or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 2/21/10

   February 27th, 2010

I Assure You We're Open sheet sign from Clerks movieOnce again, heavy winds and rain has been knocking out power to most of the area (especially yesterday), so this question of the week is a repeat:

Hey, are you open?

My library had power all day, but most of the town and other nearby libraries did not. The library was packed, and more than a few times I was asked if I knew when power would be back on at a patron's house.

I think the power companies learned a public relations lesson last year, and have been more proactive in providing information. In searching the internet, I found some helpful National Grid storm resources:

When I asked my Director if we'd be staying open late to serve as a shelter for people without power, she said we officially cannot do that. Apparently there are strict certifications necessary for a Town building to function as an emergency shelter, and the library is not certified (neither is our Senior Center, which did stay open last year, but was closed when someone noticed the lack of certification). Granted, this week's outage (and weather) is certainly not as bad as last year's ice storm, but I really don't know how involved certification would need to be. We wouldn't be providing food or aid or beds for people, just heat and power and chairs and internet, which we already do every day. Of course, we'd have to pay staff to stay open, and that is tough with our budget situation.

So, not a very inspiring reference question, but it's been that kind of week. For a real Reference Question this week, check out a great transaction from The Surly Librarian.

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3 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 2/21/10”

  1. Marnie Says:

    Being open is a very real service that libraries can provide during a power outage. Just being open so that people can make the contacts you mention above, recharge their cell phones, catch up on news and email, assure their families that they are OK, and read creates huge good will in the community. Memorial Hall Library in Andover stayed open until 7 p.m. last evening and the Town Manager was using office space in the library because power was out in Town Hall. A library in New Hampshire held extra story times for children visiting the library because their homes were without heat. I’m sure that many other libraries with power are doing similar things today. People still remark with thanks that their library was open during the Dec. 2008 ice storm.
    It isn’t necessary to be a “shelter” in order to provide shelter to people in need. Libraries do it all the time.

  2. TFL Says:

    Yes, Clerks.

  3. redbox codes Says:

    I agree with Marnie. I think budget can be supported by requesting the government to do something about it. Or by involving a public figure to request for it, from the government.