The October 2017 storm in Cape Elizabeth left many in the dark. Nearly two-thirds of Cape Elizabeth’s properties were left without power for several days. Dean, who works for a large technology company, works from his home in Cape. On the Wednesday following the storm, he was supposed to initiate an important conference call with several out of state participants.
“I was really worried when I heard that the power was probably not going to be restored for several days”, Dean told me. “I figured I would have to go to a local coffee shop and try to find a free table to connect the call.”
He complained that it would probably be so crowded that he would not be able to find a table.
“Why don’t you go to the Thomas Memorial Library?”, his wife suggested. “They have power, and it would certainly be a better place to get your work done.” Dean agreed and packed up his paperwork. He admitted later that he felt guilty about going to the library just to use their wifi (wireless internet). He knew if he had gone to one of the local coffee shops, he would have purchased a sandwich and a cup of coffee for the right to sit and connect his computer to the internet. So, he decided that he would find a quiet table in the back of the library, grab some large impressive books off the shelf and look like he was there to do some research.
As he entered and bounced up the library steps, he was surprised at what he saw happening around him. Many town residents were carrying laptops and iPads and seeking out places to sit and charge-up their dead batteries.
The library staff were pushing tables together, plugging in extension cords and directing patrons to all available spaces. Dean quickly realized that he was not the only one who thought the library would be a good place to work that day.
As Dean settled down at a table and plugged in his computer, he realized that the library was welcoming the patrons to use the library’s power and wifi as part of their many services to the community. He no longer felt guilty, nor did he pretend to need books. Instead, he has become a regular patron, using the wifi to surf the internet and checking out some of the new books that catch his eye on display by the circulation desk.
This story was told to Mary Capobianco by the Dean’s wife (named changed by request). Mary is a Director of the Thomas Memorial Library Foundation.