Public Libraries

Hurricane at the Library

December 1, 2017  • Communications and Society Program


The Institute’s Dialogue on Public Libraries, in partnership with the Houston Public Library, planned to convene the Houston Dialogue on Public Libraries in Houston in mid-September. But they hadn’t planned on Hurricane Harvey. The event was postponed, and the Houston Public Library and the Institute decided instead to invite participants to meet for a two-hour recovery session. Over 20 high-level civic and business leaders gathered to share their experiences, identify ongoing challenges and needs, and exchange information about how participants were using their resources to help the community recover.

In many ways, that is exactly what the Dialogue on Public Libraries series does: shine a light on libraries as vital community hubs. The original goal of the event was to identify strategic opportunities for the city’s public libraries in response to the educational, economic, social, and technological transformations taking place in Houston and across the country. The recovery session demonstrated just how powerful that response could be. Participants identified immediate goals, elements necessary for a strong recovery, and collaborations that could transform their devastated city.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, homes and businesses were destroyed, lives were lost, and many communities are still in need of resources and information. The recovery session was a start, and the rescheduled Houston Dialogue on Public Libraries continued the conversation later in the fall. Participants defined specific actions the Houston Public Library and its partners can take to leverage library resources and build a stronger, more equitable Houston. Learn more at