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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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WAVELAND, Miss. -- Half of the Hancock County Library System was taken out by Katrina. The Pearlington branch was gutted and is still being used as a shelter for about a dozen people.

The Waveland branch, renovated and expanded in 2003, was also gutted, and books lie around the shell of what was a building, some caked into the ground after three months of mud, rain and sunshine.

One baked history book just outside the entrance was turned to a chapter titled: “Prologue: The First Hundred Days.” The author was referring to President Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts to get the nation out of the Great Depression, but destiny might have had a hand in leaving a message for Waveland -- that nearly 100 days after Katrina, this too will pass.

Indeed, the library system’s other two branches are open and have become a hub for residents to keep tabs with distant friends and family via the Internet.

“We have 20 computers and by 10 a.m. they’re all being used,” library spokeswoman Mary Perkins says of the Bay St. Louis branch. The library also offers free phone, fax and copying services as well as traditional library help, and this week saw Gov. Haley Barbour and first lady Marsha Barbour stop by to read stories and drop off 500 children’s books donated by Scholastic.

Perkins, who is also a MSNBC.com citizen diarist, says reconstruction costs are still guesstimates given uncertainties about FEMA funds and insurance payments.

Donations of books and other media have been offered, but the system has so little space that it can only take financial help at this point. Check the system’s Web site at hancocklibraries.info for a donation form.

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13 COMMENTS

the above picture is truly a sad seene any books salvagable should be gotten out now i'm sure they will be welcomed when more schools return or rebuild...hope that is soon...for the chrilden's sake

I think you'll be interested in this article.

Just as important as rebuilding homes is rebuilding the services which support the families that will live in them. Libraries provide a valuble entrence to the world beyond for those who other wise might never have opportunity to see it.

Now it time for the world to step through the door to make sure it remains open. I encourage those who read this to click the link and make a donation.

Thank you,

Public Libraries to the rescue!!! ...Many people propose "virtual libraries" as the wave of the future, but somehow I can't imagine any virtual library being able to step in and assist a community the way librarians can - and ARE doing!
Kudos and good luck in your efforts!

Way to go Bay St. Louis! Libraries are important in the rebuilding process and the community place to re-connect with displaced individuals. Keep making noise.

What about setting up a website for Libraries to Build (or similar). There must be numerous libraries which will be eventually needing replenishing of books. On the site, set up the basic guidelines for donations (the standard rules are generally no or only recent texts, decent condition, etc). The entry of books available for donation could be easily made into the db by visitors to the site (with their name and means of communicating with them when this library (and possibly other libraries being rebuilt) are ready to receive shipments.
Many of us have books that could easily be directed to such efforts and make a valuable contribution to these areas so hard hit. This is something a LOT of people could help with!

Libraries are more than a repository of books and have been for many, many years. Public Libraries are the best kept secret in America. And for those who know the secret, they world is open to them.

Andy,

Books need to be rescued from water/moisture within 48 hours if they're to survive. Any book not out of that library by then is a total write-off.

I was in the Waveland library many times---it was always a major community center. People in Amherst are actively trying to help and raise money; I hope that the poeple of Hancock County know that not everyone has forgotten them.

Thanks for the story!! "Libraries will get you through times of no money (or home, web access, etc) better than money will get you through times of no libraries." A truism proven once more. Thank you to the librarians and their taxpayer supporters!!!

I work in a wonderful library, one of our community's many blessings. This year we're not having exchanging gifts and our holiday celebration is going to be very low key becuase we're contributing those funds to the Illinois Library Association's Katrina Fund. I challenge all other library staff to do the same. Our department has already contributed over $300.00. It seems like so little though when you realize these communities have lost everything.

Those books aren't salvageable...water covered the building. Those books are moldy.

While offers of support and donations show the ultimate kindness and concern of Americans, what I would like to know is where the hell FEMA is. The federal government has programs to assist cultural institutions -- these are programs that we all pay taxes for. Rather than look for charity, I'd like to know why FEMA isn't here helping institutions like this rebuild? Doing a heckva job there Brownie.

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