The value of community ethnography in public library crisis preparation

Jessica Lingel


In this brief article, I address the usefulness of including community-driven interviews into preparations for disasters. Drawing on Shera’s (1970) highly influential construction of library work as tied to communication, I analyze responses of three library organizations – the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the New Jersey Library Association – immediately following Hurricane Sandy. I then turn to a specific role of communication that libraries can offer surrounding communities, providing resources for local community members to conduct interviews among those who have experienced a disaster. By incorporating this kind of responsibility to communicate experiences of a crisis to a wider audience, libraries fulfill an important part of Shera’s charge to reflect the local values and norms of surrounding communities.


crisis preparation, public libraries, ethnography

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