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The River Ran Through It: Resilience, Teamwork, and Re-imagining the Library after a Disaster #betterthanever

ALA Virtual Conference, 2020


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Best Practices

  • Have an inventoried list of all the furniture, electronic equipment, and other items in your possession. It helps speed up the insurance process and you don't have to play the guessing game post-event.
  • Build strong connections with other departments on your campus. You want to be friends with facilities and technology teams. It makes a world of difference when you need their help at any point!
  • Have a contingency plan
    • Consider alternative ways to offer services in case of emergency
      • What other locations can you move or shift to?
      • Can you offer services online/virtually? Can everyone on your team work from home?
      • Where would you get the equipment, such as laptops?
  • Have procedures in place to issue library bar codes for e-resources.

Take care of yourself. I know this is silly and repeating what everyone else is saying, but life has been turned upside down and you will need to turn to things that provide you comfort, help you recharge, and keep you healthy both mentally and physically. EAP can be very helpful. Take advantage of remote counseling if you need it. Go for walks or do some exercises at home (YouTube has a lot of routines). Cuddle with your dog, cat, child, partner, etc.  Color, work on the house, garden, whatever. 

Step back. Breath. Outsiders won’t understand your particular situation and will likely make a comment that will send your blood pressure skyrocketing. They mean well. Let it go. If you can’t do what is asked, then you can’t. Do what you can. 

Set healthy work-life boundaries. If you can, create a space to work that does not blend into where you seek down-time. Work set hours. Try to avoid working all day and night. All of this will lead you to feel stressed, guilty (“you haven’t done enough”), and it will burn you out quickly.  

Laugh. Watch stand-ups, silly YouTube videos, share jokes. 

Stay connected. Keep up with your colleagues. It’s hard to be so isolated from one another, but you are all in it together. You are not alone. WebEx Teams and other chat services are a great tool to keep up with one another via chat, video, and phone. It includes screen sharing tools, emojis, and gifs (see the previous bullet point). 

Designate your support group where you can safely vent your frustrations. This is a stressful time and you’ll need to let off steam. Who is in your Las Vegas crew? 

Do your best to eat healthily. I have trouble with this because I stress eat like no tomorrow. Do the best you can. Forgive yourself. Tomorrow is a new day. (Corny, I know, but it’s the truth!) 

Be open to change and be flexible in how things are done. They may/will be different than what was always done. You won’t be going back to the same situation when we get back. Attend professional development webinars when possible. Share ideas and tools with your community and peers. There are so many free resources out there than can help! 

  • Have the cost of each book, video, etc. listed in the bibliographic record.
  • Install your library system management software on a work laptop to take home with you.
  • Save work documents to the cloud.
  • Volunteer to take on some more system virtual services that may typically be allocated to a campus heading up the web committee
    • Answer questions coming from the databases 
    • Answer the after-hours chat questions routed to our email
  • Ask for a wireless phone to continue to easily answer phone queries wherever you are stationed
  • Try new ways to implement instruction sessions in classrooms without computers, and virtually both synchronous and asynchronously
  • Work on getting multi-year contracts for new databases. Don't expect a (or minimal) book/collections budget for some time after the rebuild.
  • Take this opportunity, if you have less work during this time, to learn new technology
  • Team building and maintaining connection is important
    • Have regular virtual meetings/social hours to keep up with your team. We have a Social Distancing Division lunch where we check in with one another, talk about our struggles and joys, play games, and catch up on what's happening once a week. This is not a forced meeting, it came about organically since we missed seeing one another.
      • Similarly meet regularly with your supervises. It helps them feel connected.
    • Have a regular newsletter for your team to share what they are doing right now. We make it fun and light with games, jokes, photos, and more. It is also a way we are documenting this journey.
    • We have regular peer share training sessions where someone on our team teaches us a feature or tech tool that we could all use and enhance our productivity. Recent ones include:
      • create Adobe forms,
      • use pivot tables and conditional formatting in Excel,
      • LibGuides 101,
      • TechSmith Relay, now called Knowmia (How to make a video)
      • guided meditations
    • Host a book study. Earlier, we had a campus-wide book study on Laura van Dernoot Lipsky's The Age of Overwhelm. Currently, we are reading Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Laura Roppe.

Fast Facts

Financial Impact

  • $60 million in damage for the campus
  • $2 million in damages in the library
  • $1.2 million worth of books were lost
  • Initial Formation: Aug. 14, 2017
  • Tropical Storm: Aug. 17, 2017
  • Cat. 1 Hurricane: Aug. 24, 2017
  • Cat. 4 Hurricane: Aug. 25, 2017
  • First U.S. Landfall: Aug. 25, 2017 in Rockport, TX
  • First rain bands reach Harris County: Aug. 26, 2017
  • Total time over Harris County: 4 days
  • Rain: The storm produced 47.4 inches of rain (1 trillion gallons of water) across Harris County. It caused widespread and prolonged flooding.
  • Flooding: Record flooding occurred along the entire San Jacinto River including the West Fork, East Fork, the main stem below Lake Houston, and major tributaries along the river. Massive flooding occurred throughout Humble, Kingwood, Huffman, Crosby, Highlands, and portions of Sheldon.
  • Damages: In Harris County, the hurricane caused 36 flood-related deaths and forced 37,000 people to relocate to area shelters. In addition, 70,000 structures and 300,000 vehicles flooded.
  • Cost: The storm caused nearly $125 billion in damages across the state.
August-September 2017
  • Hurricane Harvey made landfall and caused widespread destruction to Houston and surrounding areas. The storm severely flooded six of nine buildings at LSC-Kingwood with biohazard floodwater. Power, HVAC, phones, and the Internet went out and the campus power systems, multiple elevators, the main network closet, facility vehicles, lawn equipment, and thousands of items destroyed. The damages caused delay to the fall 2017 semester by three weeks. Administrators worked around-the-clock to convert more than 1,200 classes to a different timeframe, mode, or location.
October-November 2017
  • Blackmon Mooring used generators to power lights and equipment to pump out water and pump in hot, dry air to the flooded buildings. The remediation crews removed all items from the first floors and demolished the interiors. Faculty and staff retrieved boxes of sanitized personal items, teaching materials, and other equipment not damaged by the storm. Workers installed electrical breakers to restore partial power, and the first floors of CLB, FTC, HSB, and PAC were deemed clean of microbial growth.
December 2017
  • LSC-Kingwood took possession of the new LSC-Process Technology Center. At the main campus, the six impacted buildings passed industrial hygiene inspections and Blackmon Mooring demobilized from campus. The parking lot lights came off generators and ran on campus power. Despite a rocky start, students persevered in classes as evidenced by only two percent increase in the drop rate. Administrators, faculty, and staff invented new processes, discovered new spaces, and found unconventional ways to stay connected to each other and their students.
January-February 2018
  • The college regained the use of the first floor in the Technology Instructional Building (TIB), which was without power during the fall semester. The instructional leadership sought additional classrooms to accommodate summer and fall 2018 classes. The Process Technology Center opened with more than 800 students from the process technology program as well as from the science, engineering and, labs displaced by the hurricane. LSC-Atascocita Center served more than 2,500 students and the Dental Hygiene Annex on FM 1314 opened. Also, the Medallion Foundation gave $28,250 to the Lone Star College Foundation to purchase a 12-passenger van to transport students from the parking garage to the LSC-Process Technology Center.
March-April 2018
  • All campus grounds, including the baseball field, soccer practice areas, the Lowlands trail, and the tennis courts, are clean and free of biological and chemical hazards. Facilities received two trucks to replace vehicles lost in the flood. The LSC Board of Trustees approved Anslow Bryant and Autoarch Architects to rebuild the campus. Crews placed barriers to restrict access to build back construction zones and repaired the library elevator. College personnel met with contractors to design the new Health Professions Center.
May-June 2018
  • LSC-Kingwood regained the use of the second floors in the TIB and library and leased five modular buildings. This added 40 classrooms for students to take face-to-face classes during the fall and late summer semesters. The Board of Trustees approved the purchase of specialty equipment, lab equipment, furniture, IT equipment, and IT infrastructure. Employees chose the colors and furniture (chairs, desks, bookshelves, computer tables) for each building including classrooms, offices, lounges, and public space seating. Administrators met continuously with architects to discuss and plan restoration efforts.
July-August 2018
  • Construction began to rebuild the six flooded buildings. Walkways were created to allow students easier access to the TIB, library and the modular buildings. Library staff and architects work to design a modern and future-thinking library. The drywall subcontractors delivered and installed sheetrock into the buildings. The college renamed its Administration, Health Science, and Performing Arts buildings to the Technology Instructional Building, Science Instructional Building, and the Administration and Performing Arts Center. Abby’s Deli is selected for cafeteria and catering services.
September-October 2018
  • LSC-Kingwood experienced an enrollment increase for fall 2018. Special trades subcontractors worked on various projects in all buildings (except library) such as data communications, plumbing, drywall, and electrical. Project highlights included removing loose ceiling wires, repairing bricks, replacing tennis court backboards, rough-in plumbing, and installing ductwork. Furniture is scheduled to be delivered and installed in the buildings (except library) in December. Instructional leaders continued their planning of the new Health Science Building that is scheduled to open no earlier than fall 2020. Also, all LSC bookstores transitioned from Follett to Barnes & Noble.
November-December 2018
  • Employees spent several days clearing their offices and areas on the second floors in the impacted buildings in preparation for deep cleaning. Construction in the library began. Other progress included painting and laying new flooring is nearly completed, fire alarms are wired, and furniture is installed. During the winter break, personnel worked non-stop to ensure classrooms and offices were ready for spring 2019. Also, OTS assembled 864 computers loaded with the requested hardware and software for classes (priority), followed by private offices and work areas.
January and Spring 2019
  • LSC-Kingwood reopened five of its six buildings in time for the start of spring 2019. The library will fully open in March with state-of-the-art technology and equipment. Headcount slightly decreased, but contact hours increased by five percent. Construction crews will work on various projects such as replacing bridges, benches, and other wooden structures around the campus destroyed by the storm. Throughout the semester, the college will host campus and community events that will feature the renovated buildings and grounds.
In the early hours of Aug. 29, of what was supposed to be the first week of fall 2017 classes, six of the nine buildings on campus took on 24” to 48” of biohazard water (diesel and raw sewage). Power, HVAC, phones, and internet went out; and the pumps to power the campus, elevators, the main network closet, facility vehicles, lawn equipment, and thousands of items in the flooded buildings were destroyed. As flood water slowly receded, college administrators gathered on campus to assess the situation. Upon seeing the damages and learning the process of flood recovery, officials hired Blackmon Mooring to clean and dry the affected buildings. Approximately 250 people in personal protective equipment (PPE) cleaned and sanitized contaminated materials and spaces on campus. Also, the remediation specialists brought in big generators to power lighting and equipment to pump out water and pump in hot, dry air (pictured) with a microbicide. During the process, crews removed contents, flooring, carpet, sheetrock and set aside other items to be salvaged and sanitized. College personnel meticulously documented all details for FEMA and insurance purposes. After 12 weeks of various remediation efforts, Blackmon Mooring released the affected buildings back to LSC-Kingwood and completely vacated the campus in December 2017.
After Hurricane Harvey caused severe damage to LSC-Kingwood, the administration’s top priority was addressing the needs of its students and employees. College leaders created and implemented a new academic business plan in 23 days to keep students in class. All employees were paid on the regular dates even though many were relocated to other sites, and faculty were in training to learn how to teach entire classes online. On Sept. 8, 2017, LSC-Kingwood held a press conference with area television stations and newspapers. Broadcast reporters with channels 2, 11, 13 and 26, along with print reporters with the Houston Chronicle, the Observer Newspapers, the Tribune Newspapers, Community Impact and The Howler (student newspaper) toured the damaged campus. The press conference aired on local radio stations and captured on various social media sites.


We will populate this section with your questions following our presentation. Stay tuned!

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