Lightning strike damages multiple systems at Jaffrey Public Library

  • Assistant Director and Youth Services Librarian Andrea Connolly takes out the library's book bike to deliver books to preschoolers at the Jaffrey Grade School while the library building is closed due to damage from a lightning strike Wednesday night. Courtesy photos—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/20/2021 2:53:21 PM

After a lightning strike at the Jaffrey Public Library on Wednesday night fried several critical systems, the library has switched to curbside pickup until further notice.

On Wednesday evening, while the library was open and patrons were still present, Library Director Julie Perrin said she heard a loud crack. While it was not immediately apparent that it was a lightning strike, Perrin said it was clear something had happened.

“Clearly, there was a storm going on, and we were just starting to talk about shutting down computers, when  it happened,” Perrin said. “It was this very explosive loud noise, it made everyone scream. You felt it in the building. You felt that something was wrong.”

There is no “smoking gun” indicating where the lightning struck, Perrin said, but contractors who have been assessing the damage believe it may have traveled through the Comcast internet lines.

Perrin said she checked the building for obvious structural damage or fire, but there was none, and the building never lost electricity, and the library stayed open on Wednesday until its usual time of 7 p.m., to allow unaccompanied children to be picked up by parents. After closing, Perrin began investigating the areas affected, and learned the true extent of the damage caused to certain electrical systems.

“The internet was down, our HVAC went offline. Our router was dead, the elevator was dead, circuit breakers were turned off and wouldn’t come back on,” Perrin said.

The library was closed to the public on Thursday, but library staff reported to set up alternate ways to continue to service the public while contractors began to assess the damage and repairs. Perrin said how long those repairs will take and the true extent of the damage has yet to be determined, but the library is operating on curbside service for at least its regularly scheduled hours through Sept. 25.

Perrin said in some ways, the library was well-positioned for the switch, due to its pandemic practices. Patrons who used the library for a large part of 2020 have experience ordering books through the library’s online Grab-and-Go program or by phone. But even plans for a potential library shutdown in the future featured a fully functioning building. While the library has mobile hotspots and iPads to be able to access the Internet, the library network is down, creating additional difficulties for staff in checking out patrons.

“There’s a lot to do to get back to normal operations,” Perrin said.

In the meantime, in addition to the curbside pickups, the library is also making an extra effort to visit the local schools with the library's “book bike,” a bike with a cart of potential books for checkout, to keep library books in children’s hands while the library is closed. Perrin said the length of the closure has yet to be determined.

“I don’t know how long it will be, as we gather data. We don’t know yet the timeline for repairs or whether we’ll have the critical infrastructure to let the public back in or not,” Perrin said. “We only recently were able to restore full services, and we have a full fall lineup, so we hate to have to shut down again.”

The library has filed an insurance claim with the town’s insurance company, Primex, and expects the – likely costly – repairs to be covered by the building’s insurance policy.

Library staff have limited computer access but will be present at the library during usual hours to answer the phone and provide Grab and Go service on tables outdoors.  To make a Grab and Go appointment, reserve a time at jaffreylibrary-2.youcanbook.me, or call the library at 603-532-7301. The library requests patrons reserve their items via their account online.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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