(LEX 18) — Books are something many of us take for granted. But for flood survivors in eastern Kentucky, the damaged and destroyed libraries are just another reminder of what they lost.
Letcher County Librarian Tessa Fugate-Caudill has spent the past few weeks cleaning up the Fleming Neon branch in Neon. Much of it is beyond repair: books, computers and historical documents.
“Libraries are more than just books,” Fugate-Caudill said. “A lot of our people have lost their gathering space, their meeting place. Our children’s programs that are so popular.
Floodwaters also damaged the Blackey branch and destroyed the county bookmobile.
“It really hurts because it gets to the parts of our county where people tend to be almost forgotten,” Fugate-Caudill said. “These are definitely underserved populations in Letcher County. Not just remote places where people can’t get to a branch, but housebound people, the elderly, the sick. »
Last week, Kentucky author Kim Michele Richardson hosted a GoFundMe for Letcher County Public Libraries. So far he has raised nearly $16,000 of the $25,000 goal. She told LEX 18 that she felt called to raise funds for libraries in part because she wrote historical novels inspired by Eastern Kentucky librarians of the 1930s and 1940s.
Fugate-Caudill is grateful for all the help but says she knows there is a long way to go. Currently, she hopes the Fleming Neon branch will be able to reopen by March.
Meanwhile, the historic flood also destroyed two elementary school libraries and a middle school library in Letcher County.
Superintendent Denise Yonts has requested donated books online and says the district has received so many they have run out of space to store them. This is where Pulaski County Schools comes in.
Music teacher Jeremy Cole is hosting a book drive through September 2. People can drop off books in good condition at any school in Pulaski County. Cole says they will store them until Letcher County schools are able to take them.
Another way to help provide books to flood survivors in Eastern Kentucky is to purchase them online at area bookstores. This idea came from the owner of Plaid Elephant Books in Danville.
She says if you want to buy books and help affected small businesses at the same time, order books online at bookshop.org. You can choose to buy books from, for example, Read Spotted Newt in Hazard.