Parkites send books to New Orleans | ParkRecord.com

Parkites send books to New Orleans

Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

If the Park City Library sat in ruins, with scores of its books damaged or destroyed, Parkites would likely rally to save the building.

Now they are essentially doing the same for the shattered library system in New Orleans, largely ruined in the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina last fall.

Linda Tillson, the library director in Park City, said, after the New Orleans library system asked the country for help, the Friends of the Library group in Park City devised a way to assist.

They agreed to send eight boxes of books to New Orleans although Tillson is unsure how many books are included. A few of the boxes have been sent, she said, and she could not predict when they all would be shipped to New Orleans.

"I think the people need the library more than ever," Tillson said about the people in New Orleans, noting that libraries provide free-of-charge resources. "Especially the people who lost everything."

She said the books designated for New Orleans were donated for the annual Friends of Library book sale, held each Labor Day, and not for the local library’s permanent collection.

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A range of titles is in the shipments, including hardcovers and paperbacks, fiction, nonfiction and books for adults and kids.

"I think those initial calls were for emergency needs and now there’s still a lot of work to do," Tillson said. "They’re trying to rebuild and restock everything."

The damage to the library system is widespread, said Rica Trigs, a member of the development team for the New Orleans Public Library.

She said eight branches were destroyed in the flooding and have not reopened. The collections in the branches, totaling hundreds of thousands of books, were lost, she said.

"It’s a great many," she said.

Trigs said the main library in New Orleans and four branches are open but acknowledged that patronage is off significantly because lots of people who lived in the city have not returned since the floodwaters receded. She predicts that it will be years before all of the library’s branches are reopened.

"It’s a very disheartening feeling. It’s very personal to us," she said. "It’s the feeling you get when your home is destroyed."

Before the hurricane struck, a little more than 200 people worked at the library but in October, after the storm, 19 staffers returned, she said.

Trigs said the New Orleans library has received lots of donations of books since the hurricane, "hundreds of boxes of books a day," by her count, and is now storing the books in a warehouse and a closed library branch. Television stations, schools and clubs are among those that have donated, she said.

Now, Trigs said, the library cannot use all the books so officials are starting a program to hire a company to sell the books with the proceeds going to the library system for the reconstruction efforts.

The program at the Park City library extends the local efforts to assist the people stricken by the hurricane. In September, just after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Parkites gave blood and raised money in numerous events and some evacuees who were relocated to Salt Lake City spent a day at Park City Mountain Resort in the fall.

Park City Councilman Roger Harlan, who was on the library board, sees there being camaraderie between library professionals in the U.S. and said the Park City efforts are "a very natural response."

"I think it’s a very predictable, a very wonderful, very necessary response," Harlan said, adding, "There will always be a need, love and interest in hardcover books."

He acknowledges, though, that rebuilding the libraries in New Orleans is not as important as providing social services for the hurricane victims but said that the library efforts should not be "considered a frill or luxury."

"While New Orleans is known for a Bourbon Street kind of mindset, there is a rich cultural heritage in that city that will fight for the viability for a rebuilt public library system," Harlan said.

For more information about the New Orleans library’s efforts, visit http://www.nutrias.org.