Watsonville Libraries Work to Uplift Pajaro Valley Residents in the Wake of Devastating Floods
The safe and welcoming physical spaces of the Watsonville Public Library and its Freedom Branch have provided critical lifelines, serving a multiplicity of purposes.
A recent atmospheric river which started on March 13, 2023, changed the lives of many Watsonville and Pajaro residents. Now, with schools, businesses, and the Pajaro Branch of Monterey County Free Libraries closed, and residents unable to return to their homes for lengthy periods of time, a tragedy has once again reaffirmed the essential role libraries play in providing vital resources.
Recent heavy storms brought disastrous rain to an area that had already been saturated by previous storms. The latest impacts caused roads to be washed out, extensive damage to crops, and flooding of homes in the Pajaro Valley. Watsonville and Pajaro, CA are major agricultural communities. Farmland flooding caused devastation for farmers and left great numbers of farmworkers without a source of income.
The safe and welcoming physical spaces of the Watsonville Public Library and its Freedom Branch have provided critical lifelines, serving a multiplicity of purposes. By providing meeting places for interviews and conferences, a center for business with wifi, computers, printing, study rooms, charging stations for devices, as well as referrals to social services, information such as locations where to obtain a shower and locating food banks, the libraries have served as central gathering places.
"We are proud that we can offer services like these to our community when disaster strikes. That's the power of a library" says Watonka Addison, Principal Librarian.
Weary families impacted by natural disasters have also found a relaxing place for kids to unwind and enjoy engaging storytimes and activities, with access to magazines, books, electronic resources, children's computers, multiformat materials for all ages in English and Spanish, and much more. Both libraries have been bustling with individuals utilizing facilities for a diversity of needs, actively demonstrating the immeasurable value of these spaces.
For the many residents who have lost access to important documents such as birth certificates and other personal effects, caring and compassionate staff and librarians are working diligently to assist patrons to bridge this gap. Service providers from the Wings Program help anyone experiencing homelessness obtain birth certificates and notary services on the second Friday of every month from 1-3 pm.
Libraries must often fight an uphill battle to prove their worth amidst threatened budget cuts and changing political agendas. However, the Watsonville and Freedom Branch Libraries are consistently proving that libraries are more important than ever. Without them, families would not have a safe and warm place to come. Students flooded out of their homes would not have access to the internet to complete their school assignments. A farmworker who is seeking a new job would not have access to a computer to work on their resume and submit applications.
These two libraries exemplify the role libraries play in providing many forms of assistance and support for all patrons in difficult times.