The below is a statement from IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner:

"The hurricanes and storms which have caused such devastation in the Caribbean, as well as the earthquakes in Mexico, offer a reminder of the threat that natural disasters pose to towns, villages and the people who live there.

Libraries, alongside schools, hospitals and other buildings which drive community life, have suffered physical damage, as well as losing power and communications. The staff who work there have seen not only their workplaces become unusable, but also their homes made uninhabitable. While we are not aware of any deaths among librarians, our colleagues in the region face major challenges.

Clearly the first priority must be to save lives and ensure people have enough to eat and to drink.

Yet libraries cannot be an afterthought. There is extensive evidence of how our institutions help rebuild communities, from offering Internet connections to providing spaces full of learning materials when schools are closed. They can be both a refuge, but also a means of accessing the information needed to reconstruct. To do so, they will themselves need support both from local governments, and international donors.

As the global voice of libraries, IFLA’s thoughts go out to our colleagues in the Caribbean, as well as our wishes for a speedy reconstruction. IFLA is monitoring the situation closely, and is in touch with donors about options for supporting libraries in the affected region. We have raised awareness of the challenges faced in the context of the Blue Shield General Assembly, and will continue to work with others to support the rebuilding of libraries as a means of accelerating the recovery of communities.

Elsewhere, the crucial work of IFLA in sharing standards and best practice continues in order to mitigate the impact of risks. Resources produced by IFLA and its members, sharing their own expertise and experience, will help libraries of all sizes stand ready for the challenges of the future."

Anyone looking to contribute to supporting the recovery of libraries across the Caribbean may wish to consider the campaign coordinated by the American Library Association.