Fifty-four individuals were selected by Library Journal as 2019 Movers & Shakers, including Michele Stricker, deputy state librarian for Lifelong Learning of the NJ State Library, in the “Community Builder” category. Library Journal is an American trade publication for librarians.
Following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in Oct. 2012, libraries became a refuge for residents, who showed up in droves to check in with relatives, power up their devices, file insurance claims, fill out Federal Emergency Management Agency forms or get warm. Libraries were a mix of safe haven, recovery center, technology and information hub and HQ for local volunteer groups.
Inspired by the key function libraries had in disaster recovery, Stricker organized and ran the “Ports in a Storm” conference in Eatontown in 2013, attended by staff from libraries, FEMA, state emergency management, volunteers active after disasters (VOAD), health-care associates and elected officials.
“It was the first time, anywhere, that elected officials and emergency management were brought together to formally recognize that public libraries are truly vital community recovery centers after a disaster—and [to] plan to work together for the next crisis,” she said.
The experience inspired Stricker to develop new tools and resources “designed to help librarians be better equipped to assist emergency responders in a chaotic situation and to fulfill their role as ‘information first responders’. She created a toolkit The Librarian’s Disaster Planning and Community Resiliency Guidebook and Workbook, which covers everything from pre-disaster preparations to post-disaster responses. Six years later, these resources have blossomed into a multi-curriculum training program that she has presented via webinars, at state and national library conferences, and to the Domestic Security Task Force Office of Homeland Security.
Stricker’s efforts have led to the state library signing a memorandum of understanding with the NJ governor’s office of VOAD and being a formal part of New Jersey’s Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) statewide disaster plan. Stricker attends the monthly OEM partners and stakeholders meetings.
Stricker, a Burlington resident, holds a bachelor’s degree from Tyler School of Art of Temple University, a master of fine arts in museum studies from Syracuse University, a master of arts in art history from the University of Pennsylvania, and a master’s in Library & Information Science from Rutgers University. Before joining the NJ State Library, she served as the director for the Library Company of Burlington, Burlington City for 13 years. She was certified in preservation management from the Rutgers School of Professional Development, and has taught Preservation of Library & Archival Materials for Rutgers Graduate School of Communication & Information. In 2010, the NJ Library Association recognized her leadership, creativity and commitment in the field of preservation and conservation of library resources with the Susan G. Swartzburg Preservation Award.
In February 2015, the newly formed NJ Cultural Alliance for Response (NJCAR), a network of cultural institutions and the emergency management community dedicated to safeguarding the cultural heritage of New Jersey, elected Stricker as its chair. “Michele played an integral role in the founding of the NJCAR,” said Mary Chute, NJ State Librarian, “and continues to spearhead NJSL’s involvement in various digitization, disaster planning and federal emergency management initiatives. We are very pleased to celebrate her much deserved national recognition.”