Information Needs in a Hurricane Gustav Evacuation Shelter: Reflections on a Librarian’s Volunteer Experience
For three years following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, residents of the Gulf Coast enjoyed a reprieve from serious threats. But in 2008 Hurricanes Gustav and Ike confirmed that massive evacuations are now a reality of hurricane season. A consequence of such large evacuations is the establishment of hundreds of shelters across the country. Opportunities exist to improve information assistance and information dissemination in hurricane shelters. Information professionals can help by conducting research and documenting their experiences in shelters. This article discusses observations of evacuees’ information needs at a Hurricane Gustav shelter in Knoxville, Tennessee, and details the resources and methods that volunteers employed in response to those needs. This article is written from the perspective of a librarian who volunteered during the shelter’s five-day operation. The experience resulted in useful insight and practical recommendations for assisting evacuees with information needs in shelters.