preservation and Conservation North American Network and the Heritage Preservation Foundation/FEMA Emergency Management Task Force.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has compiled a list of links (http://www.imls.gov/whatsnew/current/katrina.htm) to first reports on museum- and library- related damage and recovery information. The institute has also extended its "upcoming grant deadline to enable museums in the affected area to take advantage of funding opportunities to care for their collections."

The State Library of Louisiana has compiled a list of links (http://www.state.lib.la.us/links) that includes information on how to help libraries in the state as well as info that is helpful to survivors.

The Texas Library Association's Disaster Relief Fund has been expanded to collect donations for libraries in the Gulf Coast area as well as for libraries providing support for the evacuees (http://www.txla.org/temp/DisasterRelief.html).

The American Association of Law Libraries (http://www.aall.org) has posted news and links related to the hurricane. It also has established a blog (AALL LawLibAssist; http://aallnet.typepad.com/katrina) to keep track of its members and to share information.

The Geaux Library Project (http://www.geauxlibrary.org), which was formed and is run by self-described geeks and librarians, is using computers and networking equipment donated to the Red Cross by large IT companies to set up small computer labs at Red Cross shelters. The labs are being staffed with librarians and other trained volunteers. The organization will be operating out of the Gonzales, Baton Rouge, and Acadiana (Lafayette) areas of Louisiana to help meet the information needs of Hurricane survivors. They are also accepting donations to help run the operation through their Web site.

An e-mail from Alex Byrne, president of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA; http://www.ifla.org), included the following message:

It is clear that it will take a considerable period to fully assess the damage and loss and even longer to begin to rebuild damaged infrastructure and shattered communities, including libraries and other community resources. A Louisiana Library Disaster Relief Fund has been established and monetary donations to assist school, public, and academic library restoration efforts in Southeastern Louisiana can be sent payable to: LLA-Disaster Relief, 421 South 4th Street, Eunice, LA 70535. In addition, the IFLA Relief and Development Partnership, established earlier this year, stands ready to assist to the extent that it is able.

Radical Reference, a collective of volunteer library workers who answer online reference questions as well as fill information needs on the street during demonstrations and marches, has posted a page of resources for "socially responsible" Hurricane Katrina relief (http://radicalreference.info/altkatrinarelief). According to the organization, " The organizations and resources on [the] list are NOT necessarily endorsed by or personally known to Radical Reference, but this list is meant as a research aid to those wanting to donate to Katrina relief in ways compatible with the values of social justice."

Information Industry Companies

As a service to anyone who needs ready and free access to breaking and archived news on Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath, LexisNexis (http://www.lexisnexis.com) has expanded its free online news site LexisNexis U.S. Politics & World News to include in-depth coverage of all aspects of this event and its ongoing remediation efforts. Visit http://www.lexisnexis.com/news to get the latest Katrina news from more than 4,000 U.S. and international news sources.

Bob Sadowski, public relations manager of LexisNexis, stated:

In response to the devastation left by Hurricane Katrina in the Southeast region of the United States, LexisNexis has enacted a disaster recovery action plan for its legal industry customers in the affected regions of the country. While many of our efforts are still early in the implementation process, the company has set in motion a series of activities aimed at maximizing the communications efforts of customers in order to verify the well-being of their coworkers and families. These include setting up special Web blogs for individual firms, among other lines of communications. As client firms are able to assess their current situations and their needs for the near future, LexisNexis will assist them in the steps to be taken in order to rebuild their legal practices. Details on interim locations and how LexisNexis will be assisting affected firms will be released as they become available.

Hoover's, Inc. (http://www.hoovers.com/free) employees have donated $4,640 to hurricane victims. The majority of these donations have been eligible to be matched with funds from Hoover's parent company, Dun & Bradstreet. The company has also provided collection space for From Austin, a grassroots organization that was developed to collect and distribute needed items to affected areas. Space was also provided for Louisiana State University alumni, who hosted a blood, fund, and goods drive that collected $1,900, 51 pints of blood, and additional food and other household goods for hurricane victims.

H.W. Wilson (http://www.hwwilson.com) has put a Hurricane Katrina Assistance banner on its home page that links to this message: "We will work with any library that suffered a major loss because of Hurricane Katrina. Please contact our Customer Service Department if you need to replace H. W. Wilson titles when rebuilding your collection."

Thomson West (http://west.thomson.com) has posted the following message:

If you have been displaced by the disaster, please contact Thomson West Customer Service at 1-800-328-4880, ext. 67281, to let us know that you're safe. When you're ready to get back on your feet, we're ready to help. Affected Westlaw customers can contact their Sales representative or call Customer Service to access a complimentary Westlaw password. Thomson West Reference Attorneys are standing by to help support your research needs, and our Technology organization can help establish new high-speed connections to support your practice. And, when it's time to re-open your office, Thomson West will work with you to help you rebuild your West print library.

Through September 21, 2005, The Thomson Corp. (http://www.thomson.com) is offering a special matching gift program to benefit the American Red Cross. Through this double-match program, Thomson will donate $2 for every $1 donated by any of its employees. 

Thus far, Thomson Higher Education has donated numerous books to a college bookstore at Louisiana State University-Alexandria to ensure students who have migrated to that campus from New Orleans are taken care of and have the books/learning materials that they need.

Thomson Gale (http://www.gale.com) has responded to a request posted by Rebecca Hamilton, state librarian of Louisiana. Hamilton asked for IBM computers to be sent to the state library in Baton Rouge. The computers are essential to the many displaced residents who need to fill out FEMA applications. They will also serve as a means of communication while residents continue their attempts to contact loved ones. This request was fulfilled by a team of employees at Thomson Learning Technology Services who prepared 10 systems and quickly shipped them to the library.  

ProQuest (http://www.proquest.com) said that it "is seeking partners to help quickly launch a ‘Shelter Library' at the Houston Astrodome, and possibly other emergency shelters. We are looking to find a local library partner to serve as a contact to authorities at the Astrodome, to assist in assembling a ‘wish list' of necessities for the library, and to marshal and coordinate shifts of local—and perhaps evacuee—librarians to staff. The Shelter Library would, in essence, be a temporary branch of the local library that would strive to meet the informational and educational needs of the evacuees at the Astrodome. ProQuest will supply employee volunteers for setting up the Shelter Library, as well as coordinate volunteer resources and contributions from vendors and suppliers required for the initial setup. We will also provide initial technical support and ongoing support for a range of ProQuest newspaper, periodical and database products that will be offered free of charge."

Databases/Wikis/Other

The Katrina Information Map (http://www.scipionus.com) is a visual wiki that was developed by Jonathan Mendez and Greg Stoll. It allows visitors to move over a Google map of the affected areas of the Gulf Coast and to read information on specific sites (denoted by red, purple, and green teardrops). Citizens who live in the areas being described submitted the information. As with all wikis, the information provided (though usually useful and accurate) is open to anyone to modify, and there have been some cases of fraudulent and/or inaccurate postings. However, the collaborative and real-time nature of this wiki lends itself well to those who are seeking information about specific areas.

Lycos has built a searchable database (http://www.lycos.com/katrina) that aggregates search results from multiple missing persons sites, making it easier for people to find friends and family. The database searches more than 35 Web sites.

Yahoo! has also released a search tool that simultaneously searches for people from across multiple missing persons boards on the Web (http://boards.news.yahoo.com/boards). 


Additional Relief Efforts as of Sept. 19, 2005

Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association (ALA), shared this information with members:

In the two weeks since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, ALA's efforts have been focused on working with the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Texas Chapters and with members throughout the country on a variety of relief efforts … This week, we will also launch a national library relief appeal to our 64,000 individual, organizational, and corporate members. …

The single most important thing that ALA can do for New Orleans is to hold our conference there if we can. It is too early to know whether we will be able to hold the conference in New Orleans, but I want to assure all members that ALA will be holding an Annual Conference next year.

For more information, see http://www.ala.org/katrina.

Friends of Mississippi Libraries is working with the Library Commission and the Mississippi Library Association and has established a fund for donations to rebuild the Mississippi libraries that were severely damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Tax-deductible donations can be made by sending contributions to:

Rebuild Mississippi Libraries Fund
c/o AmSouth Bank
210 E. Capitol Street
Jackson, MS 39201

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will make available at least $1 million for emergency grants to libraries, museums, colleges, universities, and other cultural and historical institutions in Gulf Coast areas that were affected by Hurricane Katrina. Grant information is available at http://www.neh.fed.us.

CSA (http://www.csa.com) announced it will work with ALA to create a fund to help rebuild the affected library infrastructure. The company will also review its equipment for items that can be donated to the affected area. CSA's parent company, Cambridge Information Group, has also committed to matching employee contributions to certain lead relief organizations.

To support the institutions CSA serves, CSA will:

  1. consider the displaced users attending a new institution as authorized users for that institution—they will have the ability to access the CSA databases for no additional charge to the institution
  2. make CSA databases accessible to displaced users directly for up to 6 months through a registration process on the CSA Web site
  3. extend affected customer subscriptions for up to 6 months to cover the period of time when their services were affected
  4. encourage its publishing partners to incorporate these relief efforts and/or help implement the company's efforts

D&B has organized a series of fund raising activities across the company and offers a matching gifts program. Regarding the D&B Database:

  1. D&B has posted special notices on more than 130,000 business reports in counties impacted by Katrina indicating that these businesses may have been affected by this hurricane and/or its aftermath. D&B will conduct an ongoing investigation to determine the status of these businesses.
  2. In addition, a link accessible from the DNB.com home page (http://dnb.com/us/about/katrina.html?cm_sp=Homepage*Slot%202*Katrina) provides site visitors with Hurricane Katrina updates, including a map and demographic information for impacted areas, as well as timely information of relevance to direct marketers.

An EBSCO (http://www.ebsco.com) representative provided this summary of its relief efforts:

  1. EBSCO made a substantial contribution to the American Red Cross in the first several days following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, we are collecting donations from all EBSCO employees worldwide and matching the donations with $2 for every $1 collected from our employees. This collection process will last from now until Sept. 20, 2005.
  2. EBSCO is providing free access to the Biomedical Reference Collection: Comprehensive Edition and DynaMed for all hospitals and academics in Louisiana from September 2005 through March 31, 2006.
  3. EBSCO has donated 30 computers to Louisiana State Library to aid the library in providing facilities for Louisiana residents to file hurricane claims.
  4. EBSCO is in contact with publishers worldwide in an effort to make subscription provisions for customers located in the affected areas. …We will work with affected libraries to obtain missing subscriptions per their preferences.
  5. Those libraries that are missing titles may also consult the EBSCO Missing Copy Bank, which provides access to a 1- to 2-year back file of serials titles. For more information, Louisiana-based institutions should contact jmcclendon@ebsco.com; organizations in Mississippi and Alabama should contact rsherer@ebsco.com.
  6. EBSCO is making donations to both the Louisiana Library Association Disaster Relief Fund and the Rebuild Mississippi Libraries Fund. Both funds will assist school, public, and academic libraries in their restoration efforts.

WebEx Communications, a provider of collaborative Web meeting applications, has created the WebEx Katrina Relief program (http://www.webex.com/go/katrina) to deliver services and support to organizations serving Katrina victims and small businesses affected by the hurricane. The WebEx Katrina Relief program provides the following:

  1. Free Web collaboration service—WebEx is providing free services for relief organizations and small businesses affected by the hurricane. The free services are designed to help organizations improve coordination of their relief efforts and to aid businesses that are replacing lost IT infrastructure capabilities. The service capabilities include Web meetings, secure document sharing, group scheduling, task management, database applications, and contact directories.
  2. Financial support—WebEx is making a donation to the American Red Cross and will match employee donations through the end of the year.
  3. Free Web events and training services—Relief organizations looking to raise awareness of specific aspects of their program or to train volunteers can host free online events and training sessions. WebEx event producers will help organizations pull together and host these online events.

Xrefer (http://www.xrefer.com) worked with an organization called Justgiving to set up a Web page to facilitate credit card donations to the Louisiana Library Association's Disaster Relief Fund (http://www.justgiving.com/pfp/helplla).

—P.J.H.


Miguel Ramos is a library technician of interlibrary loans at Western Washington University.

Email Miguel Ramos
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