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Welcome to A Seat at the Table: Working with the Disaster Workforce

This course prepares librarians on how to work with first responders, including public safety, fire/rescue, public health department, local health care facilities, and emergency planners.

Libraries have a critical role to play in disaster preparation and recovery, but they need a seat at the table with the right people, and they need to have something to offer. During and after a disaster are not the times for libraries to learn how to work with local, state, and federal responders. The time to build and develop these relationships is before a disaster strikes. It is critical to have a seat at the table before, during, and after a disaster.

This course will cover the basics of initiating and developing relationships with all relevant local, state, and federal officials and agencies, as well as with emergency responders.

This self-paced course fulfills one of the requirements of the Medical Library Association (MLA) Disaster Information Specialization, Advanced Level. Students will earn four MLA Continuing Education (CE) credits.

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Continuing Education Credits

If you are taking this course for Medical Library Association credits, please register and complete the class through our free online registration system.

Note: After reviewing the information on this page, please be sure to complete the pre-course evaluation on the next page before continuing with the course.

Before Taking this Course

For the best experience with this course, you should already:

  • Be familiar with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System
  • Be familiar with the literature on community disaster planning
  • Have created your library's own institutional emergency plan
  • Have a personal emergency plan in place so that you are able to assist the disaster response workforce when a disaster situation arises

Topics Covered in this Course

This course is divided into the following sections. Use the Next and Back buttons at the bottom of the page to move through the course.

  1. The importance of libraries as community members and essential services
  2. Library roles in disaster prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery
  3. Forming effective relationships for community disaster planning
  4. Practical steps to get a seat at the table

Each section is a single page with content and activities that help reinforce the topics covered. For more information on additional ways to navigate the course, see the "Getting Around" section below.

Each section is summarized with key points, which are the most critical take-home messages of the material.

Throughout this course, the National Library of Medicine will be referred to using the acronym NLM and the Disaster Information Management Research Center will be called NLM Disaster Health.

We use "community" in this course to refer to the geographic neighborhood community (e.g., public library community), as well as work/organizational community (e.g., hospital or academic community).

Learning Objectives

After completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Identify and explain the roles played by governmental and nongovernmental organizations in different types of disasters.
  • Recognize library roles that are valuable in community disaster planning.
  • Develop relationships that will help secure a seat at the table.

Using this Course

Getting Around

There are a variety of ways you can navigate this training. You can:

  • Click the Back and Next buttons at the bottom of each page to move through the material.
  • Use the Menu button in the upper right corner of each page to access the main sections or contact support.
  • Press the LEFT and RIGHT arrow keys on your keyboard to move through the material.
  • Use a combination of the above methods to explore the course contents.


At the top of each page, links will indicate where the current page falls within the overall course. You can also click these links to return to this homepage or to the section that contains the page.


Throughout the course, you will encounter links. Any link denoted with an External Link icon (Exit disclaimer) points to a resource outside of this course and will typically open in a new tab or window. All other links are to other areas within the course.

Additionally, clicking on an image will open a larger view of the image in a pop-up box within the page.

Getting Help

If you need assistance using this course or have questions or comments about any of the content presented here, please select the About / Getting Help option from the upper right menu.