Read the full article on American Libraries: California Libraries in Wildfires’ Wake
At California Humanities, our hearts go out to the families and communities devastated by the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. We were heartened to see the recent story in American Libraries magazine, profiling the way that the Butte County Library system has been involved with relief efforts, even as the fire still rages.
Recent reports state that the Butte County fire — more colloquially known as the Camp Fire, — is now the most destructive wildfire in California history and the deadliest fire in the U.S. in the last century. More than 151,000 acres have been burned.
The director of the Butte County Library system Melanie Lightbody is quoted in the article as saying “Miraculously, the Paradise branch of the Butte County Library system is still standing,” despite the rest of the city being razed.
The article continues:
“The remaining five branches in the system are still operational and have become information centers, offering computers, Wi-Fi, and printers to help displaced residents contact insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies.”
In addition to serving as a hub for people seeking relief services, the libraries are also looking into the eventual preservation and restoration needs for the historical records, archives, and the buildings themselves. The American Library Association, the Library of Congress, and the Heritage Emergency National Task Force are all pitching in to help.
The Marin County Free Library and the California Library Association are now fundraising to help these efforts. There are a number of other nearby county libraries who are mobilized in the relief efforts as well, including Sutter, Glenn, Colusa, Tehama, and Plumas counties.
In a recent post to the fundraiser page on Facebook, an update from Lightbody states “We are relieved and happy to report the Paradise Library is still standing. It is one of the few public buildings that is. The city of Paradise was decimated and the road to restoration is long. The Paradise Library housed an excellent local history collection which will need restoration and preservation. Many of our popular circulating materials were lost in people’s homes. We will also be looking to add some mobile technologies for flexibility for those needing access. We appreciate this generosity more than words can express.”