2017-01-26 / Editorial

The tricky thing about snow

Library Links
by Jeff Cabral

Although perhaps not as heavily as it rests on the roads and your roof, snow weighs heavily on my mind. The decision to have delayed openings, early closings, or entire ‘snow days’ where McArthur Library is closed to the public due to the weather, is not one the library staff takes lightly. We all know that in Maine, snow, ice and sleet are inevitable and this winter has certainly given us a mixed bag of storms difficult to call and predict. The storm results have varied town to town, and hour by hour, as they so often do. We will not always be closed when Biddeford Schools are closed. In fact, we have been open many times this season when the schools have closed.

There are so many factors we take into account when making a decision: the type of snow falling, length of snowfall, the likelihood that roads will be clear in time, and potential that we may not be able to clear the entryway and sidewalk in time to ensure safe access into and out of the building.

There is a calculated risk to any decision like this; we take into account the fact that if schools are closed, parents may or may not still have to go work, and closing the Library means we have removed another option for where their children can go for the day. We do not like doing that, but we also do not like to ask staff to take the risk of driving, especially if we could potentially end up closing early. There is no gain in asking staff to risk their safety not once, but twice. It is often a difficult cal : could this storm veer off the coast sometime during the day? Could it all turn to rain by noon, despite what the forecasts are saying?

When forecasts of severe weather are in effect, we get up earlier than usual and are glued to the news, watching what other neighboring libraries are doing, as well as local schools and government offices of course. Our phone chain kicks in pretty early, and we have staff to notify as well as snow removal crews, so that they can prioritize other locations if they know we are closed. Then we begin the process of notifying the media, changing our phone messages over, updating Facebook and Twitter, and so on.

We take into account the plans of the organizations who have booked our meeting rooms for the day, the programs we have planned for that day (whether they be for children, teens or adults) and the staff who are scheduled as well as whether we have enough staff to open and run the library for the day and night. We think about all of the aspects that any family does and then some, because the staff at McArthur are a family, and moreover, we offer an important range of public services. We understand you may need to get online or pick up that held book of yours, but bear with us – there are a lot of other factors in play.

A key factor is the issue of public service and safety. If we close, we do our part to help keep people off of the road and allow Public Works crews to engage in clean-up and keep the roads clear for emergency services.

Please do check to see if we are open before venturing out. Call 284-4181, check our website, look at our Facebook, or follow us on Twitter. Watch the news and take note of the closings listed. Generally speaking, by 8:00 am or shortly thereafter, we will have the word out on all of these channels. If you do not see any notification that we are closed, it means we are open, but do call first to make sure.

Rest assured, we will waive your fines and extend your due dates. Returning your books and DVDs are not nearly as important as keeping yourselves and your families safe. So when it snows heavily…if you can - stay home, stay safe and warm, and curl up with a good book. We will be open just as soon as we can. In almost all cases, that will be the very next day.

Jeff Cabral is director of McArthur Library in Biddeford.

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