Normally I go to a restaurant OR a library, but not both at the same time in the same place. But then, many things are not normal since the devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey. Clay’s Restaurant, named for the road on which it is located in Northwest Houston, has been a popular destination for years. Families love the open play area where kids can burn off their youthful energy while adults sit in shaded comfort on the covered patio.
I’ve attended several special occasion parties in the back area of their extensive property. I try to remember to hand in my receipts for the many lunches I’ve eaten there to my church. Clay’s give a percentage of them back to our congregation.
Many of us were sad to learn Clay’s was one of the many casualties of Harvey and had to close temporarily. It was a happy day when they re-opened.
Down the road
The Katherine Tyra Branch library, located nearby on the Clay Road, also flooded after Harvey, along with at least four other Harris County Public Libraries and ten libraries in the Houston Public Library System. Dozens more libraries in the region also flooded, as did the libraries of schools and colleges. Additionally an estimated 160 Houston area library staff had to evacuate their homes.
The flood damage couldn’t even be evaluated at the Kendall Library around the corner from our home for a couple of weeks. Standing water prevented access to the building. These libraries will be closed for many months. I personally feel the loss every time I remember that I cannot check out an audio book to make driving in Houston traffic bearable. Nor can I retreat there to do research for a writing project.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Robert Goudreau, Manager of the popular Clay’s Restaurant, quickly saw the need and community benefit of designating one room of Clay’s as a temporary Pop-up Library one day a week. It just made sense. People were eager to get back to Clay’s for lunch. Why not also be able to take the kids to a story hour, do some paper work on one of the computers, or check out something to read to take a break from dealing with storm-related problems.
Pop-up libraries are now popping up all over the area in churches and other venues. This is an important step forward in recovery for the community. I was thrilled to check out an audio book for my two recent out-of-town trips. The staff was so grateful to be back at work in some sense of their normal routine.
The very long road to recovery is underway
The Texas Library Association reports the launch of the Texas Library Recovery Connection where libraries can post the sorts of assistance they need and where volunteers can contribute to the recovery process. FEMA staff member Lori Foley has been appraised of the many needs of regional libraries. She is the administrator for the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, responsible for recovery of cultural heritage institutions.
Disaster Recovery takes years. Part of the process is establishing the infrastructure to oversee the process. To that end The National Heritage Responders has established a library emergency hotline at 202.66.8065. It is staffed by a team of trained professionals who offer advice on how to conserve and care for collections.
Helping our libraries help our communities
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has small disaster relief grants available for libraries in the region impacted by Harvey. “Rebuilding Texas Libraries” launched September 18 to accept grant applications. They are able to offer small grants, up to $5,000 per library, to help replace collections, furniture, and equipment or help fund the cost of repairing facilities.
Getting libraries open again helps the community recover sooner. Libraries provide access to community services, computers to file claims, programs for people of all ages, and valuable resources to help people with recovery-related issues. A community helps itself when it helps its libraries. However, librarians are telling me they do not want donations of books right now. They have no place to store them. Cash donations will help get our libraries back on line as soon possible.
If you want to locate one of the Pop-up libraries or support the library recovery effort, you can learn more at these sites:
https://www.tsl.texas.gov/relief (Texas State Library)
http://www.hcpl.net – Houston County Public Library
http://houstonlibrary.org (Houston Public Library)
Thank you, Clay’s for being such a good neighbor.