WHITESBURG, Ky. (LEX 18) — UPDATE: So far, the GoFundMe has raised more than $25,000.
A Kentucky author who writes books inspired by Eastern Kentucky is working on her next project: raising money for public libraries destroyed in the flooding.
When Kim Michele Richardson saw photos of the Fleming Neon Library in Whitesburg, she was heartbroken by the destruction to what she calls community lifelines. Images show the librarian Tessa Fugate-Caudill cleaning up among hundred books caked in mud.
“Just to lose that, the loss is just immeasurable,” she told LEX 18 on the phone Friday.
The Blackey Library was also damaged in the floodwaters, as well as the bookmobile. Richardson is determined to help the Letcher County library system rebuild. So this week she organized a community crowd-funding effort online.
“The amount of a coffee or something, anything will help these people and go directly 100% to the people,” she said.
The bestselling author shares a deep connection to the region. In her novel The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, Richardson wrote about the Pack Horse Library Project of the 1930’s and 40’s. They were a group of Eastern Kentucky librarians who traveled on horseback and mules to deliver books.
Richardson says Eastern Kentucky’s modern libraries are as inspiring, which is why their survival is so important.
“They are vital,” she said. “They are safe havens. And refuges for the vulnerable and the lost.”
According to Richardson, many people have asked if they can donate books, but there currently is no space to hold them. She says book donations will be an option in the future.
Tessa Fugate-Caudill, Librarian at Harry M. Caudill Memorial Library in Whitesburg, sent LEX 18 the following statement:
Our library system lost everything at one branch and the bookmobile was entirely underwater. Another of our branches took heavy damages and I have thrown away an entire library’s worth of books. I have torn down sheetrock, pried up carpet, and tried to be optimistic as we talked about what we envision for the new library.
We are so thankful for all of those who have helped us, whether it is by promising us books once we rebuild, or donating monies, or simply by standing in solidarity with us. We are so grateful for our Kentucky author friend, Kim Michele Richardson, and the GoFundMe account that she started for us (Letcher Co Libraries Damaged by KY Flood).
We look forward to what our future brings. We do not give up. When the waters fell, we rose. And we rise, still.