Newman: The town library as home-grown fusion center

Stanstead QC–This enote is a bit like shooting-the-rapids-on-the-stream-of-consciousness so bear with me.

Last evening I was wearing my firefighting gear [always interesting to literally change hats] assessing flood damage in our area after a very rapid snowmelt and heavy rain.

Something that I read in an Economic Gardening presentation struck me as we drove by the Town’s library – that it’s built on high ground, with broadband internet access, on a mainstem power line, easily accessible, and has become a natural networking hub on both professional and personal levels.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the research work done by our Emergency Management colleague Dr. Murray Turoff. Murray has spent a great deal of time examining how information is processed in an emergency and how much more effective decision-making could be with access to real-time situational awareness.

True situational awareness is much sought after but seldom achieved. It’s a bit like competitive intelligence which sadly often is neither competitive nor particularly intelligent. Much of the art & science of crafting true situational awareness depends on informing the searchers as to which nuggets of information are most important to formulating the particular big picture at-hand.

Retired Canadian Forces Col. Richard Moreau teaches a serious ‘leadership in crisis’ program that emphasizes the need for intelligent awareness. According to Richard, if you don’t provide guidance on what you’re looking for, don’t be surprised when your intel crews come back excitedly proclaiming, “We’ve got cod! We’ve got cod!”

At some point, you’re going to have to explain to them that you were looking for swordfish.

Which brings me full circle to write that perhaps we ought to be considering our town libraries as our economic & community resilience centers – and that one goes hand-in-hand with the other.

What if we provided additional training to our librarians, what if we subscribed to meaningful databases, what if we invested in building the capabilities of our community libraries – that additional capacity could be leveraged to serve in times of preparing for, mitigating the effects of, and recovering from crisis and catastrophe.

There aren’t many small towns who can afford a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center [EOC]. I’d argue that there are very few towns who cannot afford to invest in building a leading edge community library/fusion center.

Thanks, as always for your consideration in allowing me the privilege of writing from well outside the box.

Be well. Practice big medicine.