Libraries, Telecenters, and the 2010 Chile Earthquake

On February 27, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Chile, followed by a tsunami that devastated several coastal communities. The Libraries, Telecenters, and the 2010 Chile Earthquake project examines post-disaster information and communication needs, services provided by libraries and telecenters, response times, factors contributing to successes and shortfalls, and how emergency management might be improved. Looking at five libraries and seven telecenters, researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with three groups: library and telecenter staff, government representatives, and users. They found that libraries and telecenters played an important role in responding to the crisis, helping to restore communication and promote recovery. The project team concluded that governments should include libraries and telecenters in emergency plans, that library-telecenter alliances and coordination could be improved, and that there is a need to develop tools and provide training to make it easier to organize and communicate in post-emergency situations.


  • Background
  • Theories

In February 2010, Chile experienced an 8.8 earthquake (Richter scale) followed by a tsunami — a disaster that devastated coastal and inland regions and caused significant loss of life and massive destruction. The earthquake severed energy, water, and communication networks (Internet, television, and in some instances radio). The resulting isolation compounded the psychological impact of the disaster. Various emergency communication initiatives were implemented in the aftermath through public Internet-access points — schools, libraries, telecenters, and mobile laboratories. These initiatives were largely decentralized, emerging spontaneously from the efforts of businesses, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

Theory of information worlds:

G. Burnett and P.T. Jaeger, 2009. Information worlds: Social context, technology, and information behavior in the age of the Internet. New York: Routledge.

G. Burnett and P.T. Jaeger, 2008. “Small worlds, lifeworlds, and information: The ramifications of the information behaviour of social groups in public policy and the public sphere,” Information Research, volume 13, number 2 (June).

Project Design

  • Overview
  • Questions
  • Sample

This study examines two types of public Internet-access points — libraries and telecenters — as they functioned in Chile to assist in disaster awareness, management, and prevention.

The research was designed to examine five issues: (1) the specific communication services offered, and the time required to establish services; (2) factors that contributed to successful outcomes; (3) the communication needs of people in the affected areas; (4) gaps in emergency communication that were not successfully remedied by libraries and telecenters; and (5) strategies that might improve future post-disaster communication services.

How important are libraries and telecenters in disaster management and prevention?

This study explores that broad question, focusing on three main areas: (1) post-disaster communication needs; (2) coordination with citizen groups and government agencies; and (3) success factors in providing emergency communications.

The project examined the experience of five libraries and seven telecenters (including one mobile telecenter) in two areas most affected by the earthquake (Region VII and Region VIII) as well as in the metropolitan region of Santiago. Researchers conducted semi-structured with government representatives and library and telecenter staff, and focus groups with users.