Lessons Learned After a Disaster: Investigations of Public Librarians’ Health Information Services to the Community and Community Members’ Information Needs Following a Catastrophic Flood

TU-KEEFNER, Feili and LIU, Jingjing and FREEBURG, Darin and HARTNETT, Elizabeth Jane and LYONS, Denise and CORBO, Mike and HOBBS, April (2018) Lessons Learned After a Disaster: Investigations of Public Librarians’ Health Information Services to the Community and Community Members’ Information Needs Following a Catastrophic Flood. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2018 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Transform Libraries, Transform Societies in Session S11 - Evidence for Global and Disaster Health SIG. In: Evidence for global and disaster health – where are we now and where do we need to be?, 23 August 2018, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Abstract

Lessons Learned After a Disaster: Investigations of Public Librarians’ Health Information Services to the Community and Community Members’ Information Needs Following a Catastrophic Flood

In times of crisis, public libraries, in addition to health, fire, and police departments, are community outreach centers and sources of credible information. In October 2015, several counties in the state of South Carolina in the United States of America experienced catastrophic flooding that caused severe damage. Situation-specific research was conducted to investigate public libraries’ value to their communities in providing critical information services, as well as the libraries’ legitimacy as partners of public health agencies. The research framework is one recommended by public health experts for risk communication preparedness and implementation during pandemic influenza. In 2015, a case study investigated 1) public librarians’ use of multiple channels and technology for information distribution and services; and 2) public libraries’ collaboration with multi-level agencies to facilitate emergency response and recovery. In 2017, a survey study examined community members’ use of disaster information sources and evaluation of the information’s credibility during and after the 2015 flooding. The results show that the public libraries in the areas affected by flooding created disaster-recovery centers, illustrating the libraries’ value in facilitating emergency response and recovery. However, the findings also show public librarians were not fully prepared to provide disaster and health information for adult users, especially through online venues. Even though most of the community members in the 2017 survey study indicated that it was easy or very easy to find information, some of them did not use any credible information resources either during or after the disaster. It is recommended that public libraries provide reliable, user-friendly disaster and health digital resources for adult users. Public librarians can use social media network sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to increase awareness of these library resources and to distribute real-time messages of interest.

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