This past week, after just a half day of school under our belts for the year, our area was hit with both a flash flood and massive river flooding in the same day.
We have endured both before, less than five years ago, but not both at the same time. Over ten inches of rain fell, swelling the creeks, streams and rivers. Roads, bridges, homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed; several schools and libraries are perched on the banks of the rivers, and we have proof that at least two schools are totally ruined.
One school in particular, in the Binghamton City School District, had at least four feet of filthy water throughout the main floor. Since the library and classrooms are on the main floor, this means that everything was lost. Bookcases were toppled, computers swamped, all of the beautiful decorations and supplies that were brought on the first day of school are gone.
This school happened to have one of the best library collections in the area. The school librarian had built a beautiful library collection to compliment the curriculum. There had been a branch of the public library in the building as well, and when that branch closed, the Librarian pleaded for the books and furniture. These were blended into the school library, creating a lovely and well-rounded collection.
Now, even the books that were not directly touched by water will have to be destroyed. Mold, odors and just the nearness of the fetid water have made anything in the building unusable by children.
Parents, graduates and neighbors have all stepped up to help even before the water began receding. They all generously offered to bring in used books, school supplies, and whatever they could find that might be useful. This may seem sweet and generous and a solution to the problem, but we have to stop and think first. That library was not built on a random collection of materials. Each book was lovingly chosen for its appropriateness in that school, for those children, learning those lessons. Each book was cataloged, processed and shelved for easy access. There was a plan over the course of ten or more years, which helped this library grow and mature into one that served the needs of students and staff.
The same guidelines that helped build this library are useful when building an eBook collection. Each addition should be chosen on the basis of reading level, relevant content, and quality of the work. Titles should complement each other, support each other, and weave together to create a supportive and useful web of reading material, both fiction and nonfiction. eBooks on a broad and finely-leveled ladder of reading abilities will help readers find attractive and useful materials within their comfort area, and will support them as they grown into accomplished readers. And, of course, eBooks will not mold, mildew or become unusable in the event of a catastrophic flood.