Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Innovative Services Improvised during Disasters: Evidence-Based Education Modules to Prepare Students and Practitioners for Shifts in Community Information Needs

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Innovative Services Improvised during Disasters: Evidence-Based Education Modules to Prepare Students and Practitioners for Shifts in Community Information Needs

Article excerpt

This paper reports on preliminary findings from the research phase and progress-to-date on the educational module-building phase of a three-year project, "Investigating Library and Information Services During Community-Based Disasters: Preparing Information Professionals to Plan for the Worst" supported by a National Leadership Grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The goal of the research project is to provide current and future information professionals with appropriate education and enhanced guidance in planning for and delivering information services to a wide range of users in response to natural or accidental community-based disasters. Using an evidence-based approach for developing the educational modules will allow the researchers to leverage the results of their study to inform future practice and will address the real-world needs of current and future information professionals who are all too likely to face some sort of disaster, whether natural or man-made, during the course of their careers.

Keywords: disaster planning and response, evidence-based education, case studies, information services, library education, emergency preparedness training

Background

When disaster strikes, the information needs of the affected community change dramatically. Residents may suddenly require information about current evacuation efforts, displaced populations may want information about their families and homes, or emergency relief personnel may be looking for information about resources available within the local area. Providing these types of information services is not part of a librarian's customary repertoire. While there are best practices, standards, guidelines, and research in the library literature about services as diverse as bibliotherapy and term-paper counseling (Bunge & Bopp, 2001, pp. 12-13), there are few if any best practices, standards, guidelines, or even research about providing library and information services in times of community-wide disasters. Because the focus of disaster planning in libraries has often been turned inwards toward the institution rather than outwards towards the community, the typical guidance material for libraries emphasizes how to protect the staff, collections, and physical plant during a disaster as well as how to maintain continuity of services or return to normal services as soon as possible after the disaster has passed. It does not address the unique services that information professionals could provide during and immediately after community-wide disasters or the benefits to be gained through the opportunistic improvisation of services to meet changes in users' information needs.

Based on a census of current ALA-accredited LIS programs conducted by the authors as part of their current research, it appears that 3 1 out of 52 programs offer no course or course module specifically focused on disaster planning and response. The remaining 21 programs address the topic at some level, typically in conservation, preservation, or collection management courses. However, the types of disasters envisioned in the scenarios discussed in these courses have typically been of a localized rather than a community-wide nature, and the planning has focused largely on the preservation of physical plant, collections, and staff rather than on the provision of services. The wide-spread disaster faced by information professionals in the Gulf Coast area after the 2005 hurricanes posed enormous challenges in terms of the provision of new and modified information services, and data gathered shortly after the hurricanes demonstrated that the post-Katrina/Rita responsibilities of information professionals went far beyond collection protection to include activities such as helping evacuees fill out FEMA forms and providing critical information to first responders (McKnight, 2006). The lessons learned from these hurricanes and other community-wide disasters around the country need to be included in LIS school curriculum modules to increase the field's understanding of how information professionals can respond and how library and information center resources can be made available more effectively during times of crisis. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.