Monday, September 05, 2005

Technology Helps Us Reach Out

Jim Milles suggested that I write about the ways technology has been and is being used in relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. I will focus on the law, technology, and library communities.

When Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, people had two first thoughts – how are my friends and colleagues? and what can I do to help? These questions were emailed to discussion lists and posted on blogs, the same sources of information on which we rely for information and support in our professions.

Our electronic communities came through, helping people find each other and providing information on how the rest of us could help. Answers to questions and references to other sources of information, including relief agencies and advice on how to contribute or volunteer, were quickly posted.

The American Association of Law Libraries set up the AALL LawLib Assist blog as a place for members to share information about their safety, whereabouts, and needs, or to make offers of placement and assistance. Eric Muller, of UNC Law, set up two blogs, one for each of the New Orleans law schools to post announcements and other information: Tulane Law Post-Hurricane Blog and Loyola-New Orleans Law School Post-Hurricane Blog . See Law Librarian Blog for more "I'm safe" lists. See also the ALL-SIS Resources on post-Hurricane Katrina Recovery Efforts .

But answering the immediate need for information was just the beginning. Other forms of assistance, likely to last longer, were quickly put into motion, facilitated by technology and channels of communications already in place.

Within just a couple of days of losing their web servers, Tulane and Loyola New Orleans law schools had new websites, and the administrations of the two schools began posting information for students, faculty, and staff. The temporary Tulane Law School Official Site , which links to an email announcement list registration, is hosted by Emory Law School, and Emergency Updates from Loyola University New Orleans is part of "the design site of jacee bergeron ." There is also a Loyola New Orleans blog , started by Rhonda Cartwright.

In the meantime, the Association of American Law Schools and the American Bar Association were working on a plan to enable students from the New Orleans law schools to complete their fall semester at other law schools. Dozens of law schools stepped forward and offered places at their law schools, many waiving tuition and expediting enrollment. Law book publishers offered free books to law students. See Information for Law Students Affected by Hurricane Katrina and Update on New Orleans Law Schools and Help for New Orleans Law Students .

The ABA also created a portal for Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief , which has information on volunteering, donating, and accessing legal services. The Business Section sent out a request for materials that could be added to an online library at the portal. The Legal Technology Resource Center compiled a page of Technology Related Resources for Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief for lawyers, law firms and others affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Lawyers offered office space to displaced attorneys and technology firms offered server space. Ross Kodner of MicroLaw Legal Technology Consultants is organizing resources and volunteers to help law firms, courts and other parts of the legal infrastructure in the Katrina Aftermath. See Between Lawyers for more information. Between Lawyers also has links to other resources where Lawyers are Helping Lawyers , including two Quick Topic pages where lawyers can logon to get in touch with other members of their firm or opposing counsel. See also the Dennis Kennedy's starting points for New Orleans Relief .

Our communities reacted quickly in response to the emergency. Thanks to technology, we were able to share information and coordinate efforts among large groups of people quickly. There will be many opportunities to help out in the coming months. Watch Out of the Jungle and the websites linked here for more information.

Note – the preceding list is only a sampling of the efforts of these communities to help the areas affected by the hurricane devastation. If I have left off something you think should be included, please include it in the comments below.

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