Barhite: Toledo library closes more than usual this winterWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
During this record-breaking winter, I often want to (or do) complain about the snow and the frigid temperatures.
On Feb. 17, I was really cranky on my nightly commute as the expressway came to a crawl in the right-hand lane and semis dangerously whizzed by in the left.
I was like, “Is it really snowing again?”
But then I reminded myself that I am lucky that I have a reliable car that travels well in ice and snow.
I am lucky that I will come home to a house that I can afford to heat.
I am lucky that my husband can clear the driveway with a snow blower and shovel when my car gets stuck.
It makes me worry about those who aren’t so lucky: those who are cold, those who are worried about their heating bill and those who rely on warm places that close during bad weather.
As Toledo inches closer and closer to record snowfall, the closures are adding up. In my 35 years, I have never seen so many shutdowns, especially when it comes to places that usually remain open: The mall. The bank. Fast-food restaurants. Churches. Health clinics.
In particular, it made me think about the library. The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library closed a total of five days this year, which is unheard of in recent winters.
The library closed two hours early in February 2007 and then the following day it closed to the public for a full day due to a Level 3 snow emergency. The same thing happened in 2011.
What is the library’s policy? So many times people will use the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and its branches as a refuge to get warm – and a place to use the computers to look for jobs, network and pay bills. Many of us take for granted our ability to get online at home. I know I shamefully complained about the Internet being slow during one bone-chilling day.
Charlie Oswanski, library facilities superintendent, and Meg Delaney, main library manager, said both snow emergency levels and temperatures are used to make a decision.
The library’s policy is to close if a Level 3 snow emergency has been issued, they said in an email. A Level 3 means roadways are closed to nonemergency personnel.
The library will also consider closing at a Level 2 if it looks like a Level 3 might be declared.
“During this winter, our concerns over weather conditions have been up compared to previous years. Normally, we don’t have to worry about sustained, frigid temperatures with high winds and record snow levels,” they said.
Making the decision to close, stay open or close early is taken seriously. Safety is the priority.
The library looks at how the city, county, schools and universities are proceeding. It also evaluates the walkways and parking areas near the main library and its branches.
The other concern is keeping the library buildings warm enough. Most aren’t designed to keep up when temperatures dip so far below zero, Oswanski and Delaney said.
But like many other public buildings, the library staff knows people come in for warmth and shelter, as well as Internet access and help with homework. The library wants to stay open – and will – when the weather cooperates.
Let’s hope Mother Nature gets the memo.
Brandi Barhite is community ombudsman for Toledo Free Press. She can be reached at email@example.com.