This Best of the Best Practice is the first county-wide disaster information call center to be operated and administered through a local public library. The Douglas County Public Information Hotline (IH), located at the Lawrence Public Library in Kansas, is charged with receiving non-emergency calls during a public health threat, disaster or emergency event, providing year-round preparedness information to the public with a special emphasis on vulnerable populations, and providing mobile library preparedness training to county agencies, organizations or residential facilities that service vulnerable populations.
IH came about through an initial grant from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region with the primary partners for administration being the Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, Emergency Management, and the Research and Training Center on Independent Living at the University of Kansas.
The goals of IH are:
- To be a resource in Douglas County for all-hazards preparedness and disaster/emergency information with an emphasis on vulnerable populations.
- To effectively answer phone calls at the IH during all-hazards events to reduce unnecessary calls to other community agencies.
- To provide feedback to response personnel and government agencies from the IH operators about public concerns related to an all-hazards event.
Significance of the Problem
When a disaster or emergency happens, 9-1-1, the local health department and local emergency call systems can be overwhelmed by the increased in calls from concerned citizens and rumors can be causing misunderstandings. These non-emergency calls tie up resources unnecessarily and lead to public frustration.
What could be a more ideal place for a community call center than a public library that is already charged with informing, educating and empowering local citizens? That is what the Lawrence Public Library in Douglas County felt when they were approached in 2009 to establish and administer a public information call center. The Lawrence Public Library is one of the most frequently used resources in the community, averaging over 9,000 visitors weekly, providing 93,000 reference inquiries each year and receiving approximately 185,000 website user visits.
In 2010, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region gave an award to the Lawrence Public Library and its partners, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department and the Coalition Together Prepared, to recognize this successful public library and public health partnership.