Magazine article American Libraries

New Orleans Deals with Layoffs, Damage

Magazine article American Libraries

New Orleans Deals with Layoffs, Damage

Article excerpt

Nearly 200 New Orleans Public Library staff have been let go as part of Mayor Ray Nagin's October 5 directive laying off 3,000 city employees in the wake of "financial constraints in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

City Archivist Wayne Everard told American Libraries that 181 NOPL staff members had been laid off and the remaining 19 have been retained as essential to the operation of city government. "Thus far," he said, "we have been working on NOPL business, but if the city decides that we are needed for other tasks, we are subject to reassignment."

NOPL Director Bill Johnson told AL that the library's immediate goals were to "reorganize ourselves utilizing the remaining staff, stabilize our special collections environments, repair the main library so we can reoccupy it, continue to assess damage to the branches, begin the process of gathering information necessary for meeting FEMA disaster reimbursement deadlines, determine what funds will be available the next three months, and begin to develop a budget that conforms to our new circumstances."

He added, "My approach is that even nightmares can be managed."

Although Hurricane Katrina left the main library relatively intact (AL, Oct., p. 15-16), eight of NOPL's 12 branches sustained moderate to severe flooding damage. Four branches (Hubbell, Latter, Nix, and the Children's Resource Center) remained relatively dry. Johnson told AL, "We plan on offering limited service at the main library and one branch in the next two months. The limited service will probably focus on internet services, including the creation of WiFi hot spots."

"We should have at least three branches open before the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans next year," he added.

The internet server at the main library was restarted the first week of October, and it is now hosting the library's website (nutrias.org), which contains weekly updates of recovery progress.

The damaged facilities were as follows:

* Wind-driven rain entered the Algiers Regional Branch, destroying books and computers. The majority of the building contents will be removed because of mold damage.

* The Alvar branch took in a foot of water, damaging books, furnishings, and computers.

* The East New Orleans Regional Branch sustained major flooding. …

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