“It’s not if, but when, the next disaster strikes.”

Back in January 2020, these were the words from more than one library director at the NorthNet Library System (NLS) regional meeting. The NorthNet Library System brings together 41 member libraries in Northern California across 29 counties, many of whom have faced record-breaking wildfires, earthquakes, floods and more.

At the beginning of the year, NLS members were already well underway with Recovering Together, a project they initiated to develop a collaborative network of support to increase their capacity to respond to current and future disasters. Common Knowledge has helped this network draw from their diverse experiences with natural disasters and hard earned lessons learned to develop an approach that “goes beyond the binder.”

Little did we know that 2020 would bring a pandemic and an early, extra fierce fire season. This summer we helped the NLS network launch a new website, LibraryRecovery.org, that features a wide range of resources and insights from library staff members who have experienced recent disasters in Butte, Shasta, Napa and Sonoma counties. Libraries are bringing a candid assessment of their organizational readiness to develop more effective ways to prepare, respond and recover. NorthNet has also created a regional “buddy system” to improve coordination and cooperation before and during disasters.

Common Knowledge is also supporting a cohort of nine library teams in the NorthNet region to develop disaster plans that build on what they are learning right now, as well as through past experiences. Teams from large and small library systems are each working on how to develop the culture and procedures that will help them adapt to ever changing challenges, while centering on the unique role that libraries can play in community recovery. To learn more about the project, visit LibraryRecovery.org.