Going Nuclear

We’ve all seen some blurbs of news about how the nuclear situation in Ukraine is particularly precarious. An article in Popular Mechanics discusses the implications of what would happen if the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Ukraine were to have a meltdown. In the past few days Ukraine has had drills to prepare local emergency crews for all scenarios.

Fallout from such a catastrophe would be far-reaching, long-lasting, and have detrimental global impacts. The importance of libraries in such a situation is even more vital than now.Providing quality information and shelter to survivors, along with trying to survive as well. According to an article on JSTOR, during the Cold War “Libraries became clearinghouses for pamphlets, books, and audiovisual materials about how to survive a nuclear attack. The New York Public Library led the charge, collecting “mountains of civil defense booklets” that laid out how to drill for an atomic bomb and survive after one fell.” It seemed that even back then (pre-internet) libraries were taking on the responsibility to educate and prepare the masses for what might happen. It was a real threat then, and unfortunately now as well.

The librarians of today, like their predecessors, are faced with the same stark reality: the library as a fallout shelter. The same article also stated, “Librarians encouraged civil defense groups to use their facilities for recruitment, training, and first aid classes. A branch even became New York’s civil defense headquarters. “If World War III had broken out…emergency operations in America’s largest city might very well have been directed from a public library.”

Hopefully these drills and preparations will all be for naught, but if they aren’t it’s good that libraries have been preparing for over 50 years.

By Gretchen Hendrick Gardella, MLIS

Gretchen Hendrick Gardella is a Librarian with administrative, research, and vast technical skills. Ms. Gardella brings over 16 years of experience working in academic and public libraries to the discussion.