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Gulf Coast Libraries Participate in Summit on Rebuilding

Filed: 11/17/06  GCN

ATLANTA (November 17, 2006) –Librarians and community leaders from Gulf Coast counties and parishes that lost library buildings will meet in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on November 28-30, to explore opportunities and share ideas for rebuilding. Building Libraries, Building Community: A Summit on the Role of Public Libraries in Re-Creating Community on the Gulf Coast is hosted by the Southeastern Library Network (SOLINET) in partnership with the Mississippi Library Commission and the State Library of Louisiana. (Photo right: Harrison County main library in Gulfport - GCN)

Thirty-one public libraries were destroyed by the hurricanes. Many more remain closed or are operating with severe limitations.

This summit begins a three-part rebuilding program for these public libraries.  Following the Summit, libraries in these counties and parishes will be eligible for grants to assist in planning for new buildings. The Summit and planning grants are part of SOLINET’s Gulf Coast Libraries Project, a three-year initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support public libraries damaged by hurricanes in Louisiana and Mississippi. In addition to support for planning new buildings, the Gulf Coast Libraries Project will provide temporary libraries and book/tech mobiles, technology, materials, and staffing in communities that lost libraries.

“Restoring library services and facilities is essential to the recovery of Hancock County,” states Prima Plauche’ of the Hancock County Library System in Mississippi.

Her statement is echoed in other counties and parishes. “Libraries add greatly to the quality of life and stability of the communities,” commented Cyndi Sellers, Library Board President in Cameron Parish, Louisiana.

“The purpose of the Summit is to provide a framework and context for planning library buildings and services in recovering Gulf Coast communities, recognizing that these libraries are assets to their communities and critical resources for positive, sustainable community growth,” according to Kate Nevins, Executive Director of SOLINET.

Community leaders and librarians in Louisiana will attend from Calcasieu Parish, Cameron Parish, Jefferson Parish, New Orleans, Plaquemines Parish, St. Bernard Parish, St. Tammany Parish, Terrebonne Parish, Vermillon Parish, and Washington Parish. Participants from Mississippi will represent Hancock County, Harrison County, Jackson-George Regional Library System, and Long Beach Municipal Public Library.

Reports and recorded sessions from Building Libraries, Building Community will be available at SOLINET’s Gulf Coast Libraries Recovery website in December.

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SOLINET

The Southeastern Library Network, Inc. (SOLINET) is an Atlanta-based not-for-profit library cooperative serving the Southeastern United States (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia) and the Caribbean. A membership network of libraries and other information organizations, SOLINET works in collaboration with many partners, from local to international, to provide leadership for cooperative action, improve access to information, and enable members to effectively anticipate and address the region’s needs for education, economic development, and improved quality of life. www.SOLINET.net

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to reduce inequities and improve lives around the world. In developing countries, it focuses on improving health, reducing extreme poverty, and increasing access to technology in public libraries. In the United States, the foundation seeks to ensure that all people have access to a great education and to technology in public libraries. In its local region, it focuses on improving the lives of low-income families. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Patty Stonesifer and Co-chairs William H. Gates Sr., Bill Gates, and Melinda French Gates. More information is available at www.gatesfoundation.org.

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