Public libraries play important roles during disaster recovery, even when other government actors fail. Libraries are centers of local information and have local knowledge. Patrons, as well as government agencies and NGOs, benefit from public libraries’ local grounding.

Along with their local communities, many public libraries in the Tohoku region of Japan were severely damaged in the earthquake and tsunami of 3.11.2011. The nuclear accident in Fukushima following the tsunami meant that libraries in the evacuated zone were abandoned.

Disaster recovery is difficult to handle and few success stories are found. Studies show that where other public services have failed, public libraries have been successful in disaster recovery. The literature on the role of libraries in disaster recovery is scant and only a few cases have been studied, all in the USA. This three-case study shows that libraries worked, that is, library services were offered and were helpful in areas where libraries had been completely demolished in the Japanese prefectures of Iwate and Miyagi.

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