splitbeak (splitbeak) wrote,

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Hurricane Sandy Aftermath at the Library

Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island hard Sunday night through Monday - most of the damage was on the south shore, but my town (Syosset) was one of the hardest hit on the north shore. I think 95% of the homes were without power.

The Library where I work followed the school district's example and closed Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, the director decided, Fuck It, we have power - we're opening. We opened for limited hours (9-5 instead of 9-9). The night shift (including me) was called in to work day to have as many hands on deck to help out as possible. We were originally going to open at 10, but there were so many people lined up outside to come in, we opened at 9:30. I don't know how people found out we were open, but they were smelled those amps.

So in came the masses and within 20 minutes there wasn't an outlet to be spared anywhere in the building. We literally have them under every table, desk, carrell, you name it. We brought out all our extension cords and surge protectors. People were breaking out into fistfights over outlets! I don't know how many square feet our library is, but to give you an idea: we're three floors and the tallest building for miles. Right off the highway halfway from Riverhead to NYC.

My job at the library is to oversee the public computers and wireless internet. Guess what everyone's been wanting to use?

Just last week we had gotten a new public computer management system to control how long people can sit at each computer before they have to get up and let the next person have a turn. This system was a godsend, but we've still only had it for a week and everyone's still learning how to use it. Which basically means I've been running around like a chicken without a head showing both staff and patrons! I had to reschedule two vacation days just to make sure I was around to help.

But I'm really glad we were open. We're not an official refugee shelter, but we may as well have been. We called a lot of other libraries in the area, but as far as we could tell, only 2 other libraries within a 30 mile radius (maybe more!) were open and we were the only one with internet. People were coming from the surrounding two counties just for a chance to charge their phones, pay their bills and check their email. So many people were just so grateful for a chance to use the internet for 5 minutes (of course, some people were less than pleasant about not getting to aimlessly surf for hours on end - seriously, I'm an internet junkie too, but emergency conditions (95% without power in 40 degree weather people!). Staff didn't get to check their email or use computers until the end of the day we were so busy helping everyone else!).

Usually we have about 1000 people come into the building each day. We were at well over 3000 yesterday and today. Over 200 desktop computer sessions plus another 200-400 wireless users. I'm exhausted and this will probably continue into the weekend. But I really do get to leave the building feeling like I contributed to a great community service. And most of the staff has really pulled together in fine form - no one's taking lunches longer than it takes to actually eat (5/10 min), no breaks - and for civil service, where such things are usually sacrosanct, this is phenomenal. Go team.
Tags: library, ny, whining (aka real life)
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