I got there soon after the doors opened to stake out my place.
No, it wasn’t a Black Friday in July sale or the release of sought-after concert tickets.
Rather, it was the local library, my go-to place when I have no power or Internet service.
I’ve decamped from home office to library several times this summer – after back-to-back outages a week apart, and when my WiFi slowed to molasses just before a filing deadline. I did the same at least once last summer, and recall another time phoning
around to other libraries to inquire about lights and Internet when my local library, like my house, was dark.
Unfortunately, blackouts are not uncommon, and in my neighborhood, you only have to look up at cable and power lines strung between poles – often dwarfed by tall trees – to see why.
So that Monday morning, 16 hours into a blackout that would last for 24, I had picked out a workspace at the library to set up my away-from-home office.
Others seemed to be similar straits, and one woman, at a nearby work station, kept complaining via cellphone about being inconvenienced.
Me? I was happy for the electricity and the WiFi, and also for the air-conditioned relief from the heat. (I forgot, though, to bring a cushion for the desk chair’s hard, hard wooden seat.)
Why the library and not a coffee shop or co-working space? It’s quieter, has fewer distractions, and is free. Plus, I have a long history with libraries.
Pre-Internet, it was the place to look through the latest trade journals for a job, and the place that had the widest array of bound resources to find answers to every vexing question.
It’s where I took the kids for story hours, borrowed their favorite videos, and bought books at fund-raising sales.
Nowadays, it’s where I go to find DVDs for shows I want to see that are on streaming services I don’t subscribe to (or I might even stream them through a library-offered service). I can attend author lectures, view art displays, or catch a documentary film and discussion.
I also can borrow a laptop for in-library use; get lessons on using Excel spreadsheets; polish a resume or interview skills; secure a pass to area museums; take out board games for a family fun night.
(And if we get yet another heat wave this summer, remember that all branches of the Schenectady County Public Library are designated cooling stations.)
“[T]here are so many more programs and services available from libraries today – many that people don’t realize are there,” Jeremy Johannesen, executive director of the New York Library Association in Guilderland, responded to my inquiry.
“Libraries transform with the times, ultimately aligning with the deeper goal of providing open and equitable access to information in whatever form it may take,” he added.
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]