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St. Johns County Public Library System as Disaster Response Center

Photo of this Oct 7, 2016 search and rescue mission courtesy of Florida National Guard.

When Hurricane Matthew barreled through St. Johns County on October 7, 2016, it caused devastation and widespread power outages.

St. Johns County Public Library System (SJCPLS) sustained water damage at some branches, but fortunately no structural damage.  

By October 10, the library reopened (though with limited services at some branches) and immediately sprang into action to help the community.

Library staff also lent each other a helping hand.

“…Our staff…really rallied to the cause and compiled a list of staff with extra rooms available for displaced colleagues, as well as offered hot showers and laundry facilities for those still without power,” said library system director Debra Gibson.

Online Info After the Hurricane

SJCPLS added two pages to its website to keep residents informed:

The library also used its Facebook page to provide community updates on topics like:

  • Library schedule changes
  • Disaster recovery center
  • Small business help at SBDC mobile center
  • Beach cleanup
  • Debris removal
  • Repairs
  • FEMA assistance

At the Library 

For a week after reopening, the Main Branch dedicated its large meeting room for residents to: 

  • Take a break from cleanup
  • Recharge devices
  • Use WiFi
  • Prepare insurance claims/aid applications
  • Conduct general business activities

In addition, businesses needing private meeting space could arrange it at the Main Branch. 

In the especially hard-hit areas of Hastings and Anastasia Island, two branches normally closed on Mondays opened for the two Mondays following the hurricane in order to help residents. 

Library branches also hosted county Health and Human Services staff who answered questions on temporary housing assistance and other available services.

Regular efforts to aid  the HHS food pantry and S.A.F.E. Pet Rescue kicked into high gear since more people and pets were in need than usual. All library branches and the bookmobile collected non-perishable foods and pet items.


For a look at the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in St. Augustine, watch this PBS video.

Share Your Photos

Do you have photos from Hurricane Matthew? Help us preserve Florida’s history by donating your photos to Florida Memory.

imls180.for.panel.jpgMany of these resources and programs are funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Florida's LSTA program is administered by the Department of State's Division of Library and Information Services.