How a “Library of Things” Became an Emergency Response Plan

During her tenure as Director of the Brazoria County Library System, Lisa Loranc has introduced a variety of new programs and resources to her community. One of those offerings is a “Library of Things,” which gives patrons the ability to access more than just books and media. What started out as a way for people to check out useful items that they might need but not own, soon evolved into an emergency response plan.

Brazoria County Library System Director Lisa Loranc in Clute, Texas on May 9, 2024

With the Library of Things, patrons could check out items like power tools, a trailer to help people move or haul things, and crock pots, if people wanted to experiment with cooking new recipes, as well as ways to explore hobbies like telescopes and musical instruments. They even had a wine-making kit available for check out until Loranc realized it takes more than two weeks to make wine.

Then, she started checking out Shop Vacs… and that changed everything.

“We needed to have a raison d’etre. What are we collecting and why? What do we want to make available to the public for checkout?  At first, we didn’t have a need for disaster response items but I thought, let’s approach our Library of Things with that in mind. There are some items that most people might find too expensive or have trouble storing, but in the event of a disaster, they have an immediate need for them.”  

Brazoria County is one of those places in Texas that is vulnerable to a wide variety of natural disasters, so it was only a matter of time before the community might need some help. “Hurricanes, ice storms, flooding, heat waves… anything can hit Brazoria,” Loranc said.

An Emergency Response Plan Emerged

There were obvious needs in the community and Loranc saw an opportunity to help fill them. “We can have shop vacs, carpet cleaners, fans, moisture sensors… These are things people might need during a natural disaster, but probably don’t own or have access to… and in the middle of a disaster, that’s the worst time to go out and try and buy one.”

But then, another problem arose. It became apparent that, even if you have these items available at the library, the community might not be able to get to them during a disaster. “Libraries might also be shut down so we needed to be mobile,” Loranc said, “We needed the ability to respond quickly during a natural disaster.”

After that, the planning became much more intentional. She started thinking about how to support a satellite location. “Assuming that we aren’t going to be in a building with A/C and Wifi, we are definitely going to need hotspots, chargers, generators. We’ll need power. We’ll need a canopy.”

Portable generators and device chargers are part of the BCLS emergency response

After she put the infrastructure in place, it was time to do outreach and create partnerships. Loranc started talking to city and county departments, including the Brazoria County Emergency Management Office. What she thought would work at the time was to deploy to their emergency locations, but she was quickly shut down by those departments. Though Brazoria County libraries act as “cooling centers” during heat waves, the last thing they wanted was for the public to converge on the libraries in other emergency situations.

So, she adjusted her plan and started building relationships with businesses and churches to use their parking lots as distribution centers. “We talked to the Red Cross to find out where they would already have emergency shelters. We wanted to provide whatever they would need to get back into their homes faster.”

Those items included shop vacs to deal with flooded spaces and high-speed fans to dry out wet interiors. The library can also provide portable generators to charge devices and hotspots for anyone without internet access. Using library vehicles, Loranc and her staff can deploy to multiple locations and provide the community with the items they need for almost any emergency situation. Her “Library of Things” is now a crucial part of the county emergency response plan and poised to make a huge difference if disaster strikes Brazoria County.

Library vehicles are used to transport emergency equipment and supplies

Lately, Loranc has been focused on marketing and PR for these services. “Nobody ever thinks about the library in disaster situations so we’ve been getting the word out.” The library vehicles have been adorned with their colorful logos. “When we arrive at an off-site location, the kids will come running up when they see the car and say ‘it’s the library lady!’”

If you want to learn more about how other librarians are making their communities stronger, smarter, and safer, email the Library Digital Opportunity office at

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