Tag Archives: community

Libraries are for Everyone

With a lot of help from Captain Jason Rogers

Years ago, I worked in the Scottsbluff library. I remember one winter when a family of children would come in right after school every day and stay until we closed the building. They would head off into the dark on foot when we locked the doors at 7:00. I think there were about four of them, the oldest being middle school aged. They were nice kids, and well-behaved. 

Suddenly, those kids quit closing down the library every day. In fact, they quit coming in altogether. Shortly after this I remember reading in the paper that a woman had died and left behind four children with the same names as these kids. I don’t know how the kids were spending their nights, but they spent their evenings through supper-time in the warmth of the library.

People use libraries in different ways. Some people are here to check out items to use at home, others come to use the wifi or printing equipment, and some to read the newspaper. Others use libraries as a means to keep in touch with what is going on around them. Some people come to the library because they feel it’s a safe space, and others because it’s temperature controlled, and out of the elements.

People find themselves without a home for a variety of reasons. Some reasons may make sense to us, and other reasons may leave us scratching our heads. Economic changes, abusive home situations, substance abuse, and untreated mental health illness are common circumstances that lead a person to become homeless. According to statistics from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on any given night over 2,200 Nebraskans are homeless. If you look further into these numbers, you will see that 6% are veterans, and 5% are people under age 25.  

These numbers don’t account for the many people who have insecure housing, or live in their vehicles. Examples of insecure housing are a person living in a camper on another person’s property or frequently staying at different people’s homes (commonly referred to as couch surfing). 

When it comes to people who are experiencing homelessness, Scottsbluff and Gering have the same problems that larger cities do. The lack of housing and homeless shelters in our area exacerbates the stress homeless people experience.

Hunger is another issue many people in the area face. Every day of the week a different church hosts a free meal for those who can’t afford to buy food. Unless people know this information, they could go long periods of time without any nutrition. 

Untreated mental illness is often a driving factor for homelessness. Mental illness increases the difficulty the homeless have of accessing resources. It also complicates implementing life-changing treatments. All of these issues can, and do, drive the homeless to commit crimes that they might not otherwise commit. 

They are simply trying to survive. 

Libraries are for everyone, and many different demographics of people take advantage of our services. Folks may find themselves beside someone they would not otherwise encounter in their daily routine. It’s a good reminder that we are all in different places in our lives. We don’t what to forget that sometimes kids experience housing insecurity too. 

Public libraries are one of the few places people can hang out without the expectation of a purchase. They are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The public part means everyone is welcome. 

In Case of Emergency

When my kids were little, I used to have fire drills at our house. I would push in the button on the smoke detector and all four kids would race out of the house for the swingset in the park across the street. I talked with the baby sitters about where to go in case of a tornado. One of my daughters filled a Rubbermaid tub with emergency supplies for a 4H project.  

Last week was a huge reminder that we all should have emergency plans. The library website has a lot of community information to help you with yours. You can find links to Panhandle Public Health’s basic family emergency plan and a more comprehensive list of suggested items to include in your emergency supplies.

Gering Library also has several books that might be useful to look through when thinking about what to do in an emergency: 

“The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook” and “The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Travel” both by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht

“The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why” by Amanda Ripley

“Amazing Stories of Survival: Tales of Hope, Heroism & Astounding Luck” from People Magazine

And some books about past disasters and what we can learn from them:

“A Fire Story” by Brian Fies

“Ruth­less tide: the heroes and vil­lain­s of the John­stown flood­, Amer­i­ca’s as­ton­ish­ing gild­ed age dis­as­ter” by Al Roker 

“The stor­m: what wen­t wrong and why ­dur­ing hur­ri­cane Ka­tri­na : the in­sid­e s­to­ry from one Louisiana ­sci­en­tist” by Ivor van Heerden and Mike Bryan- we have several books on Katrina

 “The last ­men out: life on the edge at Res­cue 2 ­fire­house” by Tom Downey

In addition to these items, you can borrow the firefighter’s exam manual if you are interested in becoming a firefighter. We also have a number of children’s books about all sorts of natural disasters, and we have some great ones specifically on wildfires. 

After reading “A Fire Story” by Brian Fies, I am re-thinking how I store precious things like photos. He and 6,200 other people lost their homes in the 2017 California wildfires. Fies is a cartoonist, so he wrote a graphic novel, “A Fire Story,” describing his experiences at that time. Waking up in the middle of the night, he chose random things to save. He writes about some of his regrets. Fies also describes the aftermath of the fire and how he and his wife put their lives back together, dealing with FEMA, insurance companies and citizens trying to be helpful. It made me ugly cry several times. You should read it.

Fies felt that his community was very helpful in his circumstances. One of the things our community does well is support each other. When something happens to our neighbors, we pitch in, sometimes financially, sometimes with food and water. When we see a need, we do what we can to help. Not only citizens, but local businesses, churches, Firefighters Ministries and the Oregon Trail Community Foundation all roll up their sleeves to pitch in with what they do best.

As my kids got older, I let my emergency planning lapse. This fall, I intend to work with my family to develop plans for what to do in a variety of situations. I also need to review my insurance coverage. It would be a good idea to review emergency plans when we change the smoke alarm batteries and to make that a habit. I also need to peek into that tub and see what my nine-year-old daughter thought we should have in case of an emergency ten years ago.