Equipping for Emergency
When disaster strikes, school librarians can play a key role in keeping kids safe.
We’re so lucky to have Professor Christie Kaaland EdD on Library Lions Roar to talk about her comprehensive and much needed Emergency Preparedness Book
This is the only book written specifically to provide school librarians with emergency preparedness and recovery tools as well as curricular tie-ins.
Christie Kaaland is a professor in the School of Education at Antioch University Seattle where she designed and currently directs the school library certification program. Prior to joining Antioch, she worked for 11 years as a school librarian. Her published works include ABC-CLIO’s Activism and the School Librarian: Tools for Advocacy and Survival, and she has also written extensively for School Library Monthly. Kaaland works tirelessly to improve funding for school libraries through legislative and school advocacy aimed at providing equitable library access for children in Washington schools.
Read the interview below and enter to win this essential Emergency Preparedness book for your school library.
About the Book
No school is immune to disaster, whether in the form of a natural event like a tornado or a tragedy like the violence that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The key to minimizing injury or death in an emergency is preparedness—something the school librarian is uniquely positioned to lead. This must-have book will show you how to be proactive in getting your school ready for the worst. It provides comprehensive preparedness and recovery plans, checklists, and curricular recommendations on preparedness that can be tailored to your individual library and community. Covering natural disasters, human-made disasters, and school violence, the book shows you how to conduct drills, assess vulnerabilities and risk, communicate preparedness plans, and use bibliotherapy for disaster recovery. It also describes how your library can be a safe haven for students who feel disconnected, bullied, or otherwise disenfranchised. Although the book is primarily intended for school librarians, classroom teachers will also find many ideas here for helping students be better prepared for disasters, whatever their cause or severity.
Janet- It’s an honor to have you here on Library Lions Roar, Christie. When did you first get the idea to write this book?
Christie- It came not as an idea but, unfortunately, as an urgent response in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. To this day, despite years of research on the subject and, tragically, the occurrences of many subsequent disasters, I am still most baffled and horrified by Sandy Hook. For weeks I tried to make sense of it, to understand it. But there is no sense to be made regarding Sandy Hook. I became depressed for a while, sad for a while, and angry for some time. Similar, I suppose, to experiencing a death although I was, of course, not personally involved. I cannot imagine how the teachers and students at Sandy Hook, even today, are able to get through a day without some flash of memory of that horrible morning.
At the time, I had a grandson in first grade. His blessed teacher, in response to Sandy Hook, just started to knit fervently, feverishly. Between the Sandy Hook event and the last day of school prior to Christmas vacation (only a few days’ time), she knit a scarf for every child in his class. On the day she released them for the holiday, she wrapped the scarf around each child’s neck and wished them a safe and happy holiday. I wonder how many similar stories occurred. How many ways did teachers and parents and other loved ones, wrack their brains to find ways to make their children’ feel safe, indeed: to keep their children safe?
I don’t knit, but I do write and, as a college professor and previous librarian, I do research. This book is the result of the action I took in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I also want to point out that throughout the book, the names of any and all perpetrators of shootings or other human-induced disasters are never once mentioned. The focus for the book rests entirely on promoting active participation in preparation and, post-disaster, helping those affected.
Janet- The book details the impact of natural disasters on schools and addresses the changing landscape with regard to school violence. It’s full of invaluable information for us all. How did you go about your research?
Christie- As so often happens when we research in depth: the more I read, the more I researched, the more people I interviewed the more I realized the far-reaching impact of both natural and human-made disasters. There are few people untouched by natural disasters. If you live in the Gulf region, you have likely been impacted by hurricanes. If you live in some Midwestern areas, you have experienced a tornado; if you live near the sea, you have likely experience disasters on or from the oceans.
And if you live anywhere on the planet, you have, at minimum, seen and heard repeatedly, the impact of human-made disasters.
As I write this, I am reminded of the very recent disaster in Las Vegas, where 59 people were killed and over 500 shot and injured, now called, “The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.” What does this fact mean? That we are not solving problems embroiled in our country’s shameful history related to our love of guns and violence. It means the problem is not going away any time soon and also that it cannot be ignored. We do need to be prepared for all disasters, whether we want to or not.
District librarians collaborative plan preparedness together.
I wish I could put my book in the hands of all the school librarians who have children who have been impacted by the Las Vegas shooting. But it was a concert, and the range of people attending is impossible to reach, as people came from every state, even foreign countries, to attend the concert.
It took nearly two years to write this book, and in many ways, it was a difficult two years because I heard so many tragic stories of human suffering. But I also heard stories that do not make the news. One such example: as a result of the Columbine school shooting, researchers have created apps such as text2tell now used in many school districts. Text2tell is an anonymous reporting system—to report threats and warning signs— that has been used to prevent hundreds of potential tragedies in schools across the country. This doesn’t make the news, but it should!
In this way I felt, there was a sense of “goodness” to my writing: that is, I realized over and over again the importance of preparedness and training as well as the importance of research by educators and the commitment of first responders to learn from every experience and proliferate the message of the importance of preparedness.
Disasters tend toward reactive response. Each disaster that occurs finds someone who wishes they had known more: warning signs of potential active shooters and how to respond, for example. In nearly every school shooting there are people in those schools who later say they “were not surprised” by the event. Just that one area of preparedness: understanding some of the behaviors or warning signs can be useful.
Janet- The book provides a guide to school emergency planning showing librarians how to take the lead in making it a reality. Librarians are our heroes here on Library Lions Roar. How do you see the librarian’s changing role in schools across the U.S. now?
Christie- Yes! Librarians are heroes. My Houston colleagues, for example.
This question, “How do you see the librarian’s changing role” is not just a potential book, it is a potential encyclopedic volume set!
I started my job as a librarian in 1993 just as the world wide web came into existence and began to take off. It’s hard to imagine the job of the librarian prior to the internet and online research! However, over those next few years, the learning curve for my job as a librarian— becoming an information specialist— exploded, and the need to teach children how to be safe online, to teach digital hygiene for their cyberlife, was an exciting and transformative time. It still is. Today, for those who have embraced the new roles of future-ready librarians, libraries are the most active bustling creative centers in the school. I could go on and on.
Janet- You created checklists, reproducible role-playing scenarios, and other aids for creating an emergency preparedness plan. I love the Emergency Preparedness Scavenger Hunt on page 173 of Appendix B! How did you come up with this fun idea?
Christie- I earned my doctorate in curriculum because I have always loved to design curriculum. It is a creative outlet for me. (Note: prior to becoming a librarian I was a drama teacher and I loved writing and directing plays and creating original curriculum with highly engaging activities. I still believe one of the most important tenants of good teaching is a highest possible level of student engagement.)
Teacher role enactment, a most effective tool.
The librarian’s job can be a really creative place to design curriculum. While the content of what librarians teach today is unlimited, we are fortunate to not be as constrained by structure of and pressure of test preparation and responding to test results. In that way, the library curriculum is often more natural…more organic and authentic. In other words, students come to the library to research when they need it, aimed to find answers specific to what they need or want to learn. It’s a beautiful thing!
Janet- How have librarians used your book? Do you have any examples?
Christie- I should. I wish there was a way to locate the people who have purchased my book unsolicited and ask that question, just so I know. But, no. Those writing professional material rarely have the opportunity to hear from people who have purchased and used their books. Textbooks/professional books like this are expensive, but writers of textbooks do not make money on their books, and this book, in particular, was an act of love for which I had no intention of making money. The small royalties I would receive each year for the book I take instead in copies of the book rather than a royalty check. Then, I distribute the book to those who need it most, post-disaster.
For example, I happen to know a librarian in Houston Texas so last month I contacted her and told her to send me the names of people most affected by the floods caused by Hurricane Harvey.
She connected me with three librarians and I mailed them copies of my book. I did hear back from each of them thanking me for the book and letting me know they found the resources invaluable. At the same time, however, I recognize the fact that those three librarians are dealing with much greater issues and I was thankful just hearing from them. It’s that kind of book.
Janet-One Last Roar: What is your Dream for this book?
Christie- That the “preparedness” part of this book can get into the hands of librarians pre-disaster.
That librarians would take some of the curriculum and activities and use them to help their students be better prepared. I can do nothing to prevent disasters, but I think we can all do more to be well prepared for disasters when they strike.
Janet- Thank you, Christie, for all your efforts to make Libraries a Safe Haven. We’re honored to offer the book giveaway here on Library Lions Roar. Librarians, here’s your chance to win a copy of Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Recovery in School Libraries: Creating a Safe Haven.
How to Enter. To those of you who are new to Rafflecopter, all you need to do is Log In using the “Facebook” or the “Use Your Email” button below. Click any of the three options. If you choose option 3, just type your first name and enter. You can earn more chances to win if you choose to tweet (The tweet is written for you ahead of time. You just need to click. Also, you need to click “I Tweeted” to confirm the entry). Or you can choose to leave a comment. Good Luck All!
As a member of search and rescue, and a general ed classroom teacher who has always served on the school disaster preparedness team, I would love to see this book!s
Thanks for the comment, Melanie and for all the work you’re doing for search and rescue as well as in the classroom. Essential work!