Magazine article American Libraries

Haiti Rising from the Rubble

Magazine article American Libraries

Haiti Rising from the Rubble

Article excerpt

Two years after the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, vast numbers of Haitians are still struggling just to return to something resembling normal life.

The first thing you see in the capital city of Port-au-Prince is miles and miles of "Tent City," as the temporary housing has come to be known, where thousands of people live under sheets of plastic, cook in the street, and have no provisions for sanitation other than rows of portable toilets. Rubble is everywhere; the Palais Nationale still stands in ruin.

While Haiti Library Relief dollars are making a difference, the need is so vast that the American Library Association has to focus this effort on specific sustainable projects that will advance the nation's recovery from one of the largest natural disasters on record. ALA has raised $55,000 for Haiti library reconstruction, and $35,000 has already been disbursed to specific building projects.

Yet in the midst of all this, the Haitian American Institute, a school and cultural center with some 2,500 students, has broken ground for a new library building. The quake destroyed the campus's historic library, but the collection--comprised of Haiti's largest offering of English-language books for the public--was salvaged.

The Bibliotheque Nationale has received $20,000 from ALA for a new library in Petit-Goave, a coastal town 42 miles southwest of the capital that was virtually leveled by the quake. The Haitian foundation FOKAL (Fondation Connaissance et Liberte) has received $10,000, which was used to purchase property for the construction of a new facility for the Centre Culturel Pyepoudre Library in Port-au-Prince.

FOKAL--part of Open Society Foundations, funded by philanthropist George Soros--recently opened the Darbonne Library in Leogane, which was at the epicenter of the quake and roughly 90% destroyed. The small Darbonne Library cost some $110,000 to construct. Estimates for what it will cost to build a library adequate to meet the needs of the much larger population of Petit-Goave run upward of $300,000. Bibliotheques Sans Frontieres, a French NGO that builds libraries, is taking a similar approach and has opened several libraries.

The National Library oversees the public library in Petit-Gave, and its representatives are eager to rebuild. …

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