We’ve all seen our communities come together to help the recent Butte Fire victims. It has been wonderful to see so many groups, clubs and agencies making disaster relief a reality. I would like to recognize another resource in our midst, which helped during the fire and which can and should be used in future emergencies: your local library.

The San Andreas library offered victims use of a printer, copier, fax and computer to reach friends and family, insurance companies and other agencies. Free high-speed Internet made connecting even easier. It was a clean, comfortable place to meet when clean, comfortable places to meet were in short supply. The community meeting room also served as the headquarters for the state’s Office of Emergency Services during and after the fire.

There are, however, two things that can improve the efficiency of the library’s emergency use in the future. First, the San Andreas library building is not on the county compound utility grid. When county buildings lost power, they were among the first to be restored. But restoration to the library building was delayed. The library building should be on the county compound grid.

Second, not all other county library branches – Angels Camp, Arnold, Copperopolis, Murphys, Mokelumne Hill, West Point and Valley Springs – have high-speed Internet.

Now is the time to ensure all branches have high-speed Internet connections. The bottom line is this: the next emergency, whether it be fire, flood or something else, may be centered in another part of the county. We need to prepare our branch libraries to be ready for the role they can, and should, play in helping their communities.

Andrea Schoen

Director of Murphys Volunteer Library

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