Foundations Help Rebuild Gulf Coast Libraries

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The American Library Association meets in New Orleans, the first major convention in the city since Hurricane Katrina. Fewer than half the city's 13 library locations have reopened. But help is on the way. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund are donating a combined $17 million towards rebuilding libraries on the Gulf Coast.

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

Good weekend for book lovers in New Orleans. The American Library Association is holding its annual convention there. Eighteen thousand people ordering po'-boys, highballs and beignets in very hush tones. It's the first major convention in that city since Hurricane Katrina rewrote the book on homeland disaster. Public libraries on Katrina and Rita's path sustained all kinds of damage and in New Orleans only five of 13 locations are open. In some libraries the books are still wet and moldering. Downtown the main branch share space and clients with FEMA.

But this week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Bush-Clinton Fund offered a port in the storm. They donated a combined $17 million towards rebuilding libraries on the Gulf Coast. That means more bookmobiles for a city to which the post office has only just begun delivering magazines.

These days many New Orleanians could use the distraction of a good book and the kind of quiet that a library insists upon. After a rash of murders in Central City and dust-ups in other depopulated neighborhoods, state troopers and the National Guard have reentered the scene to keep the peace. And city leaders now imposing a curfew for young people, who've been both the victims and perpetrators of violence. From 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. weekdays and from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. weekends, everyone under the age of 16 will have to stay inside. Maybe they can catch up on their reading.

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