The Aspen Institute to Hold Forum with Houston Community and Library Leaders to Discuss the Future of Public Libraries

November 13, 2017

Forum on Nov. 16 will explore and seek innovative ways of connecting public libraries with community partnerships

Blanca Quezada
Sr. Communications Specialist
Phone: 832-393-1382 |

Marjorie Gonzalez
Marketing/Public Relations Manager
Phone: 832-393-1381 |

Houston, TX, November 13, 2017 – Community and library leaders from across the greater Houston region will gather together with the Aspen Institute for the Houston Dialogue on Public Libraries on November 16th at the Houston Public Library’s Julia Ideson Building to discuss the future of public libraries. This forum will explore and seek innovative ways of connecting public libraries with community partnerships to help build resilient communities.

This forum was initially scheduled earlier this year in September, but was rescheduled due to Hurricane Harvey. A condensed forum was held to tackle bringing various community organizations and public libraries together in order to help the Houston community recover from the hurricane. The end-goal of this event is to identify key recommendations for action to advance progress on library-community partnerships that build community capacity and resilience.

This is one of four dialogues conducted by the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries across the country. This will be the first convening in a major city and the first in the state of Texas. The other dialogues have taken place in California, Colorado and Florida and have explored countywide library partnerships, statewide partnerships and library-community partnerships in a small community with a single library branch.

“The Houston Dialogue on Public Libraries will explore how libraries can help to foster equity and opportunity in the community and the changes that are needed to strengthen the role of libraries in building a more equitable and resilient Houston,” says Amy Garmer, Director, Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries.  “The Dialogue will bring together representative stakeholders from across the community to identify ways in which public and private sector leaders working with the library can advance learning, economic and community development by connecting people to new opportunities and resources.”

“Houston Public Library has been a vital part of the community for more than 100 years. Through the decades the Library has strived to transform with the evolving needs of our community, from bridging the gap in technology, building state-of-the-art facilities, and developing services and programs for all ages,” stated Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, director, Houston Public Library.  “These changes would not have been possible without support from our diverse community leaders. As we discuss the future of libraries through this forum, we hope that these leaders will see how important their partnerships have been and will continue to be for our libraries, but most especially for the people in the community.”

This conference is designed to serve as a catalyst for new thinking about public libraries in Houston and Texas. The dialogue will include several sessions that will focus on the need for libraries in the community and the critical role they play.

The city-wide dialogue is built on a framework established by the Aspen Institute report, Rising to the Challenge: Re-Envisioning Public Libraries, and companion resource, Action Guide for Re-Envisioning Your Public Library, that explore how public libraries can respond as the digital age increases the demand for high-speed information access, and as changes in our education systems, job training models, and community services help people and communities compete in the new economy. The report calls upon civic leaders, policy makers and library leaders to leverage libraries as a platform for building more knowledgeable, sustainable and healthy communities.

More information about the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries can be found online at


  • Amanda Edwards, Council Member at Large, Houston City Council
  • Claudia Aguirre-Vasquez, Vice President, BakerRipley
  • Julie Baker Finck, President, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation
  • Phyllis Bailey, Founder, 3B Resources Group Public Relations
  • Peter Beard, Senior Vice President, Regional Workforce Development, Greater Houston Partnership
  • Veronica Chapa Gorczynski, President, Greater East End District
  • Evelyn Dravis, Library Manager and FLIP Director, Children’s Museum of Houston
  • Melanie Fisk, Chief Executive Officer, Literacy Advance
  • Bill Fulton, Director, Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Rice University
  • Amy Garmer, Director of the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries, The Aspen Institute
  • Licia Green Ellis, Chair, Houston Public Library Foundation
  • Lynn Henson, Administration Manager, Planning & Development Department, City of Houston
  • Winell Herron, Vice President, H E B
  • Risha Jones, Deputy Director, Department of Health and Human Services, City of Houston
  • Sara Kellner, Director, Civic Art + Design, Houston Arts Alliance
  • Lester King, Research Scientist, School of Natural Sciences, Rice University
  • Grenita Lathan, Chief Academic Officer, Houston Independent School District
  • Mary Lawler, Executive Director, Avenue CDC
  • Rhea Brown Lawson, Director, Houston Public Library
  • Edward Melton, Director, Harris County Public Library
  • Laura Murillo, President & Chief Executive Officer, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Jim Nicholas, Market President, Commercial Banking Capital One Bank
  • Tonyel Simon, Program Officer, Houston Endowment
  • Rhonda Skillern-Jones, Member, Houston Independent School District Board
  • Mark Smith, Director and Librarian, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
  • Mike Temple, Executive Director, Workforce Solutions-Gulf Coast Workforce Board
  • Amanda Timm, Executive Director, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Patrick Walsh, Director, Planning & Development Department, City of Houston

The Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries is a multi-stakeholder forum to explore and champion new thinking on US public libraries, with the goal of fostering concrete actions to support and transform public libraries for a more diverse, mobile and connected society. The Dialogue is managed by the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, which focuses on projects and initiatives that address the societal impact of communications and information technologies and provides a multidisciplinary venue for considered judgment on communications policy issues. Learn more about the Aspen Institute Dialogue on Public Libraries at

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has an office in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit:

About the Houston Public Library
The Houston Public Library (HPL) operates 35 neighborhood libraries, four HPL Express Libraries, a Central Library, the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, The African American Library at the Gregory School, and the Parent Resource Library located in the Children’s Museum of Houston. With more than eight million visits per year in person and online, HPL is committed to excellent customer service and equitable access to information and programs by providing library customers with free use of a diverse collection of printed materials and electronic resources, Internet, laptop and computer use, and a variety of database and reference resources with live assistance online 24/7.

For further information visit the Houston Public Library at on Twitter @houstonlibrary or call 832-393-1313.

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