In March 2014, our Brigantine Branch was recognized by the Library Journal for their community work in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Following is an excerpt from the article by John Berry published on March 27th.
Atlantic County Library System’s (ACLS) Brigantine branch was one of many libraries in communities damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In response, the library created the Sandy Stories Project (SSP), a feature film documenting the impact. Other branches may replicate this pilot program in the future, but the project’s footprint goes well beyond the library. ACLS partnered with local businesses and community agencies such as BrigStrong (the town’s long-term recovery group); city officials; New Jersey Hope and Healing (NJ Hope), a FEMA-funded peer counseling effort; Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (Stockton); and local schools. Those relationships continue beyond the documentary.
The library now cosponsors with NJ Hope and BrigStrong a support group for Sandy survivors. NJ Hope established a table in the library’s lobby that is staffed several days each week (pictured). A Stockton professor who also works with the American Red Cross is using interview footage in research to inform future disaster response and preparedness efforts, inspiring the library to plan a follow-up project. And ACLS was invited to pilot a series of “mental health first aid” workshops for library employees; the results will be presented at the New Jersey Library Association’s convention in June.
The library “inspired other entities in the region to think of story-gathering as a means of chronicling and healing,” Beth Bliss, Brigantine branch manager, told LJ. NJ Hope incorporated “Tell us your story” into events throughout the state, and Stockton began collecting its own stories. For using the library’s role as aggregator and sharer of stories to heal its community, among other initiatives, ACLS is the 2014 LibraryAware Community Award second-place winner and will receive a $7,500 prize.