Libraries after the Superstorm

By Megan Hanson

Over the past week, many of us have been blasted with winter storms and arctic temps. We thought this would be a good time to check in with our LFL friends who endured a much harsher visit from Mother Nature just over a year ago and are still feeling the effects.

In October, 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast. It was the largest storm the Atlantic seaboard had ever seen, spanning 1,100 miles and causing more than $68 billion in damage.

The small, waterfront fishing village of Highlands, on New Jersey’s northeastern coast, was hit especially hard, says resident Christine Mihok: “1,200 of 1,500 homes were destroyed and had to be demolished or rebuilt. The Highlands Boro Library, located in the community center, was also destroyed, along with every other boro building.”

The volunteer-run library had been open three days a week, and was the blue-collar community’s only spot for reading, doing research, and borrowing books. But reopening the Boro Library wasn’t the priority in a village that had to rebuild so many homes and roads. Mihok’s solution? Bring a Little Free Library to Highlands to share books and serve as a small harbor from the town’s hardships.

With no resources to start the library, Mihok—via the nonprofit group Hope for Highlands—applied for support from Little Free Library. Soon, the Highlands LFL was established across from a quiet park, near four of the first local shops to reopen after Superstorm Sandy. “It looks like a little house growing out of a planter,” says Mihok. “People sitting at tables outside a nearby coffee shop, or those stopping to rent a bicycle to tour the town, may not notice the LFL right away, but when they do, they are delighted. It gives a much-needed smile to many, especially families with children.”

Although the public library has yet to reopen after the havoc of Hurricane Sandy, the town’s Little Free Library is going strong. “We were fortunate to be recipients of a sponsored Library,” Mihok says. “The residents of Highlands love the LFL. It has fostered conversation and discussion, and is a very bright note in a tough little town that is fighting to come back from a natural disaster.”

“The Little Free Library has given Highlands a sense of hope,” she continues. “Perhaps seeing this bright little house rising up from the devastation has encouraged our citizens, showing that they too can rise up.”

Do you want to help bring Little Free Libraries to communities in need? Click here to donate and support Little Free Library’s mission.

Margret Aldrich is a writer and editor in Minneapolis currently at work on a book about Little Free Libraries, to be published by Coffee House Press in 2015. Keep up with Margret and the book on Twitter: @mmaldrich@lflbook.

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