Libraries: Social hubs for communication, information, and community during crises

Photo credit: Creative Commons from ATACH-UW Chile Research at Flickr.

My colleague Maria Garrido and her team finished a long investigation into the role that ICT hubs played in the wake of the Chilean earthquake. The earthquake was massive. Communities were cut off from each other and as people tried to secure assistance and contact loved ones, ICTs played an important role.

While cybercafés, telecenters, and other public Internet providers were heavily used, the role of public libraries was particularly important. Libraries, with their deep community roots, were well positioned to respond: their staff members are long term public servants, they are publicly oriented which created opportunities for natural alliances with other agencies, and they are trusted by their communities. The services offered and the physical spaces themselves were important components as Chilean communities responded in the aftermath.

The full research report was completed earlier this year—to mark the anniversary of the tremor. TASCHA has also just released a brief that focuses exclusively on the role of libraries.