December 9, 2020

This article originally appeared on WTXL News

WAKULLA, Fla. (WTXL) — In rural communities, librarians do more than just help check out books.

When disasters happen they too are out on the front lines.

New research at Florida State University is looking at how public libraries like the Wakulla Public Library is helping with emergency management in rural counties during natural disasters.

Research is being funded with a more than $700,000 grant to improve procedures and policies for librarians.

That money will be used to teach Geographical Information System which will help librarians track the safest paths to take for people during a natural disaster.

"They have to be able to know where these disadvantaged groups, underserved populations, people with disabilities, older adults where they live," said Eren Erman Ozguven, a senior research associate at FSU. "Are the roadways that serve them are accessible? Is the roadway flooded for example or is there another roadway open?"

Erman says many rural counties don't have access to this system now but the research will change that within three years.

With this new grant, FSU researchers are hoping they can better facilitate emergency management across the panhandle so that they are prepared to help their communities.