Magazine article American Libraries

Grassroots Report: Maine Feeds the Minds of Gulf Evacuees

Magazine article American Libraries

Grassroots Report: Maine Feeds the Minds of Gulf Evacuees

Article excerpt

Hundreds of miles away from the Gulf Coast, Penny Brown of the Livermore (Maine) Public Library felt compelled to offer some sort of assistance to those who are confronting loss and displacement following Hurricane Katrina. What resulted was Project Katrina: Read for Relief, a book-donation program that has netted scores of volumes for evacuees in Monroeville, Alabama.

"I was sitting here, watching the news, feeling sad and helpless," Brown said, explaining that her inspiration came as she heard a television reporter describe evacuees' needs at one shelter. In addition to basics like water and food, Brown said the reporter mentioned that children at the shelter had only a few books.

"At least a book can take you away," she said. "When I order new books and that box arrives, it's like Christmas." It was that feeling of glee and transport that Brown wanted to share with storm survivors.

Bibliophiles to the rescue

Inspiration turned to organization. Brown began by contacting the Red Cross to ensure books could be accepted and used. Receiving the go-ahead, she turned to friends and colleagues to form a committee to manage the donation and delivery process. The state library agreed to lend its infrastructure, namely the ILL coordination system and storage. Brown sought a truck that would transport books from Maine to Alabama. When International Paper committed a vehicle, the book drive began, launched by an e-mail message via the state library discussion list. Ten days later it ended, but behind-the-scenes work continued.

As of mid-October, estimates are that Maine libraries and their readers donated more than 1,500 boxes of books. "At the end of the second day, there were over 1,000 books," said Sue Lord, assistant to the state librarian and Project Katrina committee member. "There was no way we could have counted them and processed them."

Donations had to be sorted by children's, young adult, and adult titles, she added, before being packed in ways that would ensure books were not crushed.

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Brown described excellent and devoted support from everyone, ranging from friends who managed the myriad e-mail responses to her call for donations to Consolidated Delivery and Logistics drivers who drove extra routes to collect donations from across the state. …

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