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A lost library begins again

BU book drive replenishes a storm-ravaged school

Cate Solomon. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The Southern University at New Orleans School of Social Work is back in session after a four-month hiatus, thanks in part to a book drive organized by staff and students at Boston University’s School of Social Work.

The New Orleans campus, part of an all-black school that trains more African-American social workers than any institution in Louisiana, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina last August. Classes recently reconvened in a local middle school, as administrators wait for permission to occupy trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The entire campus was flooded, and the library got it worst,” says Ronald Mancoske, a Southern University professor. “It was a three-story building, and the water came up to the second story. Everything was lost.”

It was Luz Lopez, a friend of Mancoske’s and a recent recipient of a Ph.D. from Tulane, who brought word of the school’s plight to Boston University. Lopez, an SSW assistant professor, told Cate Solomon, the school’s director of student services and a clinical assistant professor, that Mancoske was seeking donations of books about social work. 

Solomon spread the word, using academic journals and alumni newsletters, and as might be expected of professionals in the field of social work, readers responded.

“People started calling up, saying they were going to give entire libraries,” she says. “We’ve been getting lots of classic MSW books, research journals, even new books. It’s wonderful. We even got a call from the social service department of Mass General Hospital.”

Solomon reports that BU Mail Services also pitched in, with personnel there going out of their way to find the most inexpensive way to ship books to New Orleans.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans Mancoske is looking for a place to house books about social work — lots of them.

“The decision of when to get the library back has yet to be made,” he says. “But we are still looking for more contributions.”