After Irene

Librarians love libraries. People love their communities. Communities need their libraries.

Those are three sentences I believe are true.

One of my communities, about 80 miles from here, is a community of family and choice, a particular corner of the northern Adirondacks where my great-great-great grandfather had a paper mill and where our family is rooted. It’s a summer vacation spot for me now, but I still think of it as partly mine.

Over the weekend, it was all underwater.

So was my boyfriend’s hometown in Vermont.

These are small communities. Places people live because it’s home, not because it’s the best place on earth. Except, to them, it is the best place on earth. And right now, they’re damaged.

Author Kate Messner noticed my corner of the world, and wrote a heartwrenching blog post about the Upper Jay library. I understand from my aunt who is a librarian in the region that the library that serves Keene and Keene Valley is also damaged. This is the same community that lost its fire house, and it’s just down the road from Upper Jay, of which Messner writes,

They lost virtually their entire children’s collection. All of the picture books.

“They were all on the lower shelves,” library director Karen Rappaport explained, “so the kids could reach them.”

She looked at the heap of books in the yard, then out toward the river, quiet in the background today, and shook her head. “We’ve just never seen anything like this.” …

At one point during our visit, a small cheer rose up from a corner of the library. Karen had discovered five dry picture books, high on a cart, waiting to be reshelved. “Look!” she showed me. “Paddington.”

This part of the Adirondacks isn’t a wealthy area, and many families are dealing with devastating losses of their own right now.  So often, the library is a refuge for families in times like this, so it’s sad to think of this community’s kids not having books to read.

I’m not asking anyone to do anything in particular. But don’t forget that though Irene turned out not to be Katrina, it damaged us. It broke things. It destroyed things. Please help if you’re so inclined.


  1. The most bizarre part of the Katrina analogy is that Monday, August 29 was the sixth anniversary of Katrina’s landfall on the Gulf coast.

    Good luck and tell the library folks to keep ALA informed.


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