Cassagne: Library has proved its worth

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Susan Cassagne doesn&8217;t have to think hard, when asked if the library has the potential to change the world.

She knows it can and knows it has.

In recognition of National Library Week, which begins today, Cassagne and the staff of the George Armstrong Public Library are asking patrons to send examples of how the library has changed their world &8212; big and small.

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Whether it is a story about how your child learned to read at the library, how you discovered a career or how you used the library to escape from life&8217;s trouble, the Armstrong Library would like to hear from you.

Cassagne, director of the Adams Wilkinson Library Service, only has to look back to Hurricane Katrina to come up with a good example. Seven months ago, Cassagne had people lined up at the library&8217;s front door on Commerce Street. And even though Katrina had disabled the library&8217;s electrical service, Cassagne could hardly turn away those looking for information and help.

Except for a few lights flickering in the building, there was little power for air conditioning, for Internet service or for any equipment.

Yet the library opened it doors two days after Katrina to let people read the newspaper and use the phone book.

&8220;We probably served 15 to 25 for the couple hours we were open,&8221; Cassagne said.

As a teenager, Cassagne and her family lost their house during Hurricane Camille. Knowing the devastation of such an event, she understood how important the library could be. &8220;I could understand the sense of their whole world turned upside down,&8221; she said. &8220;Today technology is their lifeline. That is something we didn&8217;t have back then.&8221;

And for the first three days after the storm, technology was not available to the library. Because the Library Commission&8217;s Internet was disabled during the hurricane, the entire state library system was without that service.

Cassagne recognized the importance of re-establishing that link. With the help of Cable One, the Armstrong Library established a temporary connection. By Thursday, evacuees could fill out FEMA forms and e-mail friends and loved ones. &8220;We were probably the first public library to open with Internet service in the state,&8221; Cassagne said.

From issuing temporary library cards to staying open on holidays so that evacuees could fill out paperwork, the library was proving it is a vital connection to the community and the lives of its patrons.

&8220;It may not have changed their world as a whole,&8221; Cassagne said. &8220; But is made their world less formidable.&8221;

If you have a story to tell how the library has changed your world, write your story and drop it off at the George Armstrong Library located at 220 S. Commerce Street in Natchez. Include your name, phone number and age range. You can also e-mail you letter to

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