How to Have a Library When Your School Is Evacuated

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Market St. Bridge between Kingston and Wilkes-Barre
I'll be honest.  I don't actually think about the fact that my school's campus is about a mile from the Susquehanna River unless I am actually driving over one of bridges.  But that is undoubtedly due to the fact that I am not a native of the Wyoming Valley, or even originally from northeast Pennsylvania.
Downtown Wilkes-Barre during the Agnes Flood of 1972

Because those natives are scarred from the many devastating floods that this area has regularly experienced.  With the campus devastation from the Agnes Flood of 1972 fresh in their mind, many of the school's senior teachers and administrators do not take the threat of the river reaching flood level lightly.  After the Agnes Flood, there was a concerted effort to bring in a massive levee system to protect towns from this economic and emotional devastation in the future.  Some of the towns, because a gigantic concrete hill would obscure the views to the river, voted to not build one, with unfortunate results.

The Wyoming Seminary campus
As the news outlets began to make predictations of the river reaching flood stage, Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School realized that it had to evacuate our campus.  We are a boarding/day school, so while our day students were evacuating with their parents if they were in the floodplain, or just kicking back in their house, elated school was canceled if they were high and dry in the surrounding mountains, almost 200 boarders and residential faculty kicked into high gear, moving furniture and paperwork to the second floor of all buildings and packing their belongings.

It's a testimony to our community that day students immediately opened their homes to boarders, with over half of them being quickly brought into day student houses for a three to four day stay.  The rest of them (largely newer students only at school for a couple of weeks and therefore with a smaller friend network) were taken with residential faculty to the beautiful facilities of Camp Orchard Hill.  A skateboarding park, climbing tower, lake facilities, beach volleyball court and air conditioned cabins make this location a veritable paradise for evacuated teens!  Especially considering that a large percentage of the students were new to the school, the bonding that took place probably gave these kids a better start to the school year than simply being in class would have.

Another great benefit of Camp Orchard Hill's location was purely a selfish one.  It happens to be two-tenths of a mile from the house my husband and I purchased three years ago when we moved out of the boys dorm.  Commuting to work could not have been easier!

We got the text that school was closed Wednesday night and an email from the Dean of the Upper School that all on campus faculty and any off campus faculty who could make it (roads were beginning to close) should come to a meeting in our main auditorium to get further instructions on how best to help.  Buses were coming at 2:30 that day to take everyone on campus up to Camp Orchard Hill since Kingston was subject to a mandatory evacuation no later than 4 pm, with anyone lingering risking arrest.

Faculty and students were busy moving furniture and files up (all of admissions was spread around the 2nd floor library).  Since the heavy lifting was well in hand, I began to think: what were students going to do for three to four days in the middle of a camp in the country?  We weren't sure about wifi access at the time, so reading material was a necessity.  How could I create a library on the move?

Kirby Library has a great supply of board games, so naturally all those went into my car trunk, as did the library's Wii and four color-coded controllers.  I pulled about 30 popular magazines off the magazine wall - all the fashion, news, music and entertainment, sports, and a smattering of science and literary magazines (I was thinking about the faculty).  The bigger challenge was the books.  What to choose when the clock was ticking?

It felt almost like those game shows they had where contestants were given a shopping cart and told to dash through a supermarket, throwing items into a cart to achieve a certain dollar amount.

Linger and Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Impossible by Nancy Werlin
Generation Dead and Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters

Rucker Park Setup and Rikers High by Volponi
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
Snitch by Allison Van Diepen
The Book Thief by Zusak
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
American Wife and Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
The first five books of the Georgia Nicholson series by Louise Rennisen
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen by Tamora Pierce
Fight Club and Choke by Chuck Palahniuk
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Keeping Faith and The Pact by Jodi Picoult
Dairy Queen trilogy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Shooter, Crystal and Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers
Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto by Eric Luper
The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr
The Season by Sarah MacLean
Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Misery and It by Stephen King
Lady MacBeth's Daughter and Ophelia by Lisa Klein
Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka
The Physik Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

For someone quickly pulling books off shelves, I think I must have been aiming for a good mix that would appeal to adults (the faculty supervising the students) and the kids themselves.  In retrospect, I could kick myself for not including graphic novels since the boarding population is very international (over 20 countries are represented at Wyoming Seminary) and our Asian population in particular love manga.

I created a user "Evacuation Flood" in the software and checked out all the books to that account.  Kids were told that they could take whatever they wanted back to their cabins, they would just be responsible for returning anything to the library (which they did).  I picked up everything on the morning they headed back to campus and packed it in my trunk (unloading it on Monday morning).

There was a little lounge cabin that I spread all the materials out in (as well as bringing 72 fresh baked chocolate chip cookies from the house).  They were used and rummaged through, and I certainly saw kids laying on benches and reading library books.

While it was a minor contribution, I felt really great thinking that the library went with the students on the evacuation - I always like to say that "library isn't a place, not a state of mind" and I think I lived up to that motto.