Magazine article American Libraries

California Libraries Offer Fire-Recovery Assistance

Magazine article American Libraries

California Libraries Offer Fire-Recovery Assistance

Article excerpt

"Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all of the fire victims and their families and loved ones," read the opening page of the San Bernardino (Calif.) Public Library's website as the state's librarians and library staff offered comfort and assistance to those suffering from the effects of the devastating fires that spread this fall throughout the southern portion of California.

The fire disaster is being ranked as among the worst to hit the Golden State--a state that has had its share of tragedies--according to a November 3 San Diego Union-Tribune report. "It's who we are," said Kevin Starr, California's state librarian and a noted historian. "The land-scape of California--the land itself--is volatile, alive. It's alive seismically. It's alive in its need to burn itself off every so often. It's alive in rain and mudslides."

By the second week in November, damp weather had brought the vast wildfires to nearly full containment, but not before 22 people were killed, some 3,600 homes destroyed, and more than 743,000 acres of brush and timber blackened, according to a November 4 Associated Press report. On October 27, President Bush declared a federal emergency in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura counties after state officials estimated the cost of fighting the blazes could reach as high as $200 million and hit the state's already strapped economy to the tune of $2 billion.

Providing a helping hand

Several libraries in the region were closed at the height of the fires, but as of November 6 there were no reports of damage to buildings.

In Escondido, librarians told stories and entertained children at Faith Emmanuel Church, which served as an evacuee shelter and provided food, showers, and access to insurance agents for families of the Valley Center and Ramona neighborhoods. The city's bookmobile also gave away free books to the children.

"The point of us coming is to show these kids that they can dream and escape and smile and just be kids during this rough time," Library Literacy Coordinator Josephine Jones said in the October 29 Escondido North County Times.

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At San Diego County Library, all 32 branches, mobile libraries, and the administrative headquarters were closed October 27-28 due to the fire danger and air polluted with ash. …

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