Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Will the last one out please turn the lights ON?

Power outage,day 6...

What a week! The latest report from PSNH says that 2,800 Merrimack customers are still without power. Estimates are that most or all will be restored by sometime tomorrow, but that's cold comfort to those who are facing another dark, chilly night. When we reopened on Monday after three days closed, about half of the staff were without power, and two still are. My sign in the staff kitchen offering free hot showers has seen two takers. I was one of the luckier ones, having my power back on Friday evening. But I've seen a lot of haggard faces in the library this week, and, believe me, I feel for them.

What are all these weary, bath-deprived people doing in the Merrimack Library, anyway? Lots of things! The biggest number have been using our internet access to email family and friends to assure them of their well-being, to view online newscasts, or to pay bills and conduct other personal business they usually do on their home computers. Lots of people have brought their own laptops and connected to our Wi-Fi.

Some folks are calling us for information they usually get themselves by phone or online. Others are, of course, here to return and pick up books. Many have called anxiously about overdue items that they couldn't return or renew over the weekend. (Relax...no overdue fines will be charged for the days we were closed.) Silent TVs force people to entertain themselves in the "old-fashioned" ways, you know..reading books, like we did before the internet. Some folks have been finding any available electrical outlet to charge their cell phones while they browse for books. (It's OK, we don't mind.)

We've seen families stopping in to sit and read for a while, just to be warm. The newspapers and magazines are getting a workout. A few students have been doing homework that likely won't get passed in any time soon. In short, the library has been a warm, friendly port in the storm, and we're happy we got our power back so we assume that role.

Just as you are probably making plans to prepare for this kind of future emergency, so are we talking among ourselves about other ways the library could have responded to this emergency, and we have a few ideas. Hopefully, we won't have to use them anytime soon, but we want to be prepared. Will you?

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