Harvey Update from Dr. Lawson, Director of HPL
At the time of this writing, the City of Houston was just three weeks past Hurricane Harvey. The ways in which residents of our city embraced HPL as we restored services in the aftermath of our nation’s most catastrophic and disastrous storm, confirmed that our library serves as a strong community anchor and a place to help restore normalcy.
I am so proud of how quickly the HPL team came together - even as they dealt with their own post storm problems - to open as many libraries as we could. Within two weeks, 21 of our libraries (half of our 42 locations) were open. It was important that HPL was there - locally accessible in communities - offering much needed one-on-one assistance, access to Wi-Fi and computers, and a quiet space so that people could reflect or escape from the chaos for a moment. The library’s array of services and programs helped bring the joy back in the eyes of our neighbors after having witnessed so much devastation and uncertainty.
We assisted in the City’s post hurricane recovery efforts by providing free child care for first responders and other City of Houston employees for two weeks while the surrounding school systems were closed. This support alleviated worry about child care as our colleagues returned to work. In addition, we provided space for two city departments while their buildings were being repaired after being damaged by the storm.
The Hot Spots were an incredible asset immediately after Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area. We loaned Hot Spots and laptops to the George R. Brown Convention Center, which was being used as a shelter. Having access to technology is imperative to beginning the recovery process after a disaster. Providing these items enabled storm victims to complete online forms and applications for post-storm assistance.
Two weeks after Harvey the Aspen Institute and HPL convened some of Houston's most critical thinkers to facilitate a conversation about leveraging community resources to help the city and its citizens after an event like Hurricane Harvey. The two-hour dialogue was productive and very encouraging, not to mention inspiring to have so many thought leaders willing to discuss how to work together to help move the city forward. There are concrete plans to continue the conversation. I was proud how remarkably well the Houston Public Library served as the convener in the community around major issues.