Hurricane Katrina took out more than just New Orleans. Mississippi was hit particularly hard, and anybody who loves curling up in the bath with a paperback knows that paper and water don’t mix. After contacting the acquisitions department for the Harrison County Library, we learned just how bad it was — several libraries lost their entire collections.
Dewey to the rescue!
Your wonderful donations over the years have put an entire village of kids back to school after a Tsunami, stocked library shelves after wildfires, and helped a struggling library system gain nationwide attention, which helped them get their own government involved in allocating more funds to their acquisitions department. Your attention, word of mouth and kind gifts continue to enrich struggling communities, villages, states and nations. There’s a lot of power in one mouse click. Year after year, you’ve proven that with your generosity.
If this is your first time helping with a book drive, welcome. You’re a great person. If you’re one of the fantastic people who have helped in the past, welcome back. We need you again, and we love what you do. And whatever moisturizer you’re using is awesome, because your skin is super-glowy. Or that could be the philanthropy working its magic. Whatever it is, keep doing what you’re doing, baby, because you are beautiful.
Your donations to the Harrison County Library System will help eight branches get their shelves restocked with lovely yummy books after being hit hard by hurricane Katrina. More info on each branch (some have yet to re-open) can be found on the HCLS Branches page and links to each branch’s wish list are on our How To Donate page.
A Letter from the Harrison County Library System
Greetings from the Harrison County Library System! We have been touched by your care and concern, and your offer of help. Before the storm, our system consisted of two larger libraries in Biloxi and Gulfport, along with six smaller locations. We have been left with 3 intact buildings and have spent the our time post- Katrina working to salvage and store what is left of our collections in the Biloxi, Gulfport, and D’Iberville libraries, and trying to re-establish library service at our surviving locations.
Our two largest libraries, Biloxi and Gulfport, were hard hit by tidal surge. As a result, we have lost major portions of the system’s collection. Gulfport Library, which also served as the system’s administrative headquarters, had everything on its first floor washed out of the building, including all of the shelving, furniture, and even the walls. All that was left on the first floor were the staircases and the support columns. The entire fiction, children’s, and audio-visual collections were lost. The fate of the building is still under discussion by city and county officials. The library may eventually be renovated, or we may be able to build a new library further away from the beachfront.
The Biloxi library had three feet of water on its first floor. Unfortunately the library’s entire collection was on that level and, as a result, everything from the third shelf down was destroyed. We salvaged as much of the local history and genealogy collection as possible, and sent it to a professional salvage and restoration company to see what could be restored. We are not sure yet on the time frame for restoration of the Biloxi library, but are estimating two years before we are able to reopen.
The Pass Christian Library was flooded, and all of its collection was destroyed. They are now operating using donated books out of a double wide trailer. The Division Street Children’s Station was also a complete loss. The D’Iberville library was somewhat luckier in that the library collection is intact, but is now in storage while the water and mildew damaged interior walls and ceiling are gutted and replaced. The repairs are just beginning, and are scheduled to be finished within three months. A considerable portion of our time and energy is being put into working with local government, insurance companies, and relief agencies to obtain the financial assistance needed to salvage and rebuild the destroyed locations.
Gulfport Library’s second floor housed the system’s administrative headquarters, including the system’s computer servers. Miraculously, we were able to salvage these computers and the administrative records, which allowed for a quicker return of library services. We have set up a makeshift headquarters at the Margaret Sherry Branch, which survived the storm relatively unscathed. Technical services and computer operations are now set up in the branch’s meeting and work rooms.
After the storm not a single book could be found at the Gulfport library’s first floor. The floor was covered with sand, and the one thing found other than debris was a small hummingbird that did not survive the storm. Outside of the Biloxi library, however, torn and shredded pages from books littered the streets. The Pass Christian library was used as a fallback point for the Pass Christian Police Department. When the department’s building began to fall apart, the police gathered their gear and headed to the library. The library then began to flood, and the police couldn’t get the doors to open due to water pressure. The library was built with hurricane proof glass, which is also bulletproof. Unable to shoot out any of the windows, the police had to rip out part of the ceiling to escape the building.
On a happier note, we are open to our patrons at the Margaret Sherry Branch, West Biloxi Branch, Orange Grove Branch, and Saucier Children’s library. It was such a wonderful feeling to see some of our regulars trooping through the doors! There has been a lot of hugging, storytelling, and even a few homemade brownies to spread around.
With [used] book donations, all items will be reviewed by a librarian as to content and condition, and then sent to the most appropriate location. Items that are not suitable for the libraries are usually sold at a book sale. If you would like for the items to go to one specific location, or would rather any books not used be distributed free to the community, please let us know. Monetary donations can be placed in a general fund for the system or applied towards a specific location or type of item. For example, you may want the funds to go towards purchasing children’s books for the Gulfport library. We will be happy to apply all funds according to your wishes.
It is extremely difficult to describe the aftermath of the storm, and the time and resources needed just to get people to a starting point where they can begin to rebuild their lives. We consider ourselves lucky in that, while many of the staff lost their homes and possessions, there were no serious injuries, and no loss of life in our library family. We are also lucky in that we do have a place to start from in rebuilding the system, and the care and support of so many. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at (228) 388-1633, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harrison Country Library System