Arkansas Library Regroups after Tornado Stops Service

Arkansas Library Regroups after Tornado Stops Service

The Stuttgart (Ark.) Public Library will be closed for several months as it struggles to recover from at least $300,000 in damage caused by a May 10 tornado that cut a three-quarter-mile swath through the southern part of the town. No library staff were injured, although one staff member and five of the seven trustees have had significant damage to their homes. All together, townspeople suffered the destruction of 200 homes and 50 businesses. All nine people injured in the tornado have since been released from the hospital.

“About all we’re doing for right now is setting up for the long haul to get back into shape,” library Director Ted Campbell told American Libraries. That process will take some time; because the library was in the direct path of the storm, Campbell said, “it went right through us and blew out the windows upstairs and the front door” as well as all five air conditioning units, the heating component, and parts of the ceiling and tiered roof of the two-story structure. “Luckily we closed early, and for some reason I had decided to cut the gas off two weeks ago because we have electric hot-water tanks and I was trying to save the money through the summer, or we might have had explosions.”

Campbell explained that the collection and carpeting were also badly damaged by “rivers of glass” created by the explosion of the double panels of thermal glass, as well as the storm water that poured inside. A restoration company was on-site “packing up the books and cleaning them all up, and we have dehumidifiers all through the building to try to keep it cool and not let the collection get hot.” A week after the storm, it was still undetermined whether any of the water-soaked library computers could be salvaged.

Despite the devastation, the library was continuing its teen programming under a canopy on the grounds; 25 adolescents participated in the May 19 poetry program, held near the only tree that remained standing out of the 28 that originally graced the lot. Campbell was trying to obtain a bookmobile by networking with members of the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services, and noted on the library website that plans were underway to set up library services in a portable trailer until the building was repaired.

“I’ve been in this [library] racket for 40-some years,” Campbell philosophized. “You just have to roll with the punches.” He asked that colleagues with information about an available bookmobile to contact him at

Posted on May 21, 2008. Discuss.