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Inside Practically Paradise

My Heading to New Orleans & Remembering Hurricane Katrina Post

The 2006 ALA Annual Conference will always remain a vibrant memory to me. As ALA was the first national organization to hold a conference, there was a great deal of attention on how libraries claimed to build communities. During this conference, librarians stepped up, showed up, and helped others up. To many local people we were special because we kept our promise and journeyed there. I blogged on my personal blog at that time Deep Thinking at blogsome dot com.

From an ALA Press Release on June 7, 2011: ““Libraries Build Communities” began in 2006, as the library community came to the aid of local libraries and community groups after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region in 2005. Coordinated by the ALA’s Chapter Relations Office, the volunteer effort has become an Annual Conference tradition, as conference attendees continue to volunteer to assist libraries and community groups in conference cities.

The ALA was the first national organization to hold a conference in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and conference volunteers will continue to support rebuilding efforts.

“When the ALA first came to New Orleans in 2006, there was an unimaginable amount of work that needed to be done throughout the city,” said ALA Chapter Relations Office director Michael Dowling. “In a few short days, the ALA was able to make a difference and illustrate that libraries do in fact build communities. Even now, five years later, we continue to demonstrate the importance of libraries in each city we visit whether it be through community services projects like “Libraries Build Communities” or through the free programs and services we provide.”

Fast Forward to the Future, what else is happening with ALA and the more recent disasters? Well, according to the most recent press release there are the “Disaster Relief Efforts at Annual for Haiti, Japan, Missouri, and Alabama.

International Relations and Chapter Relations Offices will be taking in donations at Annual for Haiti, Japan, Alabama, and Missouri.

This year, we will have two clearly marked donation boxes set up at the three Information Booths in the Convention Center. All funds donated will be split equally between the four relief efforts.

Information about the donation boxes will be shared in the Registration Area, in Cognotes and at the Opening General Session. Flyers on How and where to make donations will also be available at the Information Booths – for those attendees who would like to make an individual donation to a specific relief effort.

Alabama and Missouri (Joplin) donations will be used to provide assistance to librarians who have lost their homes or otherwise been affected by the recent tornados. The Chapters there have set up their own donation opportunities, so this is where we will refer interested parties after conference.

Haiti and Japan donations will be used for library reconstruction.

I can remember in 2006 going to New Orleans and chatting with as many local people as I could to gather their stories. I chatted with all walks of society and spent time listening. I listened to children talk about their feelings.

During that time we had several families move to Nashville and the students shared their feelings. I can vividly remember the face of one young boy who carried every toy car he owned with him to school each day in his backpack because they were the only things he had left when the flood came and the waters came into his car while they were fleeing. Stories matter.

The next blog post will highlight some of the titles I have shared with students lately on Hurricane Katrina and disasters.


  1. I too was enthralled and moved by the Conference. I was a Library Supervisor from San Diego who attended ALA 9 months after being a tourist stuck in the Superdome during Katrina and the levee failures. I shall always treasure my memories of the Conference and seeing Anderson Cooper’s emotional keynote speech. Thank you for sharing these memories.

    Paul Harris
    Author, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”