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Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Guest Post: What to Do When Disaster Destroys Your Books and How to Harness Social Media for Good

Today we welcome teacher Stacey Beam and author April Henry to the blog to discuss a topic that is a reality for too many of us. While many of us have experienced active shooter drills in both our libraries and schools, how many of us prepare for what to do if an act of nature claims our materials, our space, even our jobs? Together, Beam and Henry have penned an article on what happened when the worst hit too close to home and what you can do if it happens to you.


By Stacey Beam and April Henry

For 15 years, Stacey Beam has been a Reading and English teacher for 5th-8th grade at Moffett School in Moffett, Oklahoma. The school has 380 students, ranging from pre-school to 8th grade, and is a 100% Title I school.

For 14 years, April Henry has been writing mysteries and thrillers for teens, including Girl, Stolen; The Girl I Used to Be; and her latest book (out August 27) Run, Hide, Fight Back. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

A natural disaster can happen anytime, anywhere, from flooding in Houston, Texas, forest fires in El Sobrante, California, a hurricane in Trenton, North Carolina to a tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. All of these natural disasters led to the loss of school or classroom libraries.

When a disaster strikes, books are vulnerable. Even if they aren’t destroyed by the initial event, the resulting mildew and mold growth from floods or fire sprinklers can render them unusable.

This year, Stacey Beam found out about nature’s power the hard way. The school year had just ended when Stacey and her fellow teachers were warned that flooding was expected May 26. Water was forecast to get as high as a couple of feet. She returned to her classroom and set neatly packed boxes of books on top of cubbies and her desk. She also placed sandbags in front of the door. She says, “I’ve taught here 15 years, and we’ve never had water in the school.”

What happened was far worse than expected: record-setting flooding that lasted for nearly two weeks, with water up to eight feet deep in some classrooms.

For days, Stacey searched Facebook for drone videos of the damage, worried about what was happening to her classroom library and her supplies.

The reality was far worse than even she had imagined.

Stacey says, “They finally told us we could go in and see the damage. We put on hazmat suits, boots, and gloves. I had boxes and totes ready to take things out. Instead I walked into my classroom and thought, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ It looked like a tornado had hit. It turns out that sandbags can keep the water out—or in my case—in. The water had stayed in my room, swishing around like a toilet bowl.”

Everything in her room was ruined, including the classroom library she had spent 15 years and countless of her own dollars assembling.

“At first, some local folks had book drives for us,” Stacey says. “But we received a lot of things we couldn’t use: old encyclopedias, notebooks with rusted spirals, and even hymnals.” For these in-person donations, Stacey figured that for every three bags dropped off, only one bag was useful.

Stacey took another tack. “I thought, let me just contact authors. That way I can get some books I know my kids will actually read.” She asked parents to ask their kids for the names of their three favorite authors.” Then she tried contacting about a dozen. “Some replied, and some didn’t, and some didn’t have any way to contact them.”

April and Stacey’s paths crossed when Stacey emailed April. Stacey said,

“We have recently been impacted and severely damaged by a historic flood. The river cut a new path through our school and town. The speed of the water flow was ridiculously crazy. Every classroom had 5-8 foot of water flowing through it and staying in it for almost 2 weeks.

We didn’t get anything out. No one was expecting the river to get this high. The school only had insurance on 4 buildings because it’s so expensive. And insurance doesn’t cover your personal stuff—for example, my library!

I had over 2000 books in my classroom library from 3rd-12th grade level—including most of your books. They were well read at school.

I was looking to see if you would be willing to donate hardback or softcover books for my classroom library?”

April says, “I can’t help everyone all the time, but I can help some people sometimes. I have done many school visits in Oklahoma and my great-grandparents are buried in Minco, Oklahoma. I told Stacey I’d help, but I wondered if I could do more. First I shared Stacey’s email on several author list servs. And then I thought about Twitter.”

April tweeted:

“Any middle grade or YA authors want to help out a teacher at a Title 1 School who lost her entire 2000 book classroom library to flooding? DM me for more info.”

April says, “That tweet was retweeted nearly 400 times. Dozens of authors, librarians, and book lovers direct messaged me, wanting to help. I gave Stacey’s address to those who offered books, but many others wanted to purchase books and other items for her.”

Together, Stacey and April started researching the resources for replacing lost books. (If you know of one they missed, add it to the comments so that this blog post can be updated.)

Stacey has spent the summer trying to replace the items the school lost, as well as volunteering to help re-house families, and to paint the inside of the school. She says, “I can’t wait to get back to school so I can take a little break.”

What would you do if disaster struck?

Be prepared

  • Heed weather warnings—and think worst-case scenario. Stacey says, “I had people offer to pack up my room and move it. We didn’t expect it to get over three feet. If I had known it would be eight, I sure would have taken them up on their offer.”
  • Before you leave your classroom, use your phone to take a video or snapshots of your collection.
  • If you keep a list of your books, make sure it’s available on the cloud.

Take pictures

Once the disaster is over, take even more pictures before you toss out all those moldy or otherwise damaged books. Photos can be shared with local media and on social media. A photo lets people easily understand how bad the damage was. And pictures can help you remember what you have lost. Stacey says, “I have zoomed in many times to see what books I needed to replace.”

Local drives

If someone wants to hold a book drive or supply drive, Stacey says, “Be very specific. People donate with good intentions, but we have used a bunch of manpower just sorting through stuff.”

Create a wish list

People want to help. Make it easy for them by creating a wish list that can be shared with a clickable link. (Be sure to set the privacy to “public.”) Try:

  • Your local independent bookstore. Call to see if they have a way for you to set up an online wish list. They also might be able to offer you a discount on replacement books.
  • barnesandnoble.com lets you build wishlists.
  • Amazon.com also has wishlists. It has the widest possible range of merchandise, so you can add things like staplers and art supplies as well as books to your wishlist. Amazon is where Stacey started, and the results were amazing. She says, “We have received thousands of dollars worth of supplies and books. Most of the books I listed were hardcover to last longer. At one point, I couldn’t put books on the list fast enough—people kept buying them. They also bought a $90 dollar printer and even a $200 filing cabinet which I added to the list but never thought anyone would actually buy.”
  • If you’re okay with used books, ThriftBooks.com lets you add books to a wish list (including specifying the condition).

Set up a Donors Choose project

At DonorsChoose.org, teachers can post classroom project requests, and donors can choose the ones they want to support. Stacey plans to create a Donors Choose project once she knows what she still needs.

Share your links—and use photos of the damage to help people understand your loss:

Ask for help from other organizations

firstbook.org

If you work at a Title One School, First Book provides new books, educational resources, and other essentials—including coats, snacks, and hygiene kits—to educators serving children in need.

hindislibraries.com

https://www.hindislibraries.com/requestadonation

Named after Dr. Hindi Krinsky, an English teacher who died at 32 in August of 2018. They collect and donate new and gently used children’s books.

halfpricebooks.com

If you have a Half Price books near you, the company donates to schools in need. https://halfpricebooks.com/book-donations-request-form/

follet.com

Follet donates $250,000 worth of goodwill books and materials each year to schools in need of quick replenishment following a disaster. For more information: https://www.follettlearning.com/about-us/follett-gives-back

scholastic.com

If you are a Scholastic Book Clubs teacher, talk to your Scholastic representative about possible support.

Hachette Book Group

Hachette has donated to teachers and schools in the past after disasters.  They will review a request from a school to see if a donation is possible.  Email: Donation.Requests@hbgusa.com

Wanting to start your own collection of books?

booklovefoundation.org

Each year the Book Love Foundation funds starter classroom libraries of 500 books. The Foundation’s Board of Directors awards the libraries to passionately committed teachers who aim instruction towards increasing volume, stamina, and joy in reading in middle and high school. These teachers choose 25% of the books they receive; 75% is a mix of highly engaging fiction and nonfiction chosen by the Foundation’s Board.

SCWBI books for readers

Each year, the Society for Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators chooses two organizations to support. https://www.scbwi.org/books-for-readers-faq/


A big thank you to Stacey and April for sharing this information and to Morgan Rath at Macmillan for setting this up.

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

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