Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 09 November 2012 00:00
According to Library Director Gretchen Browne, the staff made a decision to do everything within reason to help those affected by the hurricane, and patrons took them up on the offer in a big way: making the library a second home. The library has been a spiritual center of the community for a long time, but for the last few days, it’s become a community center in every sense of the term.
The library actually did this before in 2011, albeit on a smaller scale. “We did it after Hurricane Irene. We felt that there was a need for people to use the library because again, we were one of the only places that had power,” said Browne. “I think people realized last year that the library was the place to go with power.”
Ever since reopening post-hurricane on Thursday, Nov. 1, the library has been open extra hours to accommodate residents without electricity at home; on Saturday night, the lobbies were kept open until 8 p.m. instead of the usual 5:30 to give people a warm place to hang out. When the library opened two hours early on Sunday, 350 people were waiting outside the doors.
In addition to taking advantage of heat, light and Internet access, people have been utilizing the facilities in all kinds of ways. Several people brought nebulizers, a kind of medical breathing device, which they had not been allowed to plug in at the hospital for insurance reasons. Two children received a physical therapy session in a back office. One young lady, preparing for a party, even ironed her dress on one of the library’s tables.
Browne praised the custodial staff for going out of their way to accommodate people, and her entire staff for working extra hours. Of course, with such a large number of people in one place, not everyone can be happy, but according to Browne, residents have by and large been pleased to have these resources at their disposal.
“Of course we’ve had a couple of complaints here and there, but they’re minor compared to the praise that we’ve received,” said Browne.
Browne went on to say that almost everyone she spoke to had a positive attitude, wanting electricity back but being able to put the situation in perspective and realize that they were fortunate compared to those who had lost their belongings or their homes in the hurricane. In fact, a sense of camaraderie has developed among the library patrons; people are getting to know each other, sharing supplies, making informal tech support teams, and even playing mahjong together.
“They’re bringing their own surge protectors, they’re bringing their own power strips…they’re being really accommodating, allowing other people to plug in next to them,” said Browne.
In addition, the library isn’t the only place in town looking out for residents without power: Gold and Meyer’s Gourmet Deli, located across the street from the library, sent over two shopping bags full of free bagels for everyone to eat on Sunday.
During a difficult time, it’s always nice to see hardship bringing out generosity and kindness rather than anger and selfishness. It’s perhaps a credit to the residents of this community that they have adapted to the situation with such grace— but having a warm, friendly place in the neighborhood to hang out makes it a little easier.