The East Hampton Library was my home away from home for six days last week while the power was out. I spent hours and hours there, writing, editing, checking e-mail. Thanks to the library’s proximity to The Star and the generosity of its director, The Star was able to get out a paper despite the fact that our generator had only enough juice to fire up the most important equipment. We were able to run two heavy-duty extension cords from the library across the driveways that separate our buildings. E-mail was working at the office, but I wasn’t able to plug in my computer.
If truth be told, I have had a problem with libraries since I was quite young. I can still see myself standing in front of a high desk being told I was too young to take out books from the adult stacks. (I don’t remember how old I was, but I had outgrown in the children’s room.)
Although I worked as a library intern for a while in college, this early bad impression stuck with me, even affecting my choice of a major. It was going to be history, until I realized I would have to spend a lot of time in the library’s damp recesses searching for original sources.
The East Hampton Library has changed all that. I have a family feeling about it, in part because the reference room is dedicated to the memory of my late mother-in-law, Jeannette Edwards Rattray, who had been on its board of managers.
The library was jammed last week with people who, like me, had no electricity at home. It turns out that there are an awful lot of outlets available, although not as many surfaces on which to set up computers. At one point, seeing a man sitting on the floor while he worked, a member of the staff brought around some folding chairs.
For the most part, I gravitated to an alcove not far from the library’s back door. Every carrel was occupied, and, anyway, I preferred being near a window rather than in a hidden corner.
An unspoken sense of camaraderie developed among those using the library this way, and decorum was honored. People tried not to hog space, for example, and we stepped outside to use cellphones — although, I must admit, not everyone was with the program.
One day, a gentleman in a nearby carrel made a call. He had a booming voice. Chat. Chat. The couple at a table in the alcove across the aisle and I exchanged glances. Then, the man on the phone, said, “Do you want to meet at Nichol’s for lunch?”
Something got into me. I chimed in, loudly, with one word: “Sure!” He couldn’t have missed the chorus of laughter that followed.