You can live without electricity, but it’s a strange existence. On Halloween, I, like many Nanuet residents, was without power and visiting local establishments in search of a wireless network and a place to charge my laptop and cell phone. My search was fruitless - the stores were packed with people in my situation. It soon became clear to me that I would not be able to sit down, let alone plug in my devices. Staff members were warm and welcoming, but there was little they could do.
My co-worker, on the other hand, went to the Pearl River Library, one of the few libraries in Rockland that had electricity on Halloween. Her experience was quite different. A prominent sign hung outside announcing, “We’re open”. Sympathetic librarians were helping their patrons access library computers and find places to plug in. Children with cabin fever were treated to ongoing activities in the community room, and after having their Halloween plans foiled two years in a row, they were allowed to trick-or-treat in the children’s room.
The next day, we at the Nanuet Public Library discovered our power was back and eagerly opened. Staff members brought in their own power strips to allow more patrons to charge their devices. We set up tables in our community and storytelling rooms to accommodate as many people as possible. Each time we spotted someone carrying a laptop and looking perplexed, we would help him or her find an outlet and a place to sit. The best part about coming to the library might have been finding out what was going on in the various neighborhoods of Nanuet. We learned where there was power and exchanged tips on how to cope without it, especially as temperatures started to drop and many of us lacked heat and hot water.
In Sandy’s aftermath, libraries truly became community centers. People met and shared stories. They relaxed in the warmth of the building, read magazines, books, and newspapers, charged their devices, and did their work. The superstorm brought chaos to people’s lives, but the library was a place where they could find a little bit of peace.