Many people around the country are facing difficult, trying times right now. Evacuees displaced by the recent hurricanes in Texas and along the southeastern seaboard states, immigrants, refugees, and others who have had to leave their homes may suffer increased anxiety and concern.
Feelings of worry, disbelief, fear, and anger are normal when dealing with situations that are out of our control. Many displaced people may want to find shelter at a public library, escape between the pages of a good book, attend a library program, or just feel connected to someone or something within their local community.
Below are some helpful tips that can assist you and your library staff when welcoming and providing services for evacuees, refugees, immigrants and others who have been displaced and impacted by recent crisis.*
1.) Have activities and programs at your library that let children know it’s okay to feel upset. Let children talk about their feelings and help put them into perspective. Activities can include discussions, informal play, community service projects, and writing, music, art, or drama projects. For assistance and ideas, check out “Youth Services Programming During a Time of Crisis,” an excellent toolkit provided by the Library of Michigan.
2.) Let your library be a place where you create or craft opportunities for positive action. For populations that aren’t aware of your library or can’t easily come to you, consider creating a pop-up library near them.
3.) With any situation, be aware of your child patrons’ feelings as well as your own. For a primer on children’s emotional responses to tragedy and what you can do to help, check out these two resources: PBS’s How to Help Kids Feel Safe After Tragedy, NAEYC’s Tips to Help Children Cope With Disasters, and PBS’s Helping Children with Tragic Events in the News.
4.) Create research guides of organizations and materials when dealing with a crisis. For examples, check out Delaware Division of Libraries’ Disaster Planning and Recovery LibGuide and Helping Children Cope with a Tragedy LibGuide.
5.) Consider simplifying your library card membership requirements. Many displaced people might not have a permanent residence or standard form of identification.
6.) Need book recommendations for dealing with tragedy and crisis? Here are a few booklists.
- Comforting Reads for Difficult Times
- Helping Children Cope with Tragedy: Books in the Delaware Library Catalog
- The Refugee Experience: Books for Children
- Core Collection: Picture-Book Refugee and Immigration Stories
7.) Also, make sure to check out this new booklist created by REFORMA and ALSC: Stories of Immigration: Perspectives from Pura Belpré Medal and Honor Books.
How are you providing services to your local community members dealing with tragedy and crisis?
* Remember that as youth services professionals, we strive to “cultivate an environment for enjoyable and convenient use of library resources, specifically removing barriers to access presented by socioeconomic circumstances, culture, privilege, language, gender, ability, and other diversities.” (ALSC Competency I.7)
(Links updated 2/24/20)
Jason Broughton is the Associate Director of Library Services Support at Live Oak Public Libraries in Savannah Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marika Jeffery, a Youth Services Librarian with the San Diego Public Library system, is writing this post on behalf of the Public Awareness Committee. She can be reached at email@example.com.