Public Libraries of Johnson County Team Up to Help Puerto Rico

Posted by Meredith on May 31, 2018


The Public Libraries of Johnson County will work together to help libraries in Puerto Rico affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Beginning June 1, the Public Libraries of Johnson County will have a collection spot for monetary donations. Donations will be accepted through June 30. All funds raised will be used to replace books, videos, and other materials lost or damaged in the 2017 storms.

Johnson County public libraries include Coralville, Iowa City, North Liberty, Oxford, Solon, Springmier, and Swisher.

This effort was initiated by the American Library Association (ALA) and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and Spanish Speakers. Together, the groups created the Adopt a Library program, which matches damaged or destroyed libraries in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other locations in the Caribbean.

The Iowa Library Association (ILA) was matched with the Francisco Oller Library in Puerto Rico.

Francisco Oller Library is an academic library located on the Escuela de Artes y Diseño de Puerto Rico (EAPD) campus in San Juan. It is the only institution in Puerto Rico offering a Bachelor of Fine Arts with majors in Art Education, Digital Art and Design, Fashion Design Industrial Design, Painting, Printmaking and Sculpture. Prior to Hurricane Maria, the campus had 518 students enrolled. That number dropped to 398 during the spring 2018 semester. Campus damages related to the hurricane are an estimated $2 million.

The Francisco Oller Library suffered infrastructure damage, losses in the collection, and was affected by the proliferation of mold due to the lack of electricity and air conditioning. Health concerns had the staff of four offering limited services in a designated area outside the library, including reference services and loans for items checked out before the hurricanes’ arrivals, until it was deemed safe to go back inside.

As of March 2018, the library has reestablished basic services and resumed its customary hours of operation, but Director Estrella Vázquez says there’s a long way to go to reach normal, including fixing the library's infrastructure to avoid future damages to its collections.

“We have a big challenge: attract and impact again the users who stopped visiting us because the library was closed for such a long period,” Vázquez said in a statement to ILA. “We are focusing in trying to finding a solutions to offer them all the resources and services, including stable internet and energy, since we are still facing those problems.”

The ILA hopes to raise $15,000 for the Francisco Oller Library. The Public Libraries of Johnson County are pleased to be part of the association’s efforts and invite all patrons to give what they can throughout the month of June. Donations can be made in cash or by checks made payable to the Iowa Library Association with Francisco Oller Library in the memo line.

For more information, contact your local Johnson County public library.