Responding to a natural disaster isn’t the WHC’s stock in trade. We are best known for giving grants to organizations that create programs like walking tours, museum exhibits and face-to-face community discussions. But last summer, when I started getting reports about torrential rains causing unprecedented flooding in the southwestern parts of our state, I worried about the organizations in those rural communities. A few phone calls and conversations revealed that libraries in La Valle, Ontario, Norwalk, Rock Springs and Viola all needed help.
The WHC hadn’t worked with any of these libraries before, but in each of these small towns, the library is treasured. In Rock Springs, at word of impending flooding, community members worked furiously to get everything out of the library before the rising water rendered their building unusable. Today, that library is temporarily housed in a church basement. Libraries in Ontario, Norwalk and Viola didn’t suffer quite as badly, but needed to replace lost items and make repairs.
Fortunately, the WHC is an organization poised to help. Generally, we respond to community members who want help bringing their ideas for humanities programs to fruition, and we can provide expertise and funding. In this case, the real need was to keep these little libraries open! What they needed was money for books, shelves, carpets, and other basics.
I was in La Valle, population 367, last week to visit their library. The WHC has provided money to replace items that were damaged when water filled their building, covering the lower three shelves and destroying their entire children’s collection. I was thrilled to learn from Becky and Cindi that the La Valle Public Library, founded in 1903, plans to re-open soon.
Libraries are a critical source of information and of connection to the rest of the state and to the world. Especially in rural communities. I’m so grateful to our donors, whose regular contributions meant that the WHC could instantly offer help when and where it was most needed. Thank you on behalf of Becky and Cindi in La Valle,and all the other librarians and library supporters we are able to help.
Here’s wishing you a joyful holiday season and a new year rich in the humanities!