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CHAPTER 2 - Setting the Context: Hurricane Harvey Strikes Houston

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston on August 26, 2017. It stayed for four days, causing significant damage and upending lives across the city. The Houston Dialogue on Public Libraries was originally scheduled to take place just twenty days later, on September 13-14, 2017. Because so many of the participants were deeply involved in response and recovery efforts, the Aspen Institute and HPL made the decision to postpone the conference until later in the year. Through emails and phone calls regarding the cancellation, it became evident that there was interest and benefit to using some of the time reserved for the Dialogue conference to hold a hurricane recovery and response conversation.

HPL and the Aspen Institute hosted a two-hour meeting of 23 leaders from Houston area nonprofit, education, business, and government organizations on September 14, 2017. Participants discussed how their institutions were leveraging their own and other community resources to respond to the complex needs of the city in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. The September meeting provided an opportunity to gather, exchange information, and identify areas where participants, their organizations, and their networks could support one another and work more effectively in concert in the months ahead. The meeting in November built upon the September conversation to explore how to leverage the city’s libraries as public and private sector institutions and residents were moving forward. A brief report of the September 14 hurricane recovery meeting appears in the Appendix of this report.

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