How Authors Can Help After a Disaster


by Debbie Burke


NASA Goddard Photo of the Camp Fire, Paradise, CA

The Camp Fire in Paradise, California killed scores of people and destroyed 13,972 homes, 528 commercial structures and 4,293 other buildings (according to NPR, 11/27/18).

Our nephew and his wife were among those who lost their homes, barely escaping with old family photos and two pairs of pants—the size 36 jeans he was wearing, and the size 28 US Navy trousers that had belonged to his grandfather (my father-in-law) when “Pop” served on the USS Enterprise during World War II.

The fire destroyed countless memories, mementoes, and relics of history—the foundations upon which people build their lives, identities, society, and culture.

Amid the devastation, the Paradise Library remained standing, although damaged.

Beth Zimmerman, a national expert on disaster recovery says, “The library will be a key to providing [survivors] a known place to gather and take time to commune with their neighbors. Libraries can soothe children’s fears and help them cope, especially if they are used to going there.”

When everything familiar and comforting is lost, books can help recreate a sense of safety and security.

Melanie Lightbody, head of the Butte County Library System says, “The library is one of the few buildings which survived and therefore will be even more crucial to the community as it rebuilds. A symbol of possibility and hope.”

Efforts are underway to rehabilitate the structure and contents. Author Phil Padgett is spearheading a pledge drive for books to repopulate the library’s shelves. A former FEMA reservist who deployed to New York after Hurricane Sandy, Phil understands the complex, long-term logistics of rebuilding.

Unlike immediate necessities, such as bottled water, food, clothing, and construction materials, books fall into the category of way-down-the-road work. Yes, they are needed but what do you do with them in the mean time when there is no place to put them?

For now, Phil is compiling a list of authors who have pledged to donate their books. In coming months, he will coordinate collection, cataloguing, and storage. Later, when the library is ready to receive the books, he will arrange for shipping.

Books can be solace in time of tragedy, taking people’s minds off their troubles.

One of the best compliments I ever received came from a reader in Florida. My thriller Instrument of the Devil was released at the same time Hurricane Irma hit. The woman said my book had helped her pass the long, difficult week when she (and millions of others) had no electricity.

As authors, we don’t necessarily run bulldozers or nail up plywood but we can help rebuild lost culture.

If you’re an author who would like to donate to the Paradise Library, Phil’s email is: 




Does your Amazon holiday gift card have spare change left on it? Catch the January sale of Debbie Burke’s award-winning thriller Instrument of the Devil  for only 99 cents. Or read for free on Amazon Prime. Click here.

The Reinvention of the Library

By Joe Moore

Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.”, and it’s true in so many areas of our lives. An obvious example is analyzing the demographics of the recent presidential election and realizing that 20th Century political strategies don’t work in the 21st Century. But beyond politics, there are many other changes taking place, particularly in the publishing industry with the rapid growth of electronic books.

BranchPhotoNOSo in this age of digital publishing, how will the community library adapt and survive?

Some, like the ones in my South Florida region are reinventing themselves with a solid plan for keeping their doors open. Libraries still have millions of books to lend, but what some are doing, and all need to consider, is to turn themselves into active community centers. They need to expand book-lending into a wide variety of community services and functions from helping with job searches to offering classes in a wide variety of activities for all ages. Getting bodies in the door and becoming places to socialize are the keys.

BranchPhotoNO1In my community of Coral Springs, among teaching dance and cooking lessons, and how to use Craig’s List, the library system offers a smart phone app that helps patrons learn more than 30 languages.

Because of the expanded features, local libraries are defying dire predictions of death in the digital age and are now busier than any time in their history. Statistics show that fewer than half of the library’s transactions involve the checking out of a printed book. Patrons are downloading e-BranchPhotoNO2books, audiobooks and music through the library’s online sites.

The use of the library’s cybercafés and free WiFi is exploding. Now patrons can borrow DVDs, e-book readers and iPads. Their popularity is evident with long waiting lists for each. There is an abundance of online classes including foreign language courses and arts and crafts.

The goal as stated by so many library managers is to let the public know that they’re about more than just books. The main library in the county has a first-floor lounge with 56 computers available for their patrons, many struggling with the economy. With many out of work, they no longer have Internet access. That’s where the library comes in. Advice and classes in resume writing, interview techniques and how to search want ads are basic features of the reinvented library.

The times are changing for the better with libraries becoming less of a dusty, silent reading room to an active, busy community hub; a fun and useful place for everyone.

How about the libraries in your community. Are they adapting or struggling? And even more interesting, when was the last time you visited your local library.


THE BLADE, coming February, 2013 from Sholes & Moore
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